Peter's Brief Railfan Guide for Norman, Oklahoma

Amtrak

Passenger rail service through Norman ended in 1979 and restarted 20 years later, on 1999-06-14. On that date, trains 821 and 822, the Heartland Flyer, resumed service between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, connecting to Amtrak's National Network via the Texas Eagle, to the Fort Worth public transit system, and to Dallas via the Trinity Railway Express. The original timetable for 821/822 is below and the current timetable can be found via Amtrak's Heartland Flyer site.

Independent train-specific sites

Original 1999 Timetable

Heartland Flyer
Southbound, Read Down
Northbound, Read Up
Miles Train #821   Station   Train #822
0.0 08:25 am DP Oklahoma City AR 10:00 pm
17.8 08:54 am | Norman /\ 09:21 pm
33.3 09:17 am | Purcell | 08:57 pm
55.2 09:45 am | Paul's Valley | 08:29 pm
100.4 10:44 am | Ardmore | 07:33 pm
139.5 11:28 am V Gainesville, Texas | 06:45 pm
204.8* 01:00 pm AR Fort Worth, Texas DP 05:35 pm
* - Assumes Ft Worth station is at "FT WORTH", MP 346.0, on BNSF Texas Division's Ft Worth Sub.

BNSF Railway Company

The BNSF Ry Co's Red Rock Subdivision passes through Norman. Look for about 25 40 freights per day (give or take).

The easiest location from which to watch is along Jones Avenue in downtown Norman. There is plenty of free parking, as well as a linear park, next to the right of way.

Note that trains proceeding NORTH through Norman are moving EAST by the timetable! So "BNSF 9008 East" is coming from Noble.

Note that this information is from 1999!

Sean Graham-White provided me with the schedule for the Triple Crown RoadRailer train. The westbound (Q-KCK-SAG) usually passes through on Sunday afternoons. Other RoadRailers pass through as well, but I don't have their symbols.

Symbol		Departs 	Day			Arrives		Day
Q-KCKSAG1	Kansas City	SuMWTh  0230     1	Saginaw 	SuMWTh 2200       1
Q-SAGKCK1	Saginaw   	MTThF   2200     0	Kansas City  	TuWFSa 1600       1

Other trains I've seen:

M-TPL-KCK 	EB, about 2100 or 2200
H-HOU-GAL	EB, either 1400 or so or 2130 or so.  Maybe two sections?
X-FTW-WIC	EB, grain empties 
Z-ALT-WSP	EB, between 1200 and 1400

"Zee trains" or "zippers" are COFC/TOFC trains, sometimes solid UPS trailers, sometimes double stack, that have priority over all other trains. As <insert name of favorite deity> intended, these are usually pulled by what's left of the Santa Fe's Super Fleet, high-horsepower locomotives painted in the red and silver warbonnet paint. Also seen are numerous V-trains (new cars from GM in Midwest City or empties or Fords for the unload facility adjacent to GM).

The reason that only EBs are listed is that soon after trains pass Norman, trains will call the ATM (yardmaster) at Flynn yard to see if they are to pick up any cars. When they do that, they often give their symbol.

BNSF Symbol Guide - courtesy QStation.

Trespassers on the right of way can be reported to BNSF Police at 1-800-832-5452.

Radio

Having a scanner makes trainwatching much more productive! BNSF's radio frequency is 160.5600. The old AT&SF designator was Road Channel 5. The current designator is "channel 30".

The dispatcher IDs as "BNSF DS 21". He runs this segment of the Red Rock Sub from Fort Worth, Texas using microwave-linked radio base stations. Trains alert the dispatcher with a DTMF tone.

Eastbounds can often be heard calling the train master at Flynn yard (on the OKC-Moore border) to see if they have any pick-ups scheduled. They ID by symbol or by engine number (i.e. "M-ALT-NEW" or "BNSF 9008 East").

There are talking defect detectors (a/k/a "hotbox detectors" or "talkers") near SW 34th St in Moore, south of Constitution in Norman (behind the convenience store on Classen), and near Noble and Purcell ("high/wide" detectors protecting the Canadian River bridge). These detectors read out the milepost at which they are located (395.5, 404.2, 407.4, and 416.2), whether or not there are any defects, and the temperature. The 395.5 and 404.2 also count and report the number of axles in a train. Example: BNSF detector. Milepost four zero four point two, no defects, repeat, no defects. Total axles, three two zero. Temperature four tee three degrees. Out.

Should the detector detect an overheated wheel bearing or dragging equipment, or in the case of those protecting the bridge, a shifted load, it will sound an alarm and order the train crew to stop the train.

If you're watching from near the depot in Norman, and you hear the 404.2 detector squawk for an eastbound, you have about 2 minutes. If you hear the 395.5 detector squawk for a westbound, you have about 6 minutes.

Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company (AT&SF)

The AT&SF Ry merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad on September 22, 1995 to form the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company. The City of Norman got its name from the foreman of the AT&SF survey crew.

The AT&SF Norman depot still stands and serves as a multiple use facility and passenger rail station.

Oklahoma Railway Company

The ORC offered electric interurban passenger service betweeen Norman and OKC from about 1913 until September of 1947. It also had interurban lines from OKC to El Reno and Guthrie as well as city streetcar lines in OKC. Electric freight service was also provided, with connections to Kansas City via the Fort Smith and Western at Guthrie.

The railway's southern terminal still stands on Main Street in Norman, immediately west of the BNSF right of way. It has been modified but is still in use as a cafe run by the Firehouse Arts Center. For many years, it was The Interurban Restaurant.

The right of way ran parallel to the AT&SF and is now Front Street.

Oklahoma Rail Links


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