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Railfan Trip Reports > A great place to railfan

Date: 10/17/07 22:38
A great place to railfan
Author: xtra1188w

I nominate Big Sandy Texas as being a great place to fan. Big Sandy is mostly a sleepy little farm town in east Texas where two mainline railroads used to cross one another. These were the Cotton Belt on a north-south pattern, and the T&P which ran east-west. These mainlines are still in place and both are still being used, but they now have common ownership, the UP. The former Cotton belt is today a directional run mainline, the UP runs southbounds between Pine Bluff Arkansas, and Flatonia Texas on the ex Cotton Belt, while northbounds are routed over the former MoP. The ex T&P is the Dallas to Shreveport mainline, and UP runs a lot of their westbound and eastbound traffic from the east interchanges at St Louis and Chicago or wherever and the west coast over the former T&P.

All of this makes for some interesting and frequent train action in and around Big Sandy. I frequently see a lot of other railfans at Big Sandy. There is an active small town police station within sight of where most of the fans are to view the trains, but I have yet to hear of anyone being bothered or hassled in any way while they're railfanning in Big Sandy. This is the same Big Sandy that is the home town of the the coach of the Chicago Bears, Lovie Smith.

1. This first image shows the building where crews wait for trains that they have been called for. Big Sandy is a crew change point for trains that are operated over the former Cotton Belt. Crews on the T&P are changed at Mineola Texas, about 25 miles or so west of Big Sandy. When I took this picture, 4 different vans from "Rail Express" were there either waiting on an expired crew, or had just brought a "fresh" crew there to take a train.

2. While waiting for a train that was imminent to arrive and stop briefly for a crew change, I was a bit bored and took a picture of this signal. The signal faces east, and serves just the westbounds on the T&P, errr former T&P.

3. Looking back up (northwest) at the crew change area, I saw that the southbound Z train had just pulled up to a brief stop to change crews. I'd been hearing this train blowing its horn for grade crossings for a couple of minutes before he hove into sight.


Date: 10/17/07 23:05
Re: A great place to railfan
Author: xtra1188w

Big Sandy continued.

4 & 5. Here the power has just passed me by where i was standing pretty close to the line. I screwed up on the immediately preceding shot, and I don't have a picture of the train as he approched me just across from the diamonds that he was crossing. This line enters Big Sandy in a southwesterly direction, then it swoops (swoops?) around a long broad curve and the line very briefly heads west before it goes into another broad curve so as to head almost due south and towards Tyler, which is 18 miles away.. Although I was standing fairly close to the mainline, I was still a safe distance back from it, especially so since the train wasn't moving very fast yet. Yet is a key word though, since the train seemed to be headed down on a slight grade, and before the end of the train passed by he was going at a pretty good clip, and I walked back to a safer distance from the train.

6. Here can be seen the end of the train as it starts to follow around the south curvature. Back to the west about a hundred yards beyond the tail end of this train was a lashup of about 6 GP60's sitting, idling and waiting for this train to clear. Not long afterwards, the GP60's started ro move forward until they had passed over and cleared a switch that would allow them to access the exCotton Belt line to the south. Someone told me that they had been in the hole waiting on the Z train for a pretty good while. They told me that the GP60's had a bad order unit due to a problem with its air compressor or a bad air leak. It wouldn't let them get a good air test on a local aggregates train that they were assigned to, so they had to stick it someplace out of the way for a while and then run on up to Big Sandy to wait until they could use their portion of the railroad again.

Date: 10/17/07 23:18
Re: A great place to railfan
Author: xtra1188w

7. Here are the 6 GP60's right after they had pulled up just short of this grade crossing and stopped to wait while a brakeman walked back and threw the switch so tht they could back up and head down the former Cotton Belt to their train.

Even more train action was a fixin' to happen soon, but after just seeing what is pictured here, we had to head back to Tyler. My friend had some "honey-do's" that he had to do for his war department, but I'll bet that a lot of y'all know how that goes. :-)

This all hapened just this past saturday afternoon.


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