3-30-2016 Equipment Delivery
A shipment arrived today for the Meridian Speedway. Today's box contained an Athearn Genesis model of SSW GP40-2 7265, a Tangent Scale Models "Lincoln Grain" PS-4750 covered hopper marked as CRDX 7127, and an Athearn 60' FMC High Cube Box Car decorated in Golden West Service livery as VCY 142046.
This Cotton Belt GP40-2 is one of four representatives from this order just released by Athearn Genesis. SSW 7248-7273, along with SP 7240-7247, were some of the very last GP40-2's built (in October-November 1984), and were the railroad's premier power until the first GP60's and B39-8's arrived in 1987. The only newer GP40-2's were FEC 430-434, built in December 1984 (2), December 1985 (1) and December 1986 (2).
On January 14, 1994 I found two specimens from this Cotton Belt class sitting in the yard in Lafayette, Louisiana. The SSW 7265 and SSW 7269 made a great looking pair! Some identifying features of the late model GP40-2 include the modern anti-climber, large radiator grills, and the angled blower housing. Since the SSW 7265 is one of the ones released by Athearn Genesis, the selection process was easy for me. Above are engineer's side images of the model just received and the prototype I photographed in 1994. Below are conductor's side comparison shots between the model of SSW 7265 and the prototype SSW 7269.
As for the freight cars, well having spent two-and-a-half years in Lincoln, the Tangent car was a must have:
And the VCY box car is one I have had my eye on for a while. As I am focusing on building a few EsPee trains I decided to acquire this one now:
Also included in today's delivery were three more Peco switches and some rail-joiners.
BNSF K-ALTALT1-23 Tests CSXT 3419 and 3421
On Tuesday 3-22-16 I noticed that the locomotive on Amtrak train No. 21, the Texas Eagle, was my favorite Amtrak Heritage Unit, the red-nosed No. 156. I put the bug in a few people's ear that maybe we should try to shoot it the next day on No. 22. This would work only if it was a little late. Of course the train was right on time with a scheduled Fort Worth departure 10 minutes before the end of my shift at work. There would be no catching train No. 21.
Ken Fitzgerald had accepted the invite to do some photography on Wednesday afternoon and we decided to meet at Alliance and see what the GE Job has in store for us. I had actually worked my Birmingham desk this day so I was not sure what was in store.
The "GE Job", BNSF K-ALTALT1-23, had spent the first half of the day building train J-ALTMEM1-23 which consisted of a number of new locomotives to operate as a special train to Memphis, TN. This meant that they were just beginning the task of testing the assigned new locomotives for the day. Today that would be brand-new CSXT ET44AC's 3419 and 3421. We arrived in Justin with enough time to set up to photograph this train taking siding to meet southbound intermodal hotshot Z-WSPALT8-22A
Once the Z-Train was out of the way at Justin, the GE Job had a straight shot to Valley View where the crew set the equipment up to test a different locomotive on the return trip. We were able to grab a few great pacing shots along the way! We also set up for a few runbys at Ponder, Krum, Metro, and a crossing between Sanger and Valley View. The light just kept getting better and better!
BNSF DS122, the Fort Worth Terminal Dispatcher, asked the GE Job how much time that would need at Valley View for set-up before they were ready to return south. They responded that it would be about 30 minutes. At this time, the railroad was being set up for the passage of Amtrak train No. 822, the northbound Heartland Flyer. The dispatcher let the GE Job know they would remain there for Amtrak. She also advised them that there was a soutbound train approaching Gainesville that she would flag into the siding at Valley View behind them for the meet with Amtrak. With that information in hand, we located a spot between Gainesville and Valley View to photograph this train. Adding more color to the evenings photographs, this train was 2x1 DP unit sand train U-CPPELT0-03 with all KCS power!
Amtrak engineer Donnie Novak had train No. 822 rolling through Valley View right on time! Cab control car (NPCU) 90222 was leading three Superliner cars and P42DC 115. Our perch was the I-35 embankment just south of the Texas Highway 922 overpass. From here we could see the Martindale Feed Mill elevator as well KCS 4144 on the rear of the sand train. Not a bad location at all.
CSXT 3413 - 3412 - 3415 - 3414 Make Their Debut
The BNSF "GE Job" tested four brand new ET44's today. Of course there was plenty of traffic so they did not get far before I got off work...
The Story of Crown Zellerbach's Operation in Louisiana
The latest addition to the Meridian Speedway Library, "The Pulpwood Train", by Louis Saillard is now available for viewing. This article is accompanied by some excellent photographs by the author. This article describes Crown Zellerbach's unique pulpwood train operation between Hammond, LA and Bogalusa, LA. This is relevant to my Meridian Speedway concept as I am having proto-freelanced decals made for "modern day" Crown Zellerbach pulpwood cars to run on my 1996 Vicksburg Terminal layout. Many thanks to Louis Saillard for sharing this work!
The image above is linked to the article.
Fox Valley Models GP60 - SP 9607 Added to Fleet
Yesterday - 3-17-2016 - Fox Valley Models SP GP60 9607 arrived. This is the latest addition to my EsPee fleet intended to operate over my Meridian Speedway. This unit is factory Equipped with LokSound DCC.
I remember the SP and SSW GP60's when they were brand new. They were some of my favorite locomotives to photograph because they were just about the only Southern Pacific locomotives that looked good. In fact I have a photograph of the SP 9607 that I took in New Orleans in 1994. That image is below and is linked to a larger file on rrpicturearchives.net.
For my standards, this Fox Valley Models GP60 is just fine. It looks and feels "EsPee" and brings back fond memories for me. The "Rivet Counters" out there will point out that grey is too dark, the yellow roof light is too big, the anti-glare nose should be black, the lettering and numbers should be white instead of off-white, the cab window panel should be welded (not riveted), wrong profile Q-fans, wrong anti-climber, etc, etc...
Below are similar angle photos of the Fox Valley model of SP 9607 and the image I took of the prototype SP 9607 in New Orleans over 20 years ago. No longer being a "rivet counter" myself, I really like this model and would consider adding more to the fleet in the future.
More images of this model are posed in the slideshow blow. I am looking forward to many years of service from this machine!
BNSF K-ALTALT1-14 Tests 4 New CN Locomotives
As is the norm at work now that 67 dispatchers have been furloughed, I am working anything but the Birmingham North job I own. Today was no exception. A check of the slide sheet in the morning showed that I would be working the Fort Worth Terminal DS 122 position today. A note from GE advised that today's K-ALTALT1-14 crew would be needed to deliver two new locomotives from GE to the BNSF and then would be needed to test four new locomotives: CN 3054, CN 3055, CN 3056, and CN 3058.
The delivery move was first on the agenda setting the stage for an evening shoot. I made sure they did not get far before my shift ended at 1430! After work I headed to the house to grab the camera. My father met me there and off we headed for Rector Road at Sanger. Ken Fitzgerald and Troy Minnick were already on site waiting for the colorful quartet of GE's.
The images in the below slideshow were taken by me during the southward chase from Sanger back to the GE Plant at Alliance.
My father took some video of the BNSF "GE Job" testing the four brand-new Canadian National ET44AC locomotives on the BNSF Fort Worth Subdivision. The GE Job is a unique crew consisting of one conductor and two engineers along with GE technicians. These locomotives are operated in controlled conditions so that diagnostic performance data can be gathered. The engineer on the lead locomotive controls the testing locomotives under power while the engineer on the rear locomotive has them in dynamic braking to simulate load conditions.
I have edited this footage into the latest Meridian Speedway Production video and have uploaded it to YouTube. Enjoy a few glimpses of this unusual test train with four very shiny Canadian National GE locomotives! The scenes are recorded at Sanger, TX; Krum, TX; Ponder, TX; Justin, TX; and Alliance, TX:
It was nice to be trackside with my father again!
Print Scan from 1995 - NS on SP
Today I scanned a number of large prints sent to me by Louis Saillard to accompany his article on the Crown Zellerbach operations in Louisisana. While I had the computer plugged into my wife's flatbed scanner/printer I thought I'd throw on of my many, many, many old prints to see what it would do. This is the one I grabbed:
I placed my hand on a roll of film developed by the long-gone Eckerd drug store chain that was once common in the New Orleans area. Dated August 19, 1995, this roll of film contains a number of images I took on the EsPee in south Louisiana on that date, evidently on a trip to Houston, TX.
This picture depicts eastbound SP Houston, TX to New Orleans (Southern/NS) runthrough train 1-HOSOM-18 holding the main track at Baldwin, LA as it waits for its meet, westbound SP train 1-AVSRQK-19, to take the siding.
The freight traffic in this corridor (Houston/Birmingham and Houston/Atlanta) I have penned into the operations of my proto-freelanced Meridian Speedway. Instead of being handed off between the SP and the NS at New Orleans, which is a huge bottleneck, in my HO world this traffic runs from Houston to Shreveport, LA on the SP/SSW, across North Louisiana to Meridian, MS on the Natchez Trace and Orient, and then onto destination via the NS from there.
Investment in my fleet of NS and SP locomotives will provide suitable power for these trains. My latest arrival, SP SD40M-2 8691, will fit nicely here. Now if only we can get Athearn Genesis, ScaleTrains, or maybe Atlas to model these big GE's....C36-7's and C39-8's needed please! Are you listening model manufacturers?
Oh yes, and we also need more chemical tank cars from before the era of the ubiquitous and omnipresent ethanol tank car!
New Library Item Added
Growing up in New Orleans, LA I had very little first-hand exposure to the Santa Fe. For me the Santa Fe was an exotic railroad, almost mythical, that I only saw in books, magazines, and videos. As I got older I would plan extensive trips to see the Santa Fe at various locations. Often these trips included time at a Santa Fe Modelers Organization convention. For many years, the Santa Fe did live up to its reputation of excellence for me.
At some point I discovered Silsbee, TX. This town could actually be driven to from New Orleans in a single day. Traveling through the south Louisiana swamp and west Louisiana pines that melded with the east Texas pine forest yielded Silsbee! This town was a little Santa Fe oasis that was within reach.
Silsbee was a small-yet-busy terminal with a locomotive facility and a small yard. From Silsbee, the railroad radiated out in all directions: Westward to Conroe, TX and connection with the rest of the Santa Fe, Northward to Longview, Texas, Southward to Beaumont, TX and...most importantly...Eastward to DeRidder, Louisiana. Yes, the Santa Fe did have rails in Louisiana. Not plentiful and seldom photographed, Santa Fe trains entering Louisiana to serve Boise Cascade were launched from Silsbee.
Steve Patterson has enjoyed a diverse career with the Santa Fe which landed him in this forgotten corner of the Santa Fe empire around 1969. He supervised 44 open agencies on ATSF’s Southern Division (everything south of Cleburne). During his tenure the Santa Fe began to close little-used or redundant agencies. I was forwarded some of his images from the area and reached out to him with a request to host some of them here. Mr. Patterson graciously agreed and shared the images on the above slideshow!
This piece of railroad is relevant here as I have penned the entire Silsbee network into my proto-freelanced Texas & Great Northern Railroad. It is a wonderful fit!
Bear in mind that
SP SD40M-2 8691 Joins the Fleet
Today's package at the front door contained a gorgeous model from Athearn Genesis in the form of Southern Pacific SD40M-2 8691. The SP had purchased 133 used six-axle locomotives that were all rebuilt by Morrison-Knudsen to "SD40M-2" mechanical specifications. The host locomotives were primarily SD40s and SD45s, however a few were rebuilt from unique SDP45s.
The SDP45 was the passenger adaptation of EMD's 20-cylinder, 3,600 horsepower SD45. 52 of these locomotives were built between 1967 and 1970. Distinguished from the freight SD45 by a longer frame, bigger fuel tank, and a distinctive square end to the long-hood behind the flaired radiators for steam generator equipment, the SDP45 is easy to spot. Only 18 SDP45 (10 Southern Pacific and 8 Great Northern) locomotives were built to serve as passenger locomotives. The Erie Lackawana purchased 34 of these locomotives with concrete ballast in the rear section instead of steam generator equipment to utilize the larger fuel tanks to reduce the need for fueling events en-route.
Of the 133 SP SD40M-2s numbered 8574-8706, the 8691 was one of the few rebuilt from an SDP45. The SP 8691 was built as EL 3654 in June of 1970. I was actively railfanning the SP when the SD40M-2s were delivered as new, so I could not pass up the opportunity to purchase one. And a beautiful model it is!
The above image of EL 3654 shared by Fred Stuckman (Credited to Sturges & Folsom) on rrpicturearchives.net is linked to the posting on that site. The below image is of the same locomotive rebuilt as SP SD40M-2 8691 as shared by Jeffrey Streiff on rrpicturearchives.net. This image is linked as well.
In keeping with the SP theme of this order, also included in this equipment delivery were two InterMountain FMC 5283 Cuft Double Door boxcars. The models purchased were SP 244617 and SSW 67483. Both of these cars are welcome additions to the fleet.
The SP 8691 is the third "EsPee" locomotive I have purchased, enough to make a respectable consist. Pictured below is the consist: SSW SD45T-2 9383, SP SD40R 7372, and SP SD40M-2 8691. A fine looking trio!