Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

That's a Switch

Yesterday afternoon after we got back from Reno, we were about to set out to go show the propane guy at Big R about the adapter valve we purchased when we were interrupted by some train work.

Big and Little BNSF

The BNSF local crew had left two locomotives (four-axle GP60M locomotives 144 and 108, both ex-Santa Fe and since repainted into BNSF colors) to be collected by a passing road freight and taken away for their required 90-day inspections. These locomotives have been idling away for a few days waiting for the road freight that arrived on Saturday afternoon. The three locomotives on the head of the road freight are BNSF 3993, a GE Evolution Series ET44C4, followed by BNSF 6930 and 6831, both ES44C4 units. These are very similar models, with the major difference, as far as I can tell from the Wikipedia article, being that the ET44C4 meets the more recent "Tier 4" locomotive emission standards. All three of them are six-axle locomotives, but the middle axle is unpowered, spreading the weight over a broader area and giving them a wheel arrangement of A1A-A1A.

Road Freights Passing

While "Big BN" was collecting the locomotive on the nearer of the two "house tracks," a Union Pacific through freight passed on Fernley siding.

One Down, One to Go

After collecting 144 from the "old House" track (the one nearest to our house and farthest from the main line), it was time to go get 108 from the "new House" track (closer to the main). This ended up being troublesome, as the initial attempt to couple onto 108 failed (it may have been done too quickly), and it appeared to Lisa that 108 came uncoupled from the cars parked beyond it and that the cars "bounced" first away from, then into 108.

Add Two, Drop One

After dealing with the coupling issue, collecting 108, and tying down the brakes on the several of the cars spotted on the house track, the conductor of the BNSF road freight rode on the back platform of the last of the newly-collected locomotives as the engineer pulled the consist onto the main to allow the conductor to switch them back onto the main, where a replacement locomotive was tied onto the through freight.

Rush Hour at Fernley Yard

While they were pulling onto the main, another UP train came by on the siding.

Rush Hour at Fernley Yard

The BNSF conductor has dropped off and is working the switch between the two house tracks and the Fernley main as the UP train makes its way slowly down the siding. Trains on Fernley siding cannot go very fast because the switches at West and East Fernley are fairly sharp. I think they're only good for 10-20 mph, but I haven't asked the maintainers. Taking the siding at Fernley is thus a pretty slow process.

Incidentally, to operate the switch that leads off the 70-mph-rated main line requires train crews to unlock a box with a key that they carry and operate a power switch lock. Doing so tells the dispatcher that the switch at the House Track is active. The switch itself is manually operated. From what we hear on the radio scanner, these power switch locks are trouble-prone. There are times when the switch is mechanically lined back for the main, but the power lock refuses to engage, which fouls the main and causes a bunch of trouble until a maintainer can get out and fix it.

Yellowbonnet Deposit

The BNSF road train prepares to drop off ex-Santa Fe 180 in tired "Freightbonnet" paint (the freight version of the famous Santa Fe "Warbonnet" paint scheme) for the use of the BNSF local crew.

On the Road Again

Having dropped off the replacement unit in Fernley Yard, the road freight tied back onto their train and headed for Sparks. It was none too soon for the dispatcher, as just minutes after BNSF left, a UP freight showed up, "riding the yellows" behind BNSF. A third train (another UP freight) was following close behind as well, and I thus got to see freight trains running on streetcar frequencies for a little while. This was probably giving the dispatcher heartburn, as Amtrak's California Zephyr was heading our way, and they needed to get these three freight trains into the four sidings between Fernley and Sparks to get Amtrak on its way, which they did.

Lisa commented that when we were looking at this house on Google Earth before we bought it almost a decade ago, she figured that we'd see lots of passing trains, but she had no idea (and neither did I) that Fernley would turn out to be such a "hot spot" with 5 day/week BNSF locals, another 5 day/week UP local, and several other locals serving Fallon and the "Mina Subdivision" (stub of the line that long ago ran to Hawthorne, Tonopah, and even Las Vegas if you go far enough back in time), besides the UP and BNSF through trains. According to Trains magazine, we have around 20 trains/day through here, and while it's no Clapham Junction, it's still pretty much all we could have asked for as rail enthusiasts.
Tags: fernley, lisa, trains
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