Life is good in Wymore, Nebraska in June 1981:
U28B's 5452, 5457. . .
June 15: After the previous evening's meterological fireworks, Monday morning dawned overcast. Marc, not wanting to face a day in the flatlands looking at BN GE's, of all things, elected to spend the day doing God-knows-what in our motel room. I rolled out of bed and intercepted the 21645 Lincoln-Wymore local at Beatrice with an all-star branchline junk consist (U28B 5457/GP20s 2047/2047/GP7s 1562/1589, all former Burlington) and followed it into Wymore.
Apart from green diesels, it didn't seem like Wymore had changed much from the steam era, when it was a vital nexus of branchline operations in south-eastern Nebraska. This was very much a railroad town: the sermon from Sunday's service at the Presbyterian church was entitled "From Steamer to Zephyrs"--if a railroad-themed sermon won't bring in the sinners, then, by God, nothing will!
Lincoln-Wymore local pulls by switcher, Wymore depot. . .
A crew terminal, Wymore sat astride the Oxford-Rulo secondary mainline (a cutoff between Denver and Kansas City) at the junction of branches south to Concordia and north to the Lincoln-Denver mainline at Crete. Activity was centered at a wye where a depot and brick roundhouse was situated. Both were in poor shape, the depot seemingly held together by whitewash paint. (Everything here is completely gone today, the railroad abandoned and all structures torn down) Our train arrived around 1:30pm, pulling beside a switcher with GP9 1956 next to the depot.
Flat nose, big-ol' windshield: Classic U28B 5402, Wymore. . .
At the roundhouse, close to heaven: Ex-Great Northern U25B 5402 awaited a crew with ex-Q U28B 5452, called at 2:30pm for the 21640 local to St. Joseph. The skies were clearing. Things were looking up! Shortly, the local departed, and I bagged my best shot of him near the UP crossing east of town. The rest of the chase might've gone better, if I'd known where I was going. I ended up on a farm road between Wymore and Table Rock. Reaching the tracks, I turned the car around to facilitate quick escape after the shot. . .and drove off the edge of the road, into a ditch. Thinking quickly, I flagged the local down for help; the train stopped, and conductor and brakeman helped push me back onto the road. Then we were off! The two GE's pretty much left me in the dust. I caught up with him several more times en route to St. Joseph, but the shots were pretty crappy. Still, I came all this way to see a U25B in action, and at least I accomplished that. I returned to the motel room to an icy reception from Marc. It truly was time to head for home.
June 16: We retraced our steps to Lincoln, stumbling across Missouri Pacific's Crete Local southbound near Hickman behind clean GP15 1627 and a GP28-2. A few minutes later, we were surprised at a rural elevator crossing at a place called Roca by a southbound BN coal train with three Santa Fe C30-7''s (8110-8030/8114) on 110 OGEX hoppers. I was oblivious to the fact that the train carried "green" markers; this train was running as train #2-76, the second section of scheduled freight #76. The busy St. Joe subdivision between Lincoln and Table Rock was still dark railroad dispatched under timetable authority; CTC would come to the railroad later this year, but for now, dispatchers paraded as many as a dozen sections of "train 76" over this line daily.
Surprise #1: MoP's Crete Local at Hickman. . .
We stopped at Hastings to photograph power for a grain train (U30B 5746, SD9 6228 and 2 SD40s); and Holdrege as SD9 6185 dumped ballast on the 6th subdivision branch to Sterling, Colorado. Nearing Holbrook, the scanner came to life: The Oberlin local was returning westbound to McCook. He finished his station work and departed into the setting sun, 26 cars behind U28B 5454/GP30 2246 and GP20 2045. I made several nice shots of the train passing rural elevators, wig-wag signals, and the parallel highway made for some fine pan shots as well.
On the high Plains: SD9 6185 dumps rock at Holdrege. . .
Elevator, GE's, Wig-Wag:WB Oberlin local, Indianola. . .
June 17: We overnighted in McCook; I headed out early and photographed the Oberlin local departing the yard on its eastbound trip, this time with 5476/5454/2246 for power. I grabbed a shot off the overpass and raced ahead to Red Cloud, then headed back to the motel to collect Marc. While still not a happy camper, we were finally leaving the BN, GE's and Nebraska behind, and pointed straight north to the Union Pacific at North Platte. If pool power couldn't boost his spirits, well, hell, nothing could. We poked around the giant UP yard there a couple of hours, widnessing several trains including an eastbound with a pair of ex-Frisco SD45's behind a UP C30-7. Then, we made time westbound along old US 30 into Wyoming.
I don't recall if the weather turned sour, we ran out of film, or we were just tired of traveling with each other and wanted to get the hell back to Seattle as quickly as possible, but after Hersey, Nebraska, the trip notes and photographs stop. Who knows when we got back, and I sure as hell don't remember what else we saw.
Still, it WAS a hell of a trip, and, true to the form of ETTS, virtually nothing we photographed in those two weeks remains how it was. We saw Rio Grande, Utah Railway Alcos, US Steel F-units and all sorts of strange and exotic BN beasts in the wilds of Nebraska. But the bottom line on a trip such as this: be sure you and your traveling companion have common goals and desires on what to see; if not, be a little flexible and try to find something of interest everywhere you might go.
Postscript: Twenty-six years later, I'm connected to these BN lines in Nebraska professionally, working as a train dispatcher controlling train movement across the Lincoln-Brush, Colorado mainline--home of that Oberlin Local. It's possible that a few of those train crews I photographed in 1981 I'm today working with on a regular basis. Who'd'a'thunk it?