Little Rock Express
Digital Photos

Images by Mike Condren
June 7, 2011

The Little Rock Express was on display in Bald Knob all day on June 7. It was parked on a siding to the east of the mainlines, between the legs of the wye. The line to the right is the line to Memphis. There was shuttle bus service from the station to the east side of the tracks where stairs allowed visitors to tour the cab. June 8 it will head to North Little Rock where it will be on display the next day, June 9.

Announcement by UP on June 8

"To all our Fans: We deeply regret having to change the Little Rock Express schedule at the last minute. Due to flooding concerns along the Missouri River, No. 844 had to depart from North Little Rock at 8 a.m. today. The train is scheduled to make brief stops in Russellville and Van Buren, Arkansas, before continuing on to Wagoner and Claremore, Oklahoma. Our current plan is to overnight in Coffeyville, Kansas. We will do our best to continue to post schedule updates here."

"Engineering projections show that rail lines between Kansas City and Omaha will be impacted by the flooding, which is why we had to adjust our schedule. We cannot operate No. 844 through high water and Union Pacific is trying to be proactive to keep the steam crew out of harm's way."

"We appreciate the community’s patience as we try to get the steam team home safely. We sincerely thank everyone for your interest and hope we have a chance see you soon."

June 9, 2011

I OSed Memphis at 5:05am.  I got to North Little Rock around 7:30.  I headed to the office complex and took a drive-by, see below.  Since the engine was headed southbound, I could tell that they would not be using the same leg of the wye as last year so I looked for an alternate spot further out on the Van Buren Sub. 

I found a spot on Percy Machin Drive near Pershing Blvd. Soon a crowd gathered from the nearby offices.

After getting on I40 and driving to the Mayflower Exit, I got the train again near Paintball Arkansas.

There was some nice pacing on the parallel highway east of downtown in Conway, AR.

After Conwy, I got on I40 and headed for Plumberville, AR where I got on US 64 into Morrilton, AR where I got him coming out of the sun.

Again back on I40 to the Blackville, AR exit where he was met by a crowd at the south switch and I barely beat him.

I then paced the train along US 64 thru Atkins, AR.

I finally got ahead of the chasers and pulled into Worthen siding where we shot last year in the pouring rain. No rain, but the lighting left a lot to desire.

I again got on I40 and headed to the PDQ in Russellville for gas for the car and Subway across the street for my lunch to go. I then headed to the causeway across Cherokee Crossing of Illinois Bayou of Lake Dardanelle on the Arkansas River. That name means that I should have lots of pictures at this location and I do. First we see the train as it gets on the causeway. I am standing on the US 64 causeway across the same body of water.
We see Arkansas Nuclear One cooling tower and silo of reactor 2 in the back ground. The silo of reactor 1 is behind the tree to the left of silo 2.

Clarksville Jct. was my next stop. It is just off US 64, about a 1/2 mile east of Exit 64 of I40. It is where the new line of the Missouri Pacific departs the original line of the Little Rock & Ft. Smith. This new main was created in the 1930s. The passenger train continued to use the line through Clarksville which connected to the new line at Spadra. The construction of I40 in the late 1960s cut the west end of the line. Service to Clarksville and the track was removed in the 1980s. When I first pulled up to the crossing, there was a deer across the tracks standing in the road. When I opened the door of my car she ran!
Note the 2 compromise joints to get the rail to match the rail in the new crossing.
Our train caught up with me soon after the above shot was made.

The Corp of Engineers was working at the Lock and Dam at Ozark, my next stop. In the distance, you can see the State 23 bridge across the Arkansas River. Note the bluffs along the river with the tracks at their foot.

A couple of UP MOW crews were waiting to watch the steam train pass. Shortly the train could be heard and then it appeared.

The train was scheduled to stop at the location of the former MP station in Van Buren. As the train approaches that location, another ALCo can be seen to the extreme right of the image, one of the A&M's C24s which is assigned to Van Buren as a switch engine. A crowd has gathered at the former station as well as along the tracks to Main Street. I am standing on the former US 64/71 highway viaduct over the former MP tracks. The current US 64/71 bridge is built over the site of the former station. The train arrived at 1:15, about 1 hour late.

Van Buren was scheduled as a service stop. Originally it was planned as an overnight stop but the flooding canceled that.

Here we see the crowd which had collected along the tracks all the way from the former station site to Main Street.

West of Van Buren, the UP 1982 MP heritage unit did most of the work of pulling the train.
They refilled the water car with the aid of a hydrant under the old viaduct.

For the first 13 years of my life, I lived in an apartment 2 blocks from this end of the viaduct. The 1857 house that once stood here was torn down many years ago. I stood many an hour by that fire hydrant.

My next stop was Sallisaw just west of the former MP station, now public library. There I found a type of switch frog which was new to me, a "Jump Frog".

Across the street from where I parked was the office of my uncle Gerald Hill when he was superintendent of Sallisaw Strip Mining Co.

After quiet a wait, I heard a diesel hour in the west. It turned out to be a loaded unit coal train. It met the special at the siding at Hanson, OK.

Finally about 3:15pm our special comes charging past the former MP passenger station.

The next town was Vian. We could hear the roar of the 710 engine in the SD70ACe long before we could see the train. About the only sound from 844 was the whistle as the diesel was doing all of the work.

I then raced to get ahead of the special before it got to Gore.

In an attempt to reach Wagoner ahead of the special, I took US 64 west to the Muskogee Turnpike to Muskogee, US 62 into Muskogee, and then State 16 north to Okay, OK where it showed up about the same time as I did.

Needless to say that the special beat me to Wagoner. My chase ended with the service stop at Wagoner, OK. I was able to park on the sunny side of the engine, just across the connecting track from where they were greasing the main rods.

I was able to get close shots of the engine without anyone in my photos except for the working crew members servicing the engine.

The Little Rock Express was running 2 hours late by its 5:15pm departure.

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