A PHOTO report by Russ Jackson
Being a railfan and rail transportation advocate means looking for ways to use rail for ways to get wherever one is going whenever possible. Sometimes that can boomerang and cause unforeseen problems. I thought I was going to be smart and start off my trip to Arizona by seeing how easy it is to get from my home in Denton County, Texas, to the Ft. Worth Intermodal Transportation Facility to take the Texas Eagle train #421 on Wednesday, September 28 that was to depart about 2:10 PM.
My son-in-law picked me up at 9:15 AM to drive me to the DCTA A-Train station, about 3 miles from my house, the only segment that would be by car. The whole journey, using A-Train, DART, and the TRE would take about 2 hours and 15 minutes. I was allowing 2 hours at the end of this journey in case there were delays enroute. The Texas Eagle was running late that morning according to the Amtrak Locator Map. The rest of the story at Ft. Worth will be told with the photos below.
The southbound A-Train arrived at 9:43, on time at the Highland Village/Lewisville Lake station. I had plenty of time to purchase my Regional Senior ticket that would be good on DART and the TRE as well. The cost was $2.50, cash because the credit card feature was not working. The car was not full, so there was room to put my bag on the adjoining seat. The DCTA A-Train is doing quite well, but would do much better if it were extended a few miles north, and DCTA is working on how that could be accomplished although it may be a long time before it happens.
The connection between the A-Train and the DART Green line is at Trinity Mills station. It’s a shame this connection is necessary, as ridership would be greater if there was through service, but with the diesel powered A-Train and the catenary electric powered DART, that is not going to happen soon. One future possibility would be extending the A-Train the short distance to the Carrolton station where the connection to the under construction DART Plano to DFW Airport could be made, but as we all know, since that would mean the two agencies would have to agree in separate counties, it’s not likely to happen. This DART Green line train was two minutes late, and even at 10 AM there were plenty of passengers waiting.
The next connection was at the TRE’s Victory station, which is located next to the American Airlines Center where the Mavericks and Stars play and many concerts are performed during the year. Many riders use this station to attend the events, as both the DART Green line and Orange line stop here, as well as the TRE. My DART train arrived on time for the connection to this on time TRE train headed to Ft. Worth. It was an across platform connection with only a short wait. The TRE train had many passengers at almost 11 AM, some riding only part way. There is a connection bus at the Centerport station that takes riders to the Airport, but only one from my TRE did so.
I decided to ride the TRE to the end of the line at the T&P station, just west of the Ft. Worth station, and return since I was on time and two hours early for the Texas Eagle. That extension would give me a good view of the Amtrak yard between the station and the infamous Tower 55 that controls the junction between the BNSF and the Union Pacific. While a construction project has smoothed out that meet situation, it still is a problem at times. On the return TRE trip I took the next photos out the car window.
This two-car train was labeled Patrick Henry Promotions. My thanks to Gene Poon for the explanation: “Patrick Henry (nothing to do with Give me liberty or give me death) and his wife own those two cars. The train is based in Houston, their regular parking space at the Houston station, and usually operate together. the Henrys travel in them, lead tours, and charter them out. They are also available for charter while parked in Houston; they have access to water and 480-volt electricity. Both the dome Warren R. Henry and sleeper Evelyn Henry are ex-Union Pacific cars.”
On the same yard track, behind the Patrick Henry, was the Amtrak display train that is traveling around the country. It would be heading to Houston in a few days, presumably at the same time as the Patrick Henry although the two are not officially connected. Upon arrival at FTW ,my TRE was on time at 12:16, where I found that my Texas Eagle #21 was running two hours late, and would not be there until around 4:15.
So, how does a railfan kill time in a train station? First by having a Subway sandwich, and then by watching trains, of course, and Ft. Worth has good activity with the TRE, Amtrak, the adjacent BNSF, and of course all the T buses come through to also connect with the TRE. The first event was the on time arrival of the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City. In this photo can you tell which direction it was moving? In this case Amtrak locomotive 50 is pulling the train with two cars and the “cabbage car” 90222 down the connector track from the BNSF to the station. Ridership was fairly light, but many were connecting from the Flyer to the Texas Eagles. One man told me he had come from the Southwest Chief bus connection at Newton, KS and was going to Austin. All of us had a long wait ahead.
Texas Eagle 22, the northbound train, arrived on time at Ft. Worth that day. One interesting feature of its consist was it had two Diner Lounge cars instead of a Sightseer Lounge and a Diner Lounge. Normally on these trains only the Diner end of a Diner Lounge car is used as the “Dining Car,” and the separate Sightseer Lounge is staffed. I took this shot from the south end of station platform 1 looking at a busy Amtrak yard that contained the Patrick Henry, the Amtrak display train, and the Heartland Flyer trainset that had arrived earlier and would depart on time at 5:25 back to OKC. A week later the Flyer would have four cars to bring fans to the “Big Game” between Oklahoma U. and Texas U. that is played in the “neutral” site in Dallas. This train 22 was quickly serviced and was on its way to Dallas on time via the TRE line, the trains now able to avoid any time consuming wyeing at Tower 55 and freight interference on the UP line. No change has been made to the running time between Dallas and Ft. Worth since use of the TRE began, and some days all the dwell time is used up.
Little did we know at 2:00 that our wait was going to be much longer than another two hours. As the afternoon went on the agents came on the station PA to announce new arrival times, 4:45, 5:15, 5:40, 6:08, 6:15, and it finally arrived at 6:30. Yes, that meant I, and the folks from the Heartland Flyer, all waited six hours for the train. In this photo it has finally come through the building tunnel north of the station and is arriving on track 3. The exact delay reasons and locations are not known, but “freight interference and an incident involving a conductor being assaulted,” were overheard. Naturally, with this much delay the assumption was the single locomotive had had problems but that was denied. Also, the train had entered the TRE during afternoon rush hours, so there had been delays there, too. One passenger connecting from the Heartland Flyer was a college student from Oklahoma who was now not going to meet her dinner date in Austin, but she would be there to see the speaker at the weekend event, Angela Davis, the next day. College life is still pretty much the same as it was decades ago.
Part two will be the trip report on Amtrak. It will be posted in a few days.
All photos by the author.