Araquan Skytracer (araquan) wrote in railroading,
Araquan Skytracer
araquan
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The Trains in Nebraska

Nearly three weeks ago I took a trip out to North Platte, Nebraska to check out the largest classification yard in the world, as well as the trains that run on the line that passes through that part of the state. This is what I saw.



From the Golden Spike Tower, looking northwest, the diesel servicing tracks and eastbound classification yard are visible here, among other points of interest.





The eastbound and westbound (more distant) servicing/refueling facilities for run-through trains can be seen beyond the eastbound classification yard in this view. A loaded coal train is leaving the eastbound facility, to the right.





An itty-bitty switcher in a great big yard.





Hostlers move an enormous cut of locomotives around at the servicing facility. The locos here are power from trains that terminate/originate in the yard, or have undergone repairs in the adjacent diesel repair shop.





Meanwhile, this guy keeps moving units around in the diesel shop. I'll admit I've only seen a SW unit like this one working on a Class 1 railroad a couple times before. Usually the power I've ended up seeing in yards has been at least an MP15 of some sort, or a GP7 or GP38. In a yard like this, however, the power is larger still.





This is the sort of power that switches the hump yards- SD38-2/SD40-2 sets. A lot bigger than that SW1500, to be sure. Last time I was here, it was all pairs of '38s but I guess the extra thousand horsepower from the '40 was deemed necessary. The west classification yard is in the background, where you see those four tall light fixtures. There are numerous sets of those around the yard and when lit they're visible for miles.





On some of the yard's numerous run-through tracks, a freshly refueled coal train rolls by with one of the few Southern Pacific units that hasn't received a Union Pacific number patch or full repaint by now. It has gotten yellow retroreflective tape along its frame, however, for safety.

I took some panorama pictures from the tower that day, links to which are presented here. If your browser automatically resizes images to fit your window, click on the pic to zoom in and check them out at their intended resolution. They're all pretty big though- don't say I didn't warn you. Your scrollbars are going to get a workout.





Later, at the west end of the yard, my attempt to reach U.S. 30 on Front Street was thwarted by a stopped coal train's trailing locomotive, which was blocking the road. While I was waiting for it to move, an eastbound train arrived.





As it enters, a westbound train throttles up, having been given clearance to leave. As you can see, the Union Pacific considers this point to be the dividing line between Central Time and Mountain Time. The actual boundary between the time zones is about 25 miles west of here.

The coal train didn't move, and eventually I gave up, having to circumnavigate almost the entire yard (nearly 8 miles in each direction via the Buffalo Bill Avenue bridge) to get to the closest point on U.S. 30. On the way back, though, I decided to grab some pictures of these SD40M-2s being stored alongside the eastbound receiving yard. Built by Morrison-Knudsen for the Southern Pacific in 1993, they have, for the most part, SD45 carbodies, but were modified with a different door configuration along the hood, and smaller 16-cylinder engines inside. Some have been fully repainted into Union Pacific colors, some are merely patched with UP number and logos in certain places, and others are still wearing untainted (though highly faded) SP colors.












This one started life as an Erie Lackawanna SD45M- note the space aft of the radiators. EL ordered these to get the longer frame of the SDP45, but without the steam generator, so they could have a larger fuel tank than the standard SD45. SP had 'true' SDP45s as well but those are long gone, and this SD40M-2 is unrelated to those.























After finally getting back on the highway, I headed west, and ended up in Julesburg, CO. The town is barely a mile inside the state line, but as the railroad goes it's somewhat longer, since it comes in at an angle.



A westbound manifest train rolls through on its way toward Cheyenne. The train will only be in Colorado for a few minutes, as the mainline curves back to the north in just a few hundred feet.





Later, some grain moves west.





And then a track crew moves east at what couldn't be called a hurried pace.





Some hours later, back in Nebraska, somewhere between Maxwell and North Platte, a westbound train slices through the night. I'd have tried more of these but it was getting late and there was something making annoyed chittering noises at me from a nearby bush. I suspect it was a raccoon, as there was a lot of evidence of those in the area.


The next day, I began my homeward trek east:



I spotted this train at Maxwell, and ended up just barely beating it to Brady.





I spied this eastbound stack train at Lexington. Unfortunately, some new construction near the pedestrian bridge prevented a really good picture of it approaching, so... Here it is, heading away.





Farther east, I overtook a coal train.





Later still, a westbound manifest passes a control point. To ensure smooth operation, most of these are now equipped with high speed movable point frog switches, heaters to keep the equipment snow/ice-free in the winter, and all the latest in signal hardware.





The same train continues through the rest of the control point. Distributed power is now the norm here, and most trains are operated this way. You can see the heaters more clearly in this view.





Coal empties head west, passing through... Well, I forgot to make a note of it, but I'm 75% sure this is Overton. Anyway, as this train passes, a small rail grinder does some light resurfacing on another track.





And off they go.





Almost exactly a month before I went out there, there was a derailment east of Kearney, and it still wasn't completely cleaned up. Here you can see some damaged aluminum coal gons awaiting scrapping, while their trucks and other hardware have been piled up. The thousands of tons of coal that had been spilled were in a pile elsewhere, being loaded into trucks for transport from the scene. As it had been very dry there for weeks at that point, the dust cloud from that operation was almost impenetrable as it wafted across Highway 30.





Not far from Gibbon, stacks roll west. It amused me to see that the SUV the farmer working this field was using to get there was a spectacularly dusty Escalade that had, at some point in its life, been a pearly white. Then again, later I had to dodge a grain truck going into that same field... and then another four at a grade crossing farther down the line. You can tell it's harvest time. Unfortunately, between trying not to get hit by the trucks and trying not to suffocate in their dust clouds (did I mention it was dry?) I missed what might have been the perfect meet shot. So it goes. Maybe next time.





This image just cried out to be done in black and white. So I did it that way. Grain cars await their next assignment at Shelton.





Some maintenance of way equipment heads east. This train is a bit overpowered when you think about it.





Meanwhile, a loaded grain train growls west, about to enter Wood River. Like I said, it's that time of year- but then again, that's part of why I came out this way.





Away, into the slowly sinking sun. Yeah, I decided to try this one in black and white also.





Westbound stacks in the same location.





They roll on, as another train approaches from the west.





Ah, it's a loaded coal train from the Powder River.





And here come some coal empties, heading back out west to get another load.





Another black and white experiment.





Another, as a different train brings more coal east.





Coal is a very important source of revenue for most railroads today. You can see why as still more of it is hauled east.





The distributed power unit brings up the rear... and that's the last image of the day.
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