Friday, October 28, 2011

The Tale of UP 7783 East: A TRIPLE Train Meet

UP 7783 East passes by MP151 towards Gold Run, flanges squealing, not making track speed.

Nearing the Casa Loma crossing, UP 7783 is just about to stall.

CN 2614 is a very rare unit. Canadian locomotives or cars are very seldom seen over Donner Pass.

The locomotives were sanding like mad but still losing speed.

The General Electric mid-train DPU, UP 5270.

Crossing Casa Loma, moving very slowly.

Stalled. UP 4073 was the culprit.

Amtrak's California Zephyr #6 crept up behind UP 7783 East and stopped a few hundred yards behind.

As Amtrak engineers puzzled over the back wall settings of UP 4073, an intermodal train passes on the #1 track downhill, producing brake smoke. Maximum speed for freight here is 25 mph.

Multi-burst and bracketing. Perfectly framed between intermodal containers.

An actual "triple train meet." The rear of UP 7783 East, Amtrak #6, and the DPU (UP #5277, a GE C45ACCTE) of the downhill (#1 track) intermodal train.

Now loading, UP 4073 finally starts to pay its way and push.

Great exhaust all around. I'm one of those oddballs who enjoys the smell of diesel in the morning.

Conductors conferring, then back to their train.

Conductors back to the cars, engineer back to his GE P42DC lead unit.

Amtrak locomotives, like their cars, are dinged up. The cover for the right-side sand fill is missing completely.

Amtrak #6, on its way.

As per normal, I was out and about (nicely equipped with cameras and video, as well as handguns) when I happened to spot a unique train moving uphill on the eastbound #2 track, out of Colfax (California). A beautiful black and red unit was in second position on this intermodal train -- a Canadian National locomotive. This is an exceedingly rare sight on the Roseville Subdivision over Donner Pass and I wanted to capture its passage.

I left Colfax on I-80 and set up my video tripod as well as my Sony cameras near milepost 152. I waited longer than normal because I didn't realize, at the time, that the train was having DPU (Distributed Power Unit or "Dupe") problems.

Using my Flip HD camera, the above video records UP 7783 on point, a 4,400-hp General Electric C45ACCTE built in 2007, with CN 2614, a 4,400-hp GE C44-9W built in 2000 directly behind, pulling a long intermodal train.

Mid-train, helper unit UP 5270, a 4,400-hp GE C45ACCTE built in 2006 powers by, with two final DPUs on the rear: UP 4073, a 4,000-hp EMD SD-70M built in 2000, and UP 5359, a 4,400-hp GE C45ACCTE built in 2005.

[Note: units that Union Pacific designates the C45ACCTE are actually termed the ES44AC by the builder, General Electric, as in: Evolution Series, 4400-hp, AC traction motors.]

Five engines for an eastbound intermodal train?

However, clearly all five engines were needed because when the train passed the Dutch Flat detector at milepost 154.4, it was moving at a measly 12 mph, less than half the authorized track speed at that point for freight traffic -- 25 mph. Passenger traffic is authorized here for 30 mph.

Finally, after I had driven ahead of the train to Casa Loma Road, above Towle, UP 7783 stalled just past that crossing as I watched. I had parked on the wrong side of the tracks, if I wanted to get back home. The train now blocked my way.

Here's where it gets interesting:

UP 7783 called Amtrak #6 behind it (Amtrak already having queried Dispatcher 74 about passing the slower train in front of it, against traffic, on the number one track and was refused.) and asked if its engineers could check the rear DPUs -- specifically UP 4073 (the eldest unit in the bunch) -- to see if they were even running.

I watched as Amtrak #6 pulled up slowly behind the rear Union Pacific locomotives. An Amtrak engineer and two conductors walked towards the potentially-problematic unit. Through radio traffic, relayed by hand-held portable radios because the cab radio in UP 4073 wasn't working, the engineer on UP 7783 asked the position of the isolation switch on the back wall.

It turns out the isolation switch was turned to START-STOP-ISOLATE and not into RUN. With one flip, the EMD unit began to load.

[As an aside: what does "load" mean? LOAD means that the power produced by the diesel engine in the locomotive is transferred to the generator, which in turn creates electricity feeding the traction motors.]

All exited the EMD cab and walked back to their Amtrak train.

Problem solved.

In the meantime, I happened to catch a TRIPLE train meet when a westbound (downhill) UP intermodal train passed by on the number one track.

Documenting a train meet on video or photographically? Rare. Documenting a TRIPLE train meet? Priceless.


As per normal, click on each photograph to enlarge.