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Thread: Just Another Sunrise in Idaho

  1. #1
    QHKRV Guest

    Default Just Another Sunrise in Idaho

    The sun slowly rises on another summer's day in the small town of Weiser, Idaho. It's going to be another hot one; there's not a cloud in the sky. It's not much of a problem for the hardy residents of this wrinkled country outpost, a wizened mix of farmers, ranchers and fisherman that ply their trade on the fertile land of the Snake River Basin. At this hour, the city is still dormant, the typical midmorning rumble of dusty Ford F-150s along State Street still quite a ways off.

    The railroad, too, is quiet. On the siding that runs through the heart of the town, a massive eastbound mixed freight sits beneath the three-headed signal cantilever, its seven yellow locomotives idling without a crew, the lead AC4400's nose illuminated in the sunrise. Otherwise, there is nothing happening here in Weiser.

    Attachment 1720

    A few miles to the west, however, a stack train's crew is beginning to grow impatient.

    Attachment 1721

    "UP 4514 west, all red at Cobb, over", a voice crackles into the radio.

    The dispatcher sighs a little as he responds. It's difficult enough to guide 30 trains a day over the maintenance-intensive Huntington Sub, and many westbound intermodals such as this one need to add power in western Idaho in order to tackle the steep grades of eastern Oregon. The addition of these extra locomotives, which usually come from eastbound trains that no longer need the power, can be awkward and time-consuming.

    "Alright, UP 4514 West, here's the deal", he replies. "The train you're getting an engine from is still at Weatherby. He'll be dropping off two at Rock Island, but you only get one. There's another train ahead of him; it just left Lime. It looks like you'll meet one here and head over to Rock Island to get your power".

    "UP 4514 West, we'll meet one and head to Rock Island," the engineer repeats.

    "That's right. Looks like we're just playing the waiting game for now".

    UP 4514 is too long for the Cobb siding, but only by a few cars. When the first eastbound, a short manifest powered by a pair of dusty C44ACCTE's, finally arrives, it slows to a stop on the main as the stack train saws by out of the siding. The move is executed without a hitch. A short burst of black smoke emerges from the manifest's power as it accelerates away from the meet. It picks up speed as it leans into a wide curve along the riverbank, and is running at track speed by the time it reaches the long section of tangent track that will take it into Weiser.

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    By the time UP 4514 West reaches the transfer point at Rock Island, the overpowered eastbound has already cut off its power and deposited one of its locomotives on the helper spur. The locomotive, a freshly painted C44-9W that once proudly wore SP scarlet, will sit baking in the sun for several hours, waiting for the next underpowered westbound intermodal.

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    The locomotive transfer takes some time but goes smoothly. The westbound's power cuts off and pulls forward, and the eastbound's three remaining engines run around it and couple in from behind. The eastbound then uncouples its trailing locomotive, leaving it with two engines and the westbound with three.

    Attachment 1723

    It takes a half hour to untangle everything and get ready to go again, but eventually the westbound is able to accelerate away from Rock Island, its 8000 feet of train quickly bridging the last five miles to the Oregon border.

    Before the eastbound train can get up to speed, it gets an approach signal and rolls into the Cobb siding. A westbound manifest is closing in fast. Just as the eastbound is rolling up to the twin signals at the east end of Cobb, the westbound blasts by. The meet takes less than five minutes to complete.

    Attachment 1725

    Another bottleneck is eased. The dispatcher can breathe a little bit easier as he calls a work crew in Ontario, giving them a 30-minute window to perform some necessary maintenance. By that time, this eastbound will be breathing down their necks. The sun is now all the way up as the train whistles around the big curve towards Weiser, its brightly colored containers clattering along behind a pair of sharp-looking SD70Ms. At last with the assurance of green signals for the foreseeable future, it screams past the manifest still idling crewless on the siding, around the curve at the east end of town, and out of sight. What comes next, only God and the dispatcher know for sure.
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  2. Thumbs up

    This is a great little snapshot of operations on the UP. I like the narrative, it flows really nicely and get's you into the mood of that sunny morning. Photos are very good and go right along with the text. I vote to post it.

    Well done!

  3. #3


    Boy, how did I miss THIS one? I agree with Jon, a very nice little "slice of life" with the narrative making this whole thing work. A good mix of photos, both in terms of focal length and angle. I vote yes.

    Martin Burwash

  4. #4
    paul@mwr Guest

    Thumbs up

    This is fine essay and deserves to be available to everyone. I especially like the interesting narrative that almost doesn't need the photos. Strong writing and some nice photos just make it better. Individually, some of the photos could be frowned upon by some for their lighting and shadows, but I like them. This really is what it was like to be there that day and also provides some good information on operations for others who may visit the area. Nicely done.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    durham, sc


    I enjoyed reading this essay and seeing the photos. It's a little different; instead of a single subject, its more of a documentation of a few hours of simple railfanning, I like it. But it still has a solid common subject to tie it together.
    Freeze this moment a little bit longer
    Make each sensation a little bit stronger

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Portland, Oregon


    That's a photogenic stretch of railroad that doesn't get a lot of attention. Nice work.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Hillsboro, OR


    WTG Matt. Great little mini report. Really great shots in early morning light.

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