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FRIENDS OF THE
BURLINGTON NORTHERN RAILROAD


2014 Convention Report

by John Adams

While not having a large attendance, those who did venture to Tulsa this June were greeted with some real Oklahoma hospitality and some great tours and train watching. As some background, two years ago in Amarillo a new 14 year old FOBNR member, Thomas Jenner, brought his Dad, Terry, to their first FOBNR convention. Hearing the discussion about convention sites, Thomas convinced his father that they could organize a convention - and they really did a great job of it!

We met up at the convention hotel for registration, and a quick look at the mountain of BN memorabilia brought by Peter Ferch, and they headed to dinner. Terry had hoped to have us eat in a restaurant on the south end of Cherokee Yard, complete with a Frisco steamer next door, only to find it was unexpectedly closed on Wednesday evenings. None the less, we all went out and had a great dinner. Terry was then able to give a great welcome to Tulsa, complete with a history of how the railroad got here and what was going on at the present time. He also was able to acquaint us with the local "railfan rules" to allow us access to some great train watching spots.

After Terry's welcoming remarks we proceeded with the annual membership meeting. This year it seemed to become more of a report to the members, but I think everybody was able to share their issues. This was followed by a session of sharing digital photos members had taken and off to bed for another day.

On Thursday morning Terry had arranged for a tour of Cherokee Yard, but with less than 2 weeks to go the railroad had to cancel the tour. With great local connections, and tremendous effort, Terry was able to arrange a fantastic tour of Trinity Rail Car's new Tulsa plant. Here we were greeted by a sign with our logo welcoming us to their location and true hospitality. We were able to go through their entire plant and watch how they build the vessels for propane tank cars, as well as stationary propane tanks and wind turbine towers all in the same facility. It was very interesting to watch their processes, and particularly how they are building 10 tank cars a week, complete with bolsters and draft gear pockets, and then shipping them by truck (big truck!) to be completed at a plant in Longview, Texas. The size of equipment and the noise level were truly impressive!

We returned to the hotel, then headed out for an afternoon of train watching. At Cherokee Yard we were able to watch switching (not very prototypical as they use one leg of a wye on a tight curve as a yard lead) as well as numerous mainline trains running through. A number of these were hot intermodals, often filled out by bare table cars on the rear. We also saw an oil shuttle powered by 5 SD60M's, including one painted in the newest BNSF color scheme. We were able to watch some crew changes and see some interesting equipment in the yards.

After dinner we all headed for Claremore, OK and an evening on the Claremore & Southern railroad. Thomas and Terry are club members and were able to arrange a great night of model railroad operation. The club had a great layout and provided a number of their regular members to assist us with layout operation. The C&S is a fictional bridge line running through a number of Oklahoma communities and has a stable of first generation diesels to power its trains. It is HO scale, completely sceniced and signaled. Thomas was actually our Dispatcher and was able to send us off on local switching, yard assignments or main line freight and passenger trains for a great evening of operation. Their club members and their operating strategy were absolutely fantastic, as they made everything understandable enough, with their help, that we all felt comfortable with our tasks and had a great operating session.

Friday morning found us on a bus to head for a tour of Tulsa's Port of Catoosa, the furthest inland sea port in the nation. Our guide was able to take us through the entire facility, allowing us to stop at their facility's locomotive shop, by the liquid transfer locations as well as dry transfer. I thought the highlight was being able to watch them unload railroad coil cars onto trucks, something I had never been able to see before. Besides shipping liquids, such as waste oil to be recycled, and dry products such as grain and fertilizer from barges to rail cars, they have a thriving steel transload business, all of which were interesting to watch. The facility is served by BNSF, although they do all their own in facility switching with a 3 locomotive fleet and deliver cars to an interchange yard with BNSF.

Upon our return we met up in carpools and headed for Muskogee, OK. We had kidded Terry about finding us a place to eat by the tracks, and after several miles we found an Arby's, not only by the tracks, but with one of the 2 daily freights on the short line coming through while we were eating! After lunch we arrived in Muskogee. There the railroad heritage of the community was on display at their local museum as well as some very interesting displays about the community itself.

Then it was back to Tulsa for dinner and our Annual Board Meeting. With a number of convention attendees joining us we were able to proceed with the business for the organization. Highlights of the meeting included a financial report showing our continued solvency, as well as a report by Doug Andresen on our Social Media initiative. He did point out that we will need to be very careful that any photos posted either need to be original or used with permission of the person who did take the photograph. Dave Poplawski has agreed to continue as Editor for the Expediter, but with several Associate Editors to help him. We also elected officers and discussed the need for new blood on the Board. As usual we discussed our Convention planning and decided to head for cooler climes and meet in the northern suburbs of Minneapolis next June. Peter Ferch and John MacKenzie will be doing our local organization for this event. We will try to get you information to save the date as soon as possible.

Saturday found us meeting early to carpool to Perry, OK where the Avard Sub crosses the Red Rock Sub. With some nice trees and a breeze we were able to watch a number of stack trains, vehicle trains, 2 UP run-through coal trains and an oil train with DPU.

When our fluids and sunscreen ran low, we packed up and headed back to our Annual Banquet. Terry had once again hit a home run, inviting Jeremy Grisham, BNSF Railroad Police officer to speak with us. Jeremy described his background in both law enforcement and the railroad, as his father was also a railroad police officer. He shared what his responsibilities are and how he carries them out with very limited resources. He reported that the Tulsa department used to have 8 officers, and it is now just him and a fellow officer in Oklahoma City to cover 2,000 miles of BNSF trackage in the state. He shared the railroad policy on trespassing, vandalism, graffiti and theft of railroad property. He also shared how crews often feel about us as railfans, sharing how some crews are made edgy as we follow a train, getting pictures at multiple locations. All in all his remarks were very interesting and gave a new slant to the railroad industry that we had not heard previously.

After that we were able to have our annual Auction - which netted over $53 to the cause. A big thanks to Gary Seymour for some items donated. Then it was time to thank Thomas and Terry for their fantastic efforts and head for home.

As a follow-up note, if you have never been to a FOBNR convention, or haven't been in a while - please consider joining us. Year after year we get access to railroad related industries and activities that you would be unable to find on your own. We also have the benefit often of railfanning in a location where our hosts can give us the scoop on the best sites. And the friendships and camaraderie are fantastic!

So plan to meet us next June in Minneapolis - we will let you know as soon as possible to save the date! And a final thanks to Terry and Thomas for a wonderful Convention!


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