Feb. 6-7, 2012

Photos by Dave Ingles

Even though southeastern Wisconsin, and western Pennsylvania, are enjoying a record mild winter, three of us proposed a trip as a "getaway," a "Texas Triangle" to use up accumulated Amtrak Guest Rewards points, and to fill in some of our needed mileage gaps. Chuck Weinstock flew in to Chicago from Pittsburgh, and Otto Dobnick and Dave Ingles took Amtrak Hiawatha #334 to Chicago on Monday, Feb. 6, to begin the odyssey on Amtrak #21, the Texas Eagle, from Chicago to Dallas. We would then lay over 24 hours to ride some Dallas DART light-rail and the new Denton County "A-Train," before re-boarding the Eagle for Austin and San Antonio. Eventually we would ride the Sunset Limited to New Orleans and return to Chicago on the City of New Orleans, arriving Sunday, Feb. 12. Chuck would fly home, and Otto and Dave would take an Amtrak Hiawatha back to Milwaukee.

The first photos I took were thru my sleeper bedroom window at Normal, Ill., of the new Transportation Center under construction for Amtrak and local and intercity buses. The Amtrak stop is in downtown Normal adjacent to Illinois State University. These would be my only photos before St. Louis, a route I've covered dozens of times.

This photo looks generally north, with the street at the right. The building, which includes a big parking structure, is on the same piece of land as the old Illinois Central station, at the Alton Route (GM&O) diamond; the track would have been in this photo. The current Amtrak station, from the 1980s or 1990s, is across the track (to the left), on the east side of the old IC right-of-way, even though it was built after the IC abandonment. The IC route thru "B-N" as Bloomington-Normal call themselves, now is a recreation trail. This shows part of the eventual much-longer track platform at the new building, whose 2nd story will house Normal's new city hall!

There was plenty of time for a front-end night shot of the Eagle at the St. Louis Gateway Intermodal Station (also serving city and intercity buses, and Bi-State's light-rail line), during our 7:12 pm-8:02 pm layover.

Next morning in Texas, it was cloudy. We're pulling out of Mineola at 9:51 after a 4-minute stop, 26 minutes behind schedule. Our sleeper was the rear car on the 7-car train. Many cities along this old Texas & Pacific main line of the UP have preserved MoPac cabooses displayed.

As we disembarked at Dallas Union Station, arriving at 11:46, 16 minutes late, there was opportunity for a quick snapshot of a Trinity Railway Express commuter train just in from Fort Worth. We secured our rental car, went to the north end of Dallas to check in to our motel, and headed for the Walnut Hill Road-Denton station on the DART light-rail Green Line North.

Waiting for the rental car person to show up to fetch us to their office, there was time for interior views of historic Union Station.

We could not resist, at a freeway interchange near our motel, this combination of signs!

The DART train we will ride to Buckner, at the south end of the Green Line, approaches us at 1:20 pm. This Green Line north is built on, or mostly above, a former Katy branch. On the south end, about 1 mile of an ex-T&P spur's right of way is used, and the outer 8 or 9 miles are next to an extant, but dormant, SP branch on its right of way.

The sun came out, sort of, down at Buckner.

You can barely make out the extant former Southern Pacific freight branch to the right of the fence. This view looks southeast. We are at approximately the point of "Elam" on the SPV map of this former SP line.

The Green Line South skirts the State Fair Park, where the big museum collection still sits, awaiting a move to north suburban Frisco. These cars, in the collection, are across the light-rail from the park itself.

We passed this historic fire house, now a museum, across from Fair Park.

Note the ornate Dallas Fire Department emblem.

A not so good, and cropped, and tilted, copy of a grab shot across the train aisle of the museum's main, and packed-together, collection, including a PRR GG1 and a UP Big Boy.

Downtown, getting on toward 3 p.m., we noticed a Subway by the St. Paul St. stop on the center-street portion shared with other DART lines, and jumped off for a trackside lunch. This view is from our lunch table, the rear end of a southbound Blue Line train.

After lunch I photographed a few other trains while we waited for the next northbound Green Line train. This is a southbound Green.

This is a southbound Red Line train. I rode this route years ago; it includes some ex-Santa Fe alignment.

Our northbound Green Line train approaches as a northbound Red Line train, with its destination in the rear car, passes; Parker Road is in Plano; much of that line, which we rode in 2008, is on ex-Katy right of way.

From the Green Line's Carrollton Downtown station, this is the view looking east. The Carrollton Union Depot is displayed, relocated from right below the Green Line structure at the point where three "steam road" tracks cross at diamonds. The engine facility is that of the Dallas, Garland & Northeastern (the "DIGNO," for its DGNO reporting marks), a Rail America road operating the ex-Cotton Belt line in the area. Out of the photo to the left is BNSF's former Frisco line from Tulsa, Okla., into the DFW area, which junctions with the former Rock Island (now the route of Trinity Rail Express commuter) in downtown Irving (called South Irving on the TRE). Beneath the Green Line elevated structure is the former Katy branch, still active in places for local freight (UP, I presume). All three diamonds still exist. We would come back here by car the next morning.

When we disembarked from our Green Line train at Trinity Mills, a southbound was in the station, too. Barely visible at far right, rear, are the RDC's of the Denton County Transportation Authority's "A-Train," to which we are transfering.  The Green Line goes one more station north (behind the photographer, who looks south here) to North Carrollton, the tracks right next to the A-Line's track.

A more comprehensive view as both Green Line trains leave, and which shows the A-Train beyond Mr. Weinstock.

The RDC's close  up. They are on lease from TRE until new DMU sets are put in service. Our all-day-pass coverd all our DART and A-Train riding. Our train, #5932, left Trinity Mills at 4:36 p.m.

Interior of the RDC's, refurbished by TRE. There are, I believe, 8, all ex-VIA Rail Canada.

Old grain facility along the A-Train line at Old Town.

Operator in the RDC cab.

Approaching the MedPark station.


Meet at MedPark with train #5933.

We arrived Denton at 5:14 after our 21-mile ride from Trinity Mills. The signal is set for our southbound departure as train #5935 at 5:30 p.m.

As I walked along the street sidewalk to bypass the gully to get this shot, I kept hearing horns, and soon a southbound UP freight on the old Katy main line. Denton had been the junction between the main and the branch we just rode. The remnants of a small yard on the branch are visible in the foreground. I think, not sure, that the A-Train trackage here is all new, just east of the old right of way.

Yonder comes the UP freight.

The time was basically dusk or sunset as the UP freight came thru Denton, engines 8442/7074/6358, the latter an SP "patch."

Chuck Weinstock contributes this going-away photo.

Back to board the A-Train.

A partial view of the historic Denton County Courthouse, I believe now a museum. Here is Chuck's view of the courthouse showing the "sunset sky."

Going north on the A-Train, I was on the wrong side to shoot the new DMU's at the shop south of the Old Town Station, and as I feared, by the time we passed it going southbound, about 5:50, the photos aren't much, sorry. They are the last shots of the day. When we reached Trinity Mills, a northbound Green Line train came thru first, so we hopped on it to ride back up to North Carrollton, having time to transfer to the other train there and head back south to our rental car parked at the Walnut Hill/Denton station.

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