|Eastbound (Railroad South) KCS Manifest East of Page, Oklahoma, Taken on Trip with Dale Jacobson and Mighty Dog|
|Southbound BNSF Manifest at Seward, Oklahoma, on the Red Rock Subdivision, Taken with Dale Jacobson and Mighty Dog Near My Home|
Unfortunately, 2015 was one of the wettest years on record in Oklahoma. I am writing this on December 27, 2015, and as of this date, the National Weather Service in Oklahoma City has recorded almost 56 inches of rain for the year. That is a lot of rain. It is raining as I type this sentence.
So we had a lot of rain in April, but we were able to manage a little sunshine. Following is a photo-essay of our travels that week in April, in which we loaded ourselves and my dog Bear (aka Mighty Dog) into my Jeep and headed out in search of trains.
|A-OK Switcher at Howe, Oklahoma|
|While in Enid, we stopped by the UP Yard to check on traffic. To our surprise, we found a southbound manifest leaving town with two "leaser" units and an old SP unit. Above is an image of that train. Behind the train is the small yard.|
The largest portion of our trip was devoted to the Kansas City Southern, one of my favorite railroads. While not a short line, the KCS is certainly eccentric enough for Dale's tastes. Also, the KCS runs through the Ouachita Mountains of southeastern Oklahoma, including the village of Page, for which my son is named.
|Meet at Page, Oklahoma|
Page sits at the base of the eastward climb to the summit at Rich Mountain in Arkansas. I have spent many years chasing coal trains up this grade. Until the early 1990's, the right-of-way along the tracks was kept reasonably clear of foliage. But in the twenty-first century, the KCS removed all telephone lines. Thus, the necessity for clearing the right-of-way disappeared. Today, most of the shots available last century have vanished behind trees that appear to grow about one foot per week. There are still good shots on the climb to Rich Mountain, but like trains in Colorado, they grow fewer and fewer every year
|DPU on Grain Train at Page, Oklahoma|
|Sundown at Heavener|
Dale and I also attempted shots north of Spiro at the KCS bridge over the Arkansas River. There were two problems. (1) The sky was solid overcast with hints of rain. (2) Because of all the previous rain, the dirt roads into the bridge on both sides of the river were filled with mud-traps.
Fortunately, my Jeep Rubicon is designed to handle extreme mud, so we had no problems. But we saw no trains.
In June of 2015, I returned to the bridge and took the following images. In the intervening months, rain had continued to fall, and the roads had become even more mud-soaked. I did not get stuck at the Arkansas River, but I managed to strand my Jeep in a mud bog along the Verdigris River near Muskogee, trying to photograph UP's Okay Bridge. Were I more experienced, I would have taken a different approach in the mud that snared me, but I was not, and I got stuck. It will not happen again. I will not reveal how much it cost to get my Jeep free, but I will tell you that the only way the towing company could get to me was with a tractor, and the tractor just barely made it. If I hadn't been near the highway with cell phone coverage, I might still be in the mud.
|Northbound KCS Manifest on Arkansas River Bridge|
|Loaded Coal Train on Arkansas River Bridge|
|Southbound Grain Train After Crossing Arkansas River|
|Pushers on Same Train|
|This southbound manifest is coming off the Arkansas River bridge shortly after sunrise. You cannot see it through the shadows, but the photographer is standing in a muddy, fallow field that had grown wheat in previous years. In the year of our Lord 2015, there was too much mud to plant, and too much to harvest. I drove my Jeep into the field, uncertain if I would be able to escape, but my worries were misplaced. Jeep technology came through once again. And, no, this blog is not paid for by Jeep. I just like my vehicle.|
Dale and I also spent a fair amount of time chasing FarmRail trains in the rain. FarmRail runs a portion of the old Rock Island east/west line in western Oklahoma, as well as an old Frisco branch line from Clinton to Enid. Almost all of our images were taken under overcast skies as dark as the intestines of an elephant. Dale took several shots in the rain. I draw the line at exposing my ancient film cameras to moisture, although I am more than willing to explore photo locations on wet days. Below are two images of the same train -- a freight running from Enid to Clinton. Most of our shots of this train were taken underneath black clouds, but a bit of sun broke through as the train approached Clinton.
As you will note, this particular train was running shiny new CIT Rail "leaser" units. We were a little disappointed at the lack of FarmRail power, but the train did look nice. If you want to see a bunch of photos of true FarmRail power under atrocious lighting conditions, contact Dale.
|FarmRail Northeast of Clinton|
While were were in southeastern Oklahoma, Dale, Mighty Dog and I stumbled on a little known operation of the Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad -- a former KCS branch line from Heavener, Oklahoma, to Waldron, Arkansas. We had no information about this line at all -- no idea if trains were running or not. We did not even know what railroad owned the line, but on a whim we decided to follow the tracks east out of Heavener.
Must to our surprise, before we reached the Arkansas border, we discovered an eastbound freight. The conductor of the train was following the movement in a pick-up. He would drive ahead to each grade crossing, then wait for the manifest (moving about 10 mph) to catch up. Dale and I took a number of shots, then headed back to Heavener. This was probably the most pleasant surprise of the trip.
|Eastbound Kansas and Oklahoma Freight Approaching Oklahoma/Arkansas Border|
|Same Train Near Bates, Arkansas|
|Same Train Approaching Waldron, Arkansas|
|Austin, Todd and Ladd|
So 2015 was a very wet year. As I mentioned above, when I started this post, it was raining. I said to myself, "I wish it would stop raining." Shortly thereafter, it started sleeting. There are now about three inches of sleet on the ground. Be careful what you wish for.