After trekking up from New Orleans the day before, The Mid-City Marine and I – and a few other railroad enthusiast visitors – would spend all of Saturday 24 February 2007 on Rich Mountain, and it was one of my more memorable times there!
The first order of business was breakfast. One may need to work to eat, but one needs to have eaten to be able to work, which presents an interesting conundrum in a world in which most of us have moved off of farms and to “jobs,” but, no matter, let’s get some pancakes and bacon.
As I recall, I think that this was a breakfast of the local Kiwanis club and that “Sarge” invited us here. It was good!
There’s good ol’ Gene.
That ham radio was a good one, with great reception; it’s too bad that I destroyed by rather foolishly carrying it by the antenna.
Now, it is time for some trains.
We’re stating our day at the fuel rack, with the reunion of a couple of Marines from New Orleans.
Yes, many of you have already read about that day in a piece that reveals so much about both Shawn and myself and this publication that you follow. This new post that you are reading, however, is more about the pictures from that day itself, showing many pictures that you haven’t seen in that other piece, like this one, showing a southbound loaded coal train moving through the South Howe signals, north of Heavener.
That’s the front end; below, you see the tail end.
Next is when the day started to get very strange. We relocated to the southern end of Heavener Yard, where those neat little covered tables are in a little park, and they became quite convenient, as a sudden thick and torrential rainfall dumped right upon us.
Being under roofs didn’t immunize us from getting wet. Shawn joked that he’d turn his body around 180º just to get the other side equally wet.
I’m not sure how long all of this lasted, but, apparently, it stopped in time for us to return to the South Howe Hill to get this shot of the Fort Smith Dodger leaving, a shot that was taken less than an hour after we shot that coal train here.
This is one of my favorite shots that I have done at the South Howe Hill, and its being of a local train probably is a factor.
Ten minutes later, we’re headed to Heavener, and, on the way there, we see our coal train, and how the trees had recently been cleared out from this area between the railroad and the old highway.
As seen in the previously published story from this day about Shawn’s life and death, it was after this that we went to the Runestone Park and the overlook.
As I mentioned before, I think that this was Shawn’s first time on this hill, with its neat overlook of the town, like those that I got the fall before.
This is one of those places where you could just hang out and relax for awhile, and I’m sure that local people do that.
I like the water tank.
We’re not in southern Louisiana anymore!
Shawn, with a geography degree, liked the geology of this area.
And it looks like Paul, too, was having a good time here.
The nice thing is that in addition to being able to hear railroad radio communications here, we can see trains leaving for the yard to head up the mountain, alerting us of when it is time to leave this hilltop paradise.
Well, it’s time to leave. Perhaps we let the train get a few minutes ahead of us before we left the hill, but, 28 minutes later, we’re at Blue Cut for this shot.
This is the daily H-KCSH, the “haulage” train that carries all of the local traffic between Kansas City and Shreveport.
We relocated to the east to a space on the new part of the siding at Page, and, eight minutes later, here’s a shot of a northbound empty coal train descending the mountain.
Turning in the other direction, we see it meeting our H-train that we are chasing.
Well, that’s certainly interesting.
I’m not a fan of ground-level, outside-of-the-curve shots, but I’m already here, so is the train, and I like both the scenery here and the paint scheme and body styles of these TFM SD70MACs.
Next, as expected, we cross the state line and shoot this train again at Howard, Arkansas.
I like these two shots from Howard.
Next, we are at Rich Mountain, and the skies are again getting cloudy.
The train, still climbing, is about to enter the siding.
The crest of the grade is on the siding near the other end of the siding.
Next, 23 minutes later and on the other side of the mountain, we are at Dubya, catching our train descending the mountain and probably braking.
I like this location, too.
I suppose that, after this, the three of us grabbed food somewhere, and I can’t imagine where else that would have been other than the Subway in Mena, which by that time had become a tradition.
An hour later, we made a visit to the airport.
There is some sort of shop here that does some sort of aircraft refitting.
After our visit, Shawn sent an e-mail with a link that suggested that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to go snooping around at the Mena aiport.
I don’t know. I also don’t know if I need to know.
Is it a contradiction to wish to explore and to generally wish to be left alone?
I don’t know, but these next two views are some iconic shots of Shawn.
He certainly is missed.
Notice that the sun has again come out. This day was weird, I tell you, and it’s going to get much weirder! We are, 45 minutes later, back at Page, and note that the sun is still out.
This is the C-KCTU, originating on the BNSF and bound for a Texas Utilities power plant in northeastern Texas.
As is often the case, there is some maintenance equipment parked at Page.
This was one of the more lightly-attended gatherings that I attended; I think that, after our morning drenching, we didn’t see any more foamers on the mountain for the rest of the trip, even though we’d see some at the hotel that night.
I recall the sounds of those coal cars moving across that crossing.
And, now, let’s get the rear end of this train.
Now, it’s time for the three of us to chill and chit-chat for a half-hour while we struggle to decide what to do next.
I suppose that, it being well after 15:00, we didn’t like the idea of chasing this train up the mountain, away from the sun, and away from Poteau.
We had a good time catching up; as my piece on Shawn said, this is when he told us about applying for BNSF dispatcher school.
Nearly an hour later, we are back in Heavener, and this is where things started to get weird, though, for now, the sky still is sunny.
The fuel racks are a good place to hang out.
Eventually, apparently piqued by the changing atmospheric conditions, Shawn turned around and looked toward the sun.
“That’s a funny looking cloud,” he said.
“Yeah, it’s like it has no shape,” I replied.
Eventually, we had an Obi-Wan Kenobi “that’s no moon; it’s a space station” moment and realized that this “cloud” wasn’t really a cloud, at least a hydro cloud.
We’re not really in the Great Plains here; that is to the west, but this is still a state that the Dust Bowl hit hard, and this mass of dust was coming from the west.
I suppose that the compression from the nearby mountains would keep this stuff from going much farther to the east.
I believe that that is a tribally owned fuel station by the track here.
We then relocated to the South Howe Hill.
I figure that we were alerted that a northbound train might soon leave the yard and that we figured that we were already getting sandblasted and might as well go get sandblasted there, seeing what kinds of shots we could get in the process.
I remember that Paul made a sarcastic comment about how pretty the sunset over a dumpster was; there’s a dumpster just out of the picture here.
Here’s a southbound loaded coal train stopped.
This is really weird.
Here comes our northbound train.
This was an empty grain train.
Man, all of us needed good showers! We had just sort of dried off from the morning drenching only to get sandblasted!
For our final image of the day, I’ll give you two versions of it; one as close to straight-0ut-of-the-camera as I can present it, and the second as “corrected” as I could get, filtering out as much dust as I could for presentation.
Both are, in their own separate ways, dusty.
That’s all for the crux day on probably my weirdest weekend on Rich Mountain. Stay tuned for a few pictures on the way home tomorrow.