Valley Park Railfanning 4/20/14

I haven’t ever had two posts in one day, but this one will be short(-ish) because my family’s Easter celebration has worn me out.  My brother took me railfanning again, but we didn’t have much time since the sun was practically down when we left.  But, nonetheless, my catches were pretty good.  The BNSF signal showed green for an eastbound, and I set up with about 5 minutes to spare.  When it did come, I saw that it was a light power move.  Among the five engines lashed up, I spotted a BNSF “fakebonnet”, a unit bearing the old ATSF “warbonnet” scheme but bearing BNSF markings (these came from unfulfilled orders that were only completed after the merger).  When the engines had passed, I set the camera to film them some more.  While I was doing that, however, I noticed headlights on the UP line.  As it turned out, I had pulled my camera around just in the knick of time to catch a westbound UP train meet the eastbound BNSF.  After seeing that, happy that I had so many catches so quickly, I went through my normal footage-taking procedure.  All-in-all, I think I had some pretty good Easter railfanning this year, but I already can’t wait for another time trackside.  Thanks for reading, and happy rails!

The video from the railfanning described above is attached to this post.

Railfan Tip #3: Know your line.

logo_530370_print copyWhenever you go railfanning, it always helps to know at least a little about the line.  Figuring out its name and whether it’s a short-, branch-, or mainline would be a good start.  For instance, the two lines that I visit frequently, UP Jefferson City Sub and BNSF Cuba Sub, are both mainlines (those are the two that I keep filming).  From there, you can try and find out approximately how many trains a day they get.  For instance, the Cuba Sub gets 9-12 trains a day depending on the day, and the Jeff City Sub gets anywhere from 40-60 trains a day.  Next, wouldn’t it be cool if you could find some history on the line, like when it was built and by which railroad?  For example, the Jeff City sub was actually owned by the Pacific Railroad and its construction began before the Civil War, and it was the first railroad west of the Mississippi River.  After that, it belonged to the Missouri Pacific and then the Union Pacific.  The Cuba Sub began as the southwest branch of the Pacific Railroad.  It was bought in the late 1800s by the St. Louis-San Francisco railway, nicknamed the “Frisco”, which was merged into the Burlington Northern about 100 years later, which in turn was merged with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe into the BNSF.  Besides the history of the whole line, there are other little things to find out about the particular section that you live by.  For instance, were there passenger stations in the area?  If so, are they still standing?  If not, could you find the remains of them?  All these questions can lead to a fun weekend afternoon as well as a quick lesson in local history.  Once you know the history of a line, you will be able to appreciate it much, much more when you see a train rolling through.  These are some basic things you can do to find out about your line.  If you really want to get to know it, you might want to search for the timetable of the line, which includes information such as the signaling system used, the number of sidings and there lengths, and speed limits.  I hope that you’ve found this edition of “Railfan Tips” helpful and apply them to your line.  Thanks for reading, and happy rails!

Railfanning 4/12/14

My Dad is so awesome!  He takes me railfanning even though to me he seems tired.  We went again today, starting at Valley Park.  No longer than 5 minutes after I finished setting the camera up, I saw the telltale headlights coming.  The train was a westbound UP oil train.  At least I think it was, because it was all tank cars except for the first few, which makes sense.  After all, they wouldn’t want anything from the engines igniting the oil, right?  Anyways, while Dad and I were talking about how good our timing was after the train had passed, I saw another set of headlights this time going east.  This one turned out to be a local, but hey, a train’s a train, right?  We had to go on to Kirkwood for an errand, so we left after that one passed.  Dad agreed to take me to the old Missouri Pacific passenger depot, now serving Amtrak, after we were finished.  While Dad was getting us some custards for us at a little custard joint across the parking lot from the station, I began to hear a low rumble.  Even though I didn’t know what it was, I had a pretty good idea.  I just wasn’t sure what line, since the BNSF had one nearby also.  Sure enough, I saw headlights come around the bend about 50 yards to the west.  Dad was just getting back in time to see the eastbound loaded coal train rolling by.  We contentedly ate our frozen custards watching it, wincing when the wheels on the coal hoppers screeched (which was often).  I decided I didn’t want to see another train that day, at least not there, because the train wasn’t even on the track closest to us and the wheel screeching still drove me and Dad absolutely nuts.  But on the way home, we got to the BNSF crossing just in time for the gates to go back up after a train had.  Driving away, I got an idea.  I was pretty sure it was a westbound, which would take it right through Valley Park, which also meant past my usual spot.  Dad agreed to try to beat it there.  On the way,  I looked at a nearby ridge where I was pretty sure the BNSF line cut across.  Sure enough, I saw the headlights moving along the middle of the ridge, headed right where I thought they would.  I though we had it, but when we were almost to the spot, I saw the train about to pass under the road we were on, which meant it was past my spot, which in turn meant we were too late.  Oh, well.  So ended my own version of the Great Locomotive Chase.  I guess you can’t win them all, but I can’t be sad knowing that I saw three trains in one outing, still really good for me.  I already can’t wait to get back out there next week and have some more Railside Adventures!  Thanks for reading, and happy rails!

The video from this trip is attached to this post.

Valley Park Railfanning 4/9/14

I had success today in some more railfanning for the spring of this year.  My catches today were a couple of westbounds:  one a local and one a coal empty.  This trip was a little different from the rest, however, because this time it wasn’t one of my parents driving me.  I would like to make a shout-out to my biggest brother for driving me to Valley Park, which is something he usually wouldn’t do.  When we got to my spot, it took about 20 minutes for the local to go by.  We then stayed there for about another 5 minutes, then we headed down to the Meramec to look at some wildlife (my brother’s idea).  Looking back, I’m really glad we did. When we were about to our car, I looked at the rail line and saw some headlights coming.  Saying “He’s coming!”, I took off like a shot to get back to my spot, leaving my brother at the car.  My brother said afterwords that it was the fastest he’d seen me run in awhile.  I was racing the train, it seemed.  And I won.  I had the forethought to reset the camera on the fly, and got there in time to get the camera rolling.  I was happy, but exhausted from the running and was catching my breath the whole time the coal train was rolling by.  Thinking afterwords, I’m really glad I brought my brother drove me, because if it wasn’t for him wanting to see the river I would’ve missed the coal train.  So here’s to my brother, a guy who doesn’t usually take me, but contributed to my success today.  The video of the trains is attached to the post.  Thanks for reading, and happy rails!

Valley Park Railfanning 4/5/14

I had some luck today in my first railfanning trip of the spring.  The location: a trackside park in Valley Park, right on the Meramec River.  The train: a westbound Union Pacific local freight.  I had been thinking that it was time to take to the field again with the mild tempatures of spring, so why not?  Besides, I missed the clickety-clack of a train.  So I tagged along with my Dad for the Saturday errands, and when we got to the location, it took only about twenty minutes for the train to roll by.  With warm tempatures and a train to boot, I think this was a nice way to kick off my spring railfanning for 2014, don’t you? ;).  The link to the video is attached to this post.  Thanks for reading, and happy rails!

Status update.

My about page and my first post both say that I’m a Boy Scout and this blog is for my communications merit badge.  I can now say that I have completed the merit badge, and that I’m almost to the rank of life scout, which is one step away from Eagle.  I know that this post doesn’t involve trains, but since this blog was started because of a scout badge, I should pass the news along.  Even though I’ve finished what I’ve needed to with the blog, I’m going to continue posting because I’ve enjoyed this a lot ;).  Thanks for reading, and happy rails!

My blog now has a trailer!

logo_530370_printI have uploaded a new video to Railside Adventures’ official YouTube channel.  It doesn’t contain new footage, but rather is a compilation of the old adventures and forms the trailer for the blog.  Here’s the link.  Enjoy, and happy rails!