Watching the Weather from a train

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Eric in East County

Lead Service Attendant
AU Supporter
Joined
Jan 20, 2016
Messages
301
Location
East San Diego County
Back in June of 2005 we were heading west on SWC No. 3, which we’d boarded in Chicago.

By the time we arrived in Naperville, it was starting to get cloudy, with even darker storm clouds to the west.

We had our scanner on and, an hour after leaving Chicago, we heard the main line dispatcher contact our train with a weather warning: Mendota was experiencing wind gusts of 60 miles an hour. We heard our engineer ask the dispatcher if No. 6 (the east-bound CZ) had had to stop.

At 4:20 p.m., No. 3 came to a stop in Somonauk, Illinois. There were dark storm clouds overhead, with strong wind and lightning. An announcement was made to explain why we’d stopped. (Despite the threatening weather, quite a few of the residents of Somonauk came by to see the SWC parked in the middle of their town.)

At 4:46 p.m., a second weather warning was received telling of wind gusts of up to 60 miles an hour that were being recorded at Bristol and Earlville.

At 4:57 p.m., the east-bound CZ went by and, at 4:59 p.m. No. 3 got underway in a light rain.

Returning to our bedroom after dinner, we picked up a NOAA weather radio broadcast from Galesburg describing wind damage around the state.

Then, at about 3:00 a.m., we awoke to find everything quiet and No. 3 standing still. It was still dark outside, and thunder could be heard off in the distance. Turning on the scanner, we heard our engineer report that we were stopped at NR Junction east of Newton. We then heard him ask if he could proceed, but the dispatcher told him to wait until after the tracks had been inspected for flooding.

When we did finally get underway at 5:19 a.m., it was raining again.

By the time it began to get light, it was no longer raining, but we could see signs of recent heavy rains. The creeks and rivers were swollen, and the fields looked like swamps. Overhead were dark, dramatic storm clouds.

Tuning in to a NOAA broadcast from Topeka, we heard flood watch warnings being issued for various locations around the state.

We were 4 hours behind schedule when we departed Newton at 7:18 a.m. For most of the morning, No. 3 traveled at a reduced speed, and an announcement was made that this was because the tracks ahead were still being inspected for flood damage.

When we walked down to the dining car for breakfast, we could see that water had leaked in at either end of our sleeper coach.

By the time we reached Hutchinson, the sky was clearing. And it appeared that Dodge City hadn’t received rain for quite a while, since the sky was sunny and clear, and the riverbeds were bone dry.

For the rest of the trip, we remained about 4 hours behind schedule because of the delays caused by the weather.

Eric & Pat
 
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ScottR

Train Attendant
Joined
May 24, 2021
Messages
57
Location
Monterey
Hey, Scott, let us know when you're booking next; I could use the guarantee of glorious weather! 🙂
Well I’ve got a coast starlight to empire builder next month In Portland. 1 hour. I’ve done it three times…always on time….I’m due I guess for an Ambus but never had to do one.

what am I in for?
 

Dakota 400

Engineer
Joined
Mar 5, 2014
Messages
3,162
Many years ago on PRR, Columbus, Ohio to Chicago, my Mother and I shared a lower bed in a Section; two windows separated by a narrow mirror. The Pullman was an old one. Rain during the night and must have been hard enough that their was rain water leaking around the edge of one of the windows causing the bedding to get wet. Mother called for the Porter who contacted the Conductor. There was one empty Roomette in the next Pullman and we were transferred to that. First time in that type of accommodation. It was a good thing that I was a small child because it was a very tight with two people in that single bed. That was the last time that she ever booked a Section.
 

ScottR

Train Attendant
Joined
May 24, 2021
Messages
57
Location
Monterey
Raining in Seattle when the Empire Builder departed for Chicago on a chilly January afternoon. Shortly after turning East and heading into the Cascades the rain changed into a heavy snow fall. That continued throughout the night. The next morning, it was a winter wonderland outside my roomette's window! Traveling through Glacier NP that day was a scenic delight!
Yes yes yes this is want I want to see!
 

Eric in East County

Lead Service Attendant
AU Supporter
Joined
Jan 20, 2016
Messages
301
Location
East San Diego County
One of the most unusual weather-related incidents we experienced while on a train occurred in September 2014 while we were heading east on SWC No. 4.

We’d made dinner reservations for the dining car’s 6:00 p.m. seating. Just as we reached the dining car, an announcement was made that we would be stopping because the tracks ahead needed to be inspected for flooding. No. 4 came to a stop just as it was emerging from the Raton Tunnel into Colorado. In fact, when it came to a stop, some of the coaches were still inside the tunnel. (We later heard the conductor mention to another passenger that half of the train was in Colorado while the other half was still in New Mexico!)

Eric & Pat
 
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ScottR

Train Attendant
Joined
May 24, 2021
Messages
57
Location
Monterey
I love to watch weather from the train.

I have been in a hailstorm at night that was a bit scary and have experienced lots of rain storms while on the train.

When riding the Canadian in the winter, the train traveled through a lot of snow and this Floridian really enjoyed walking through the snow in the vestibules going to and from the Park Car (where I spent most of my time), my cabin and the dining car.

My avatar is a photo from the railfan window in December 2019 (either from California Zephyr in the Sierras or the Empire Builder in the Rockies).

The attached photo was taken from the window in my room on the CZ in December 2019.
View attachment 24526
And that my friend Is why we ride The train….
 

gswager

Engineer
Joined
Aug 22, 2002
Messages
2,897
Location
southern Idaho
I was riding on EB on the way to NYC Gathering several years ago. We caught on early season snowstorm in October. We had to stop somewhere in Montana for the power company to clear the downed power lines across the tracks in several locations. View was priceless.
 

gswager

Engineer
Joined
Aug 22, 2002
Messages
2,897
Location
southern Idaho
I rode on SWC on the way back home from CA several years ago, along I-40 in western NM. Interstate was closed but the train rode effortlessly on the track.
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,932
Location
Oregon Coast
Raining in Seattle when the Empire Builder departed for Chicago on a chilly January afternoon. Shortly after turning East and heading into the Cascades the rain changed into a heavy snow fall. That continued throughout the night. The next morning, it was a winter wonderland outside my roomette's window! Traveling through Glacier NP that day was a scenic delight!
Wow... sounds beautiful. I have several trips planned during the next few months... hoping for a blizzard... or at least a rainstorm! Oops... I'm going through NOL several times... they've certainly had more rain than they wanted!
 
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Hytec

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 17, 2009
Messages
268
Location
MS Gulf Coast
In May 2010 the WB SL was stopped somewhere in west Texas because of a severe thunderstorm ahead with probability of tornados. 15 or 20 minutes after restarting we passed a few miles of deep water on the ground with ditches still overflowing. There was no evidence of tornados or high winds. Though this was in the Texas desert with nothing but sparse scrub. So I doubt we'd see much damage from high winds or tornados.

I was very glad we were stopped, because I remembered this video of a freight train struck by a tornado. The tornado hits at 1.1 minutes into the video.

Moving Train hit by Tornado - YouTube
 

oregon pioneer

Engineer
Joined
Feb 15, 2011
Messages
2,467
Location
near Seneca, Oregon
I live in Oregon and almost always travel in winter across the northern routes, so yes, lots of weather. I have been in an ice storm in eastern Washington (PDX section of the EB), where the crew had to get off at every switch and break the ice off before they could throw it, manually. Five extra hours between Pasco and Spokane... I've been in north Dakota at 40 below outside (you could feel the chill through the windows and in the vestibules). I was on the LSL overnight from BOS to CHI when all the vestibules got drifted full of snow, and the shower drain froze so it was sloshing with cold water and the SCA put a sign on it not to use it. I've been on a train that got stopped on the prairies because there were severe storms ahead.

Last trip home from the east, I woke up several times in the night, with the wind rocking the train on a siding in Browning MT, while BN cleared a tangle of stuck freight trains out of the Essex area. It was nearly light out when they gave us the go-ahead and we started through the canyon. Nothing to see by then but big piles of snow.

I am just about to book my next trip east, for Jan/Feb. I can see I need to take more weather photos!
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,932
Location
Oregon Coast
I live in Oregon and almost always travel in winter across the northern routes, so yes, lots of weather. I have been in an ice storm in eastern Washington (PDX section of the EB), where the crew had to get off at every switch and break the ice off before they could throw it, manually. Five extra hours between Pasco and Spokane... I've been in north Dakota at 40 below outside (you could feel the chill through the windows and in the vestibules). I was on the LSL overnight from BOS to CHI when all the vestibules got drifted full of snow, and the shower drain froze so it was sloshing with cold water and the SCA put a sign on it not to use it. I've been on a train that got stopped on the prairies because there were severe storms ahead.

Last trip home from the east, I woke up several times in the night, with the wind rocking the train on a siding in Browning MT, while BN cleared a tangle of stuck freight trains out of the Essex area. It was nearly light out when they gave us the go-ahead and we started through the canyon. Nothing to see by then but big piles of snow.

I am just about to book my next trip east, for Jan/Feb. I can see I need to take more weather photos!
There is absolutely nothing as beautiful as seeing snow falling while riding in a train! 😇 😇 😇
WINTER TRAIN.png
 

Caro

Train Attendant
Joined
Oct 10, 2019
Messages
17
It was a wonderful trip - I went from heat and drought in Western Texas on the SL through to balmy sunshine glittering on the sea in California snow in Oregon (the photos are of Chelmut area) then pouring rain in Portland. Here’s a clip from the video I tried to post plus the run in to Portland in the dark. Given what has happened since I am so glad I decided to do the trip from the UK in December 2019 and was able to visit my sister in Austin first.
 

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ScottR

Train Attendant
Joined
May 24, 2021
Messages
57
Location
Monterey
I live in Oregon and almost always travel in winter across the northern routes, so yes, lots of weather. I have been in an ice storm in eastern Washington (PDX section of the EB), where the crew had to get off at every switch and break the ice off before they could throw it, manually. Five extra hours between Pasco and Spokane... I've been in north Dakota at 40 below outside (you could feel the chill through the windows and in the vestibules). I was on the LSL overnight from BOS to CHI when all the vestibules got drifted full of snow, and the shower drain froze so it was sloshing with cold water and the SCA put a sign on it not to use it. I've been on a train that got stopped on the prairies because there were severe storms ahead.

Last trip home from the east, I woke up several times in the night, with the wind rocking the train on a siding in Browning MT, while BN cleared a tangle of stuck freight trains out of the Essex area. It was nearly light out when they gave us the go-ahead and we started through the canyon. Nothing to see by then but big piles of snow.

I am just about to book my next trip east, for Jan/Feb. I can see I need to take more weather photos!
Good lord that’s what I’m talking about. Reminds of that song ive been everywhere man ive been everywhere
 

JoeBas

Conductor
Joined
Dec 30, 2011
Messages
1,175
I was once on a Crescent that went through an area of heavy rain and thunderstorms in Southwestern Virginia. It was, you know, dark outside, so you couldn't see anything. I went to bed somewhere just south of Charlottesville, and woke up the next morning as we were pulling into Danville. Needless to say, the rest of the trip was an almost inverted schedule, 12 hours behind.
 

ScottR

Train Attendant
Joined
May 24, 2021
Messages
57
Location
Monterey
Back in June of 2005 we were heading west on SWC No. 3, which we’d boarded in Chicago.

By the time we arrived in Naperville, it was starting to get cloudy, with even darker storm clouds to the west.

We had our scanner on and, an hour after leaving Chicago, we heard the main line dispatcher contact our train with a weather warning: Mendota was experiencing wind gusts of 60 miles an hour. We heard our engineer ask the dispatcher if No. 6 (the east-bound CZ) had had to stop.

At 4:20 p.m., No. 3 came to a stop in Somonauk, Illinois. There were dark storm clouds overhead, with strong wind and lightning. An announcement was made to explain why we’d stopped. (Despite the threatening weather, quite a few of the residents of Somonauk came by to see the SWC parked in the middle of their town.)

At 4:46 p.m., a second weather warning was received telling of wind gusts of up to 60 miles an hour that were being recorded at Bristol and Earlville.

At 4:57 p.m., the east-bound CZ went by and, at 4:59 p.m. No. 3 got underway in a light rain.

Returning to our bedroom after dinner, we picked up a NOAA weather radio broadcast from Galesburg describing wind damage around the state.

Then, at about 3:00 a.m., we awoke to find everything quiet and No. 3 standing still. It was still dark outside, and thunder could be heard off in the distance. Turning on the scanner, we heard our engineer report that we were stopped at NR Junction east of Newton. We then heard him ask if he could proceed, but the dispatcher told him to wait until after the tracks had been inspected for flooding.

When we did finally get underway at 5:19 a.m., it was raining again.

By the time it began to get light, it was no longer raining, but we could see signs of recent heavy rains. The creeks and rivers were swollen, and the fields looked like swamps. Overhead were dark, dramatic storm clouds.

Tuning in to a NOAA broadcast from Topeka, we heard flood watch warnings being issued for various locations around the state.

We were 4 hours behind schedule when we departed Newton at 7:18 a.m. For most of the morning, No. 3 traveled at a reduced speed, and an announcement was made that this was because the tracks ahead were still being inspected for flood damage.

When we walked down to the dining car for breakfast, we could see that water had leaked in at either end of our sleeper coach.

By the time we reached Hutchinson, the sky was clearing. And it appeared that Dodge City hadn’t received rain for quite a while, since the sky was sunny and clear, and the riverbeds were bone dry.

For the rest of the trip, we remained about 4 hours behind schedule because of the delays caused by the weather.

Eric & Pat
Great story and I love the names of the towns. One of the great things about the trains us passing though those little towns. I bet old Earl is pleased as punch they named a town after him!
 
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