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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Correcting a 12-year old goof!

Date: 08/11/21 19:32
Correcting a 12-year old goof!
Author: santafe199

In the summer of 2009 I was in the final stretch of my RR career. I had gotten through a serious bout with walking pneumonia in ’07. I had recovered enough to go back to work. Even though some days going to work was a real challenge. But the RR Retirement Board in Billings heavily advised me to get to that 30-year mark in RR service. It would make a big difference in medical disability compensation, and later on in regular retirement pay. And I was just a few short months away from having my 30 years in. Upon said retirement I knew I would be heading back home to Kansas. So every chance I got I was making commute-type trips. It’s amazing how many little details crop up when a RR career is reaching its final terminal with a long move to be made. It was on one of these trips where I fell victim to the experience brought forth from 32 years in train service. Here is my colossal goof, all spelled out:

I believe it was August 10, 2009. But don’t go quoting me. From Montana I was Kansas bound, running east along Nebraska’s vaunted US hwy 30. I had seen several trains, but I was on a tight schedule and was stopping to shoot only if the light was perfect. Later in the afternoon I was approaching Elm Creek, NE and spotted a semi-bright westbound headlight that had to be over a mile away. It was coming west at what I thought was a slow rate of speed. I pulled up short of Elm Creek and got across the main tracks at the Turkey Creek Rd crossing, which has since been taken out of service. The sunshine was a perfect ¾ as I looked to the east. That headlight was not making very quick progress, and then I saw a detail I missed on the first glance. There was a huge “sea” of dayglo (read: M.O.W.) hard hats swarming around the tracks right where the headlight was seemingly only crawling forward. With all of the wisdom 32 years in train service could give me I naturally deduced that I was looking at a work train. So I got back on US 30 to resume my eastward tack. That’s when I noticed that headlight had no accompanying ditch lights. And then, from ½ a mile away I saw a thin plume of smoke. 844 was now rolling at me, and I had just abandoned a perfect shot location!!!

In a flash I processed 3 crucial pieces of information, which ended up in me never taking my foot off of the gas pedal. (1) The 844 may have been going slower when I first spotted her, but she was now doing all of 60 MPH, or there abouts. (2) I would have to run west a great many miles to get ahead of, and find a spot to shoot the train. (3) I had been having a spot of trouble with the engine which I correctly suspected was a fuel filter that eventually needed changing out. But I still flashed the chase idea through my mind a few times. To add to the enticement, there was NO PACING LINE! Nobody was following along on US 30 at all! I would have had her all to myself. The engine was most likely on some sort of “shakedown” run(??), heading back to Cheyenne. Missing that perfect ¾ wedgie shot is one of the great “coulda, woulda, shoulda” times in my years of railfan photography. And I’ll never forget it.

So when I got the chance to shoot another UP steamer running through Nebraska, there was one location I absolutely had to shoot. Elm Creek. Here are some of the images leading up to the final correction of my 12-year-old goof:

1. Looking east from the Arrow Rd crossing near Elm Creek, NE. The right hand signal is showing a high green. Probably not the 4014, but I decided to go back into town to search for a good shooting location.

2. & 3. I set up to shoot at the Tyler St crossing, and got a westbound coal empty right away. UP 7506 leads the charge.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/11/21 19:36 by santafe199.

Date: 08/11/21 19:33
Re: Correcting a 12-year old goof!
Author: santafe199

4. 5. & 6. That westbound empty met the eastbound train I had set up for. UP 6526 leads a double coal load east, with...

Date: 08/11/21 19:34
Re: Correcting a 12-year old goof!
Author: santafe199

7. ...UP 2729, 2545 & 6566 as mid-train DPs and...

8. ...UP 2724 as the rear guard DP.

9. With the Turkey Creek Rd crossing closed, and with the 4014’s approach now imminent I went a little further west and set up at the Arrow Rd crossing, joining 2 other railfans from eastern Nebraska. We all got a sort of dress-rehearsal with UP 8093 rolling by on yet another coal train, a westbound empty.

Date: 08/11/21 19:35
Re: Correcting a 12-year old goof!
Author: santafe199

10. We could hear the 4014 before we ever saw the headlight. But as soon as we saw that, we also saw the inevitable line of pacers.

11. & 12. UP’s 4-8-8-4 Big Boy #4014 rolls over Arrow Rd helping me to correct -at least partially- my “great goof from 2009”.

Date: 08/11/21 19:37
Re: Correcting a 12-year old goof!
Author: santafe199

13. UP 25809 brings up the rear with an oddball-looking thing I would later tag as a “Caboxx”. Let the Big Boy chase begin...
(13 photos taken in or near Elm Creek, NE on August 8, 2021)

Thanks for listening!
Lance Garrels

Date: 08/12/21 08:17
Re: Correcting a 12-year old goof!
Author: ironmtn

Great story and photos, Lance. We've probably all been there and made the "big goof" at some time or another. I know I sure have -- a bunch of times. Including once with you in the passenger seat of my car in Chicago one weekend several years ago.

Maybe when we each made our "big goof", it might not have been with steam, but instead with some train that was really, really worth shooting -- and at that excellent location that we had found. And then....for whatever reason....we abandon the location. Only to have the railroad gods remind us, yet one more time, why....yes, patience is a virtue.

The Big Boy sure looks really good rolling down that beautiful triple track in central Nebraska. One could say, well, it's just a wedge shot, and not that interesting. Well folks, that's central Nebraska for 'ya, and that's what Uncle Pete has to offer. So, get a grip, get used to it, and make the most of it. And you did, in spades. It may not be the most scenic piece of railroad in the world. But hey, there aren't many places on this planet anymore where you have three big main tracks like that, with a ballast shoulder you have to climb up, and smooth welded rail on big concrete ties extending to the horizon....and beyond. It's pretty spectacular in its own way.

And then, a Big Boy to boot.

That really is a pretty special package, all things considered. Especially if it helps to salve the wound of a previous "big goof."  Thanks for sharing your images and story. Hope the old wound is feeling better...and hope you had good luck on your Big Boy chase. Game on!


Date: 08/13/21 22:24
Re: Correcting a 12-year old goof!
Author: Ritzville

Very interesting story and pictures!


Date: 08/20/21 13:43
Re: Correcting a 12-year old goof!
Author: texchief1

Great story and great pictures, Lance!

RC Lundgren

Date: 09/26/21 09:23
Re: Correcting a 12-year old goof!
Author: IC1038west

I really appreciate the infrastructure of the three main tracks in these images.  Proof that  UP had it together at one time with capacity (3 signaled mains), safety (track centers spread to allow safer m/w windows and work blocks), and durability (mains on raised ballast out of the subballast, concrete ties, and what appears to be a very smooth ride even with a telephoto lens)  Thanks for capturing these images,  with and without trains!

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