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Thread: Railfaning the Oklahoma City Area

  1. Default Railfaning the Oklahoma City Area

    Railfaning the Oklahoma City Area
    The capital of Oklahoma, and the state's largest city, Oklahoma City can offer some diverse settings for railfans. Most of the natives here call it "OKC" or "the City", just don't refer to it as "Okie City" or the horrendous "Oaklahoma City".

    OKC is the northern terminus of Amtrak 821/822 - The Heartland Flyer. The train operates mornings south from OKC as 821 over the BNSF's Red Rock Subdivision to Fort Worth, and then returns northbound that evening. You may to check Amtrak's schedules, as it varies depending on season and BNSF maintenance of way work. Speaking of BNSF, they generally do a good job of getting the Heartland Flyer over the road.

    The Oklahoma City station is located in a portion of the former Santa Fe depot downtown on E.K. Gaylord between Reno and Sheridan. The tracks here are elevated, and access is somewhat restricted.

    Another OKC-area stop is in Norman, located south of OKC proper. Amtrak stops at the former Santa Fe "county-seat" style depot. Parking is located on the west side of the tracks. This area is also good for photography, as Norman and BNSF have cooperated to landscape the area nicely.

    Arkansas-Oklahoma (AOK)
    Arkansas-Oklahoma operates into the OKC area from the east over the former Union Pacific from Shawnee. This line was originally constructed by the Choctaw, Oklahoma, and Gulf, which became part of the Rock Island in 1904. After the Rock shutdown in 1980, the MKT (who had been using trackage rights over the line after abandoning their OKC line) purchased the line from the trustee. In 2000, A-OK, which had previously operated over another portion of this line in Eastern Oklahoma, acquired operating rights from the UP. BNSF also runs a local to Shawnee over this line from Oklahoma City to reach an isolated segment of former Santa Fe trackage in Shawnee.

    AOK's main business is switching an auto loading facility (located on the northwest corner of NE 10th and Sooner Road). The autos come from the GM Assembly Plant in Oklahoma City and are trucked over from the plant (BNSF formerly handled this business; they serve the plant directly). Cars come in from the UP and are brought over to the facility, and after loading/unloading, they return the cars directly to the UP.

    AOK's power is a fleet of four former NS (nee Conrail) B23-7's that are painted in AOK's snappy version of the Rock Island's red and yellow paint scheme. In fact, AOK's herald is a modified version of the RI emblem. AOK also uses a former Southern Pacific transfer caboose, SP 1, that still wears its orange and red Daylight paint.

    The normal operating practice as of late seems to be to use a two-unit set of power in OKC and the other two units in Shawnee. Operations are as needed, but seem to be daily. When the AOK is not working, the power is usually kept at the Shawnee office or inside the auto loading facility. Several railfans have received permission to photograph the power while parked at the facility from security guards, but an act of vandalism that damaged the locomotives and several new cars may have stopped that practice.

    BNSF operates through Oklahoma City on the north-south Red Rock Subdivision, the former Santa Fe Oklahoma Subdivision. A quick word of note - following the Santa Fe practice, northbound trains are considered eastbound since they are headed towards Chicago and vice versa. The Red Rock Sub traverses Oklahoma, beginning at Arkansas City, KS (usually referred to as "Ark City") on the radio and Gainesville, TX. This line was the first line through Oklahoma Territory and handled some of the immense crowds of land seekers during the famous land run of 1889. Today, the line handles the majority of BNSF traffic between points in Texas and points north and east.

    Train counts tend to vary depending on season, with unit trains (mostly grain) adding to the count. Generally, traffic averages 15-19 trains per day

    BNSF currently operates four yard facilities in the area - GM Yard, North Yard, Nowers Yard, and South Yard.

    South Yard (Flynn)
    Located on the dividing line between Moore and Oklahoma City just south of I-240, South Yard is BNSF's main facility in the area. Until the BNSF merger, South Yard was named Flynn - (Flynn Siding is still located Flynn was constructed in the 1970's to replace the cramped Nowers Yard.

    The yard performs some classification work, but most mainline trains bypass the yard. Intermodal trains will pick up or set out blocks of traffic on the siding, since BNSF operates their only Oklahoma intermodal terminal on the east side of the yard.

    The yard can be viewed from Pole Road, which roughly parallels the yard two blocks away

    North Yard (East Yard)
    North Yard is the former Frisco East Yard (it's located north of Flynn and east of the site of Frisco's first yard). Located imediately southeast of downtown Oklahoma City, North Yard was relatively busy until recently. However, since the sale of both the Chickasha Sub to the west and the Sooner Sub to the East, North Yard's traffic has declined. Most of the work done here is related to interchange with the SKOL/K&O and traffic for the trackage in Oklahoma City that BNSF retained.

    Byers Avenue passes directly over the yard and the North Canadian River - the yard is located east of the overpass. Due to the yards' location on the south bank of the river, there is no real public access to the yard - although several city streets dead end at the property line.

    GM Yard
    Located behind the GM Assembly Plant off of Air Depot Blvd between SE 59th and SE 74th, GM Yard was constructed by Santa Fe to serve the GM plant (hence the name). Since the finished autos are now located at the facility on the AOK, GM Yard has been mostly used for car storage by BNSF. BNSF still transports parts to the plant, so there is still some traffic to and from the facility.

    GM Yard is sandwiched between the GM plant and Tinker AFB, and the only public street in the vicinty (Air Depot) passes under the throat of the yard below grade; as a result there are few possibilities for railfan access, especially considering the security concerns of both Tinker and GM. However, there's usually nothing more than storage cars here, there's not much to miss.

    Nowers Yard
    Nowers Yard is located on the north side of Oklahoma City west of the State Capitol. This was the main Santa Fe facility in Oklahoma City until the construction of Flynn Yard (now South Yard). Today, Nowers is also used for car storage, and MOW staging. The yard is paralleled on the west side by the Centennial Expressway (I-235/US 77, but generally referred to as the Broadway Extention), and on the east side by Santa Fe Ave.

    Stillwater Central (SLWC)
    In 1997, Stillwater Central became the latest entrant into Oklahoma City. Stillwater Central, a property of the Coffeyville, KS based Watco, was formed to operate two lines operated by the state of Oklahoma from BNSF, the former Santa Fe from Stillwater to West Pawnee and the former BN (nee Frisco) line from Sapulpa to Oklahoma City. This operation was expanded later when Watco purchased the former Chickasha Subdivision between Wheatland (on the southwest side of Oklahoma City) and Long (near Synder in southwest Oklahoma).

    For several years, the operation mostly consisted of switching a plastics manufacturer at Red Horse (Sooner Road), and the occasional BNSF detour. However, in December 2001, SLWC began operating unit cement trains from Kansas in conjunction with the South Kansas and Oklahoma, another Watco property.

    SLWC's base of operations is located at Cyril, a small town southwest of Chickasha. Operations from Cyril to Oklahoma City tend to be on a tri-weekly basis, and usually occur at night. The cement trains run infrequently and can appear at any time. Interchange in OKC is currently done with BNSF at BNSF North Yard.

    Power on the SLWC can be anything on the Watco roster - especially on the cement trains. The operations out of Cyril have used a group of K&O (another Watco line) GP38's and some SK&O GP7s.

    Union Pacific (UP)
    Union Pacific enters Oklahoma City from the west on the aptly named Oklahoma City Subdivision. This line is the continuation of the former MKT/Rock Island line that the AOK operates on. The west end of the Oklahoma City Sub is El Reno, where it connects with the north south Enid Subdivision. Although the Rock Island had equipped the line with ABS signaling, dispatching is done today under TWC from Omaha.

    Prior to the construction of the auto unloading facility on the AOK, this line languished as a little more than a branch line with a 25 MPH speed limit. However, the new construction prompted a complete upgrade (which included welded rail); today, the maximum speed limit is 49 MPH.

    Primary traffic on the UP consists of vehicle trains to and from the AOK and unit trains for the Dolese Company. Dolese Brothers Co. operates a large cement plant in Oklahoma City, and as a result, limestone is transported from Richard's Spur (north of Lawton) and sand is brought in from a pit on the Enid Sub near Dover. UP also operates a local between Enid and OKC and a switcher that works various industries in the OKC area, although both are dependent on what work needs to be done that particular day.

    UP's yard facility is located east of downtown, south of NE 4th. This was the former RI Harter Yard. The Yard Office is located at NE 1st and High St, and the engine facility, such that it is, is located about two blocks east. The yard extends from here east to the Martin Luther King/Eastern Ave overpass. Most of the activity can be observed from public property near the yard office (NE 1st St or an adjoining park), but foliage can limit photo opportunities. There's a semi-public area under the MLK overpass that can be reached by turning south on the first street west of the NE 4th/MLK intersection. One word of warning - the areas along the Union Pacific from MLK to May Avenue are not the most upscale neighborhoods in Oklahoma City; it's best to stay alert and always keep track of your surroundings.

    Power on the UP tends to be anything on the roster. CSX power often runs through on the vehicle trains, while the locals/switchers tend to be GP38/GP40 type units. The sand and rock trains will gather anything from GP60s to B23s to SD40s.

    Chasing trains through the metro area is not advised - most streets do not parallel the tracks, and due to the ever present road construction, the expressways generally don't cut down on your time.
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  2. Default Railfaning the Oklahoma City Area

    ye i fully agree with your statement even i have noticed all the things

    and thanks i must say that keep on sharing this kind of knowledgable


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