This trip report will take a look at UP 844 as it steams across the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles and on into eastern New Mexico as part of “South Central Express Heritage Tour 2006”. We’ll see it on display at Guymon, OK, for their Pioneer Day celebration on Friday and Saturday (5-6 May 2006), in Dalhart, TX, as it overnights from Saturday to Sunday, and then flying across wide open country on Sunday as it makes its way from Dalhart, TX, into New Mexico, stopping in Tucumcari, Santa Rosa, Vaughn, and eventually Alamogordo, NM.
Guymon to Dalhart – May 5-6, 2006
Arriving in Guymon Friday afternoon (5-May-2006), I found 844 parked, almost by itself in the rain. One father and son are out for a look, though.
Maybe an APB went out that Guymon had been overrun with railfans… Or maybe they’re just kicking off the 2006 Guymon Pioneer Day parade on Saturday morning!
Sorry, always had a fascination with longhorns…
844’s presence was one of the highlights of Pioneer Day. As a result, some of the UP Steam Crew participated in the parade. Here’s the first half of the UP Steam crew, out in the rain in a 1969 Buick Electra 225.
The first car again, this time from the back.
And a rear view of the second car
The two cars of crew together, passing below one of the big Pioneer Day banners.
See, even 844 made the parade! Okay, so it’s not the real 844, but it’s enough to see that the locals really do appreciate the engine’s visit.
After the parade, I went for a quick drive to Dalhart and back to scout the line for any shot that wasn’t a 3/4 prairie wedgie. Along the way, I found a burst of sunlight and this westbound stacker near Stratford, TX.
The second unit was UP 5277, one of the newer GEVO units in the new, modified Building America paintscheme
Despite the rain and mud, there’s still a large number of people out to see the train leave Guymon. It’s about 1500h, and they’re preparing for their departure, only an hour away. One of the first signs is that the viewing platform is coming down.
There’s Jack Wheelihan (I think), hanging out of 844’s window and giving the viewing platform teardown guys a little help.
A few more minutes pass, and the crew starts to bring 844 back to life. The generators are fired up, and noisy bursts of steam start appearing from, well, somewhere. My guess is they were preheating the cylinders.
Tada! 844, ready for departure… unfortunately it’s still dark and raining. I guess I’ll head west to stake out a good spot.
It’s amazing what ten miles can do – just outside of Guymon, I broke through a band of rain and found this beautiful weather on the other side at Goodwell.
As it passes one of the Goodwell, OK, elevators, 844 is doing full track speed at this point – some 70 mph.
Welcome to my world, Goodwell all the way to Dalhart… Pretty much the story of me and mainline steam – high train speeds and traffic congestion. Like they say, if you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes. The image of that bus is pretty much burned into my brain.
Not bad for just holding the camera up and firing off about thirty frames out the passenger window without even looking at what I was shooting (somebody has to watch traffic, after all)
Finally, just out of Dalhart, I caught a bit of a break as traffic sped up and 844 eased off.
After a short day’s run – about 70 miles – we’ve arrived in Dalhart to blue skies, except for one big cloud over the sun.
Just another look at the train on the 87/385 bridge, with some of the onlookers in the background
844 sits atop the ex-Rock Island bridge over US 87/385 in downtown Dalhart, TX, while the passengers disembark
With everybody off the train, the crew brings 844 forward across the BNSF Dalhart Subdivision diamond. Once they’re clear of the yard throat, they’ll back from the main onto one of the yard tracks.
Going backwards, the train once again passes the unloading area and heads for the far south side of the yard for the night
Dalhart to Vaughn – May 7, 2006
Sunday morning, waaaay too early for me (around 0700h CDT – what’s a morning again?), finds rain, fog, and 844 out blowing off a bit of steam as it jockeys over the BNSF diamond again to position its train at the station. Yes, I hate wires too, but the darn things were just in the way no matter what.
Sunday’s first shot of the day was on the bridge over Punta de Agua Creek, a few miles northeast of Nara Visa, NM. This was the first time the clouds broke a little bit and let just a sliver of sunlight through. You can still make out “Golden State Route” on the side of the bridge. Near this bridge was where the Golden State route, and thus the Rock Island system, was completed in 1910.
Only a couple miles past the bridge, the fog once again opened up to a sunny morning. 844 was at track speed, but thanks to the hills slowing them down a bit, high speed limits on the road, relatively few fans out, it was an easy chase.
About five miles or so northeast of Logan, I stopped near the crest of a hill to get 844 working up the grade. It had just slowed for a 10mph slow order, so I thought it might be working fairly hard. As it turns out, it was back to track speed and blowing a nearly clear stack.
About 20 minutes late on account of a tender leak back in Dalhart, 844 arrives in Tucumcari to the awaiting crowds.
After making the 95ish miles from Dalhart to Tucumcari, the 844 gets a little grease pumped into the bearings.
There’s the man himself – Steve Lee, manager of the UP steam program – giving 844 a little attention at the Tucumcari stop.
It’s no Challenger, but 844 is a big machine in its own right.
The back end of the train – UPP 203, the Idaho – and the Tucumcari depot. This was one of the furthest outposts of the Rock Island, marking the west end of both the Golden State route from Chicago, IL / Davenport, IA, as well as the Choctaw route, linking Tucumcari with Memphis, TN.
With the stop 844 was making in Tucumcari, I decided to scout ahead a bit and find a shot. I hadn’t been over the route in some ten years, so I’d forgotten most of what I knew. I finally found a point out east of Montoya, NM, only to have UP 4363, dragging a long string of auto racks, sneak up behind me.
Welcome to the desert! West of Tucumcari, the landscape changes drastically as the ex-SP line passes out into red dirt and high desert.
Another one of those “point the camera through the windshield and fire off a ton of frames” pictures.
Rocketing along through West Los Tanos, one siding before Santa Rosa, NM.
Here we are at the next stop for the day – Santa Rosa, NM. By the time I got there, the crowds were already there. Not only fans, but lots and lots of locals turning out to see history rolling through town.
By this point, having come nearly 150 miles and with a lot more to go, the crew took on water. And how do you water 844 without a water tower? Note the hose hooked up to the big yellow water tender…
…which runs over to a fire hydrant, of course!
Behind the crowd, you can see a semi truck. That’d be fresh fuel oil, ready to be pumped up into 844.
Just a head-on shot of 844 while it’s sitting at Santa Rosa.
Leaving Santa Rosa, 844 crosses the Pecos on a high steel trestle. Unfortunately, from one way you’ve got heavy trees, and from the other you have wires. I went with trees…
The next easily-accessible point on the line after Santa Rosa is about 20 miles on at Pastura. 844’s following was really growing by this point, with dozens of fans awaiting its arrival at the crossing.
Once at Vaughn, 844 got a new pilot crew, having rolled off the Tucumcari Sub (Dalhart-Vaughn) and onto the Carrizozo Sub (Vaughn-El Paso).
With that, I left 844 to the rest of the fans who had picked up the chase. Vaughn is the last point before the ex-SP line turns nearly due south, and thus further away from my destination for the night – home. Despite the inclimate weather, fast speeds, and crowds, 844 is a heck of a show that was well worth the effort.
All photographs in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS 20D using either a Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS/USM or a Canon 75-300mm f4-5.3 IS/USM.
This work is copyright 2021 by Nathan D. Holmes, but all text and images are licensed and reusable under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. Basically you’re welcome to use any of this as long as it’s not for commercial purposes, you credit me as the source, and you share any derivative works under the same license. I’d encourage others to consider similar licenses for their works.