This Space for Rent

Oh great, more yellow engines

This afternoon, while I was doing a bunch of clean-up chores around the house, I heard an unfamiliar locomotive whistle blowing repeatedly, as if it was attached to a train either coming south or going north on the ex-SP line up through east portland. After listening for a little while, I decided that it was coming south, and if it was an unfamiliar whistle, it might be an unfamiliar (and by unfamiliar, I mean "not Yellow Menace") locomotive and I could go out and take some pictures without being ridiculed when I returned to Chateau Chaos. So I grabbed my camera and walked down to the Bybee bridge to see if I could get down there before anything interesting came by (the last time I tried to do this was when I heard a steam whistle from the Brooklyn roundhouse. I didn't make it down to the tracks that time, but I suspected it was a steam locomotive because there was a huge blast of black smoke from under the Bybee bridge just as I reached the edge of Westmoreland Park.)

When I got down there, I realised that even if it was an unfamilar engine, it wasn't likely to have passed by, because there was a traditional Union Pacific style traffic jam at the south end of Brooklyn Yard; the east main had two northbound trains stacked up facing a southbound train, while the west main had (blocking the south yard crossovers, so the two northbound trains on the east main couldn't even dodge around the southbound train) a loooong mixed freight standing there, and way down at the end of the new (put in over the screaming objections of {East|West}moreland residents who were tired of the sounds of late-night switching) yard lead was a fifth train sitting mysteriously dead on the line.

As I sat there and wondered what the dispatcher was going to do, I saw one of the Yellow Menace crew SUVs driving slowly down towards the head end of the fifth train. It stopped up by that train, then turned and slowly proceeded back towards the yard, followed eventually by the train, which turned out to be a fairly long container freight that disappeared off into the container yard after it passed by.

That train cleared the west main, so that waiting train was cleared to go, and after a mysterious 10 minute wait (why? It's not as if the line was blocked, given that a northbound train had just cleared) it started up and clattered south. And when it finally departed, the southbound train on the east main crossed over and follow it southward.

With the eastbound main cleared, there was nothing to stop the two remaining trains from heading north, and, after a long wait, the first train proceeded northwards through the yard (this was a train of MOW hoppers, all of which had little solar cell grids mounted on them, with wiring leading down to a mysterious grey box on the end platform.) By this time, I was beginning to suspect that the day was going to be all Yellow Menace all of the time, but since I'd waited so long I figured I might as well wait for the last train to go past.

As expected, it was a Yellow Menace unit. A single SD70m, pulling a second MOW train, and this one was all of the ballast tending equipment that would follow along after the first train, cleaning, sweeping, and washing the ballast until it shone. The MOW train was a pleasant surprise, but it wasn't the only one; normally (as in "every train I've seen on the Union Pacific in the Portland area") engines come in bunches of two or three, with occasional clusters of 20 or so, but #4881 was pulling this train all by itself.

As far as I know, I'd never previously seen a Plesser & Theurer ballast cleaner, but there one was, tucked in at the back of the train. So it was actually three pleasant surprises on one train.

After this train vanished to the north, I looked to see if any other trains were within sight. Nope. But I did hear another one of those unusual toots, so I suspect it's just that one of the switch engines had an old SP horn that has managed to avoid being replaced with a standard UP blat-blat horn.

And when I got home, it was, yet again, "Oh great, more yellow engines." Sigh. I wonder if they'll have the same reaction when the working engine and the 700 run their excursion trips on the Portland Traction line this July 12-14th?