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Good blood, bad blood (Day 6)

Posted 7 years ago by Fred Frailey
I invited myself into Thomas S. Carter's life 31 years ago, on my first assignment for Trains. David Morgan titled that September 1979 story "President Carter (Tom, That Is) Puts a Railroad Back Together." Cute, eh? Tom was in his sixth of 13 years running the Kansas City Southern Railway, but before that he had led a fascinating railroad life. With an engineering degree from Southern Methodist, he joined the Katy Railroad after World War II as an assistant bridge engineer, and by ...

The great Texas desert (Day 5)

Posted 7 years ago by Fred Frailey
     Going from Pecos, Texas, to the edge of Fort Worth is an experience everyone should have. Just don't do it the way I did, in the middle of summer, during a strength-sapping heat wave. Half a dozen years ago, when I began this annual west-to-east ritual of driving alongside Union Pacific's Texas & Pacific Route it was trapped in a vicious drought that had driven many sheep ranchers off their land. You would have to reach Sweetwater, roughly two-thirds of the w...

The $2,300 photograph (Days 2,3,4)

Posted 7 years ago by Fred Frailey
In about half an hour, the mechanic in Las Vegas, N.M., determined there would be no quick, easy fix to my malfunctioning transmission (see "My Star-Crossed Adventure"), and began disassembling it piece by little piece. Watching him work was like witnessing abdominal surgery, what with all those things spilling out. I was determined to get my show back on the road, no matter what. I had until 9 that evening, Day 2, to get 388 miles to El Paso and meet Tom's plane for our train-scou...

My star-crossed adventure

Posted 7 years ago by Fred Frailey
     In the abstract, my plan was sound, even inspired. I would leave the Vail, Colo., area by car on Day 1, meet my friend Tom in El Paso the next evening and on Days 3-4 we would explore Union Pacific's Texas & Pacific line to Fort Worth. On the morning of Day 5, I'd deliver Tom to DFW Airport and work my way to Texarkana, to follow Kansas City Southern's line northward. On Day 6 I'd reach Kansas City's suburbs and on Days 7-8 drive the rest of the w...

Dog Days on the Desert

Posted 7 years ago by Fred Frailey
            I’m just back from a week of full immersion along part of the second-busiest rail-freight artery in the country, BNSF Railway between Kansas City and Belen, N.M. Let me start by saying that things aren’t well. BNSF reports carloadings down 19 percent versus a year ago, and it sometimes seemed to me that all the lost business leaked from this, its Chicago-Los Angeles line, known as the Transcon. This is the route that two yea...

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