Friday, July 14, 2017

A Union Pacific Train on Weather Radar

Saw something I have never seen before this evening: what I believe is a Union Pacific (UPRR) double stack train moving across the prairie on weather radar. I measured the size of the echo and it ranges from 2 to 3.5 miles (depending on angle from the radar) which is roughly the right length and, where it can be observed, the echo passes north of the center of Greensburg and Cullison, Kansas. The train runs through the north side of those towns.

I'm guessing it was a double stack or auto rack train as they would be more reflective of the weather radar signal than a merchandise train (boxcars). A rough estimate of the speed would be 60-70 mph which is approximately correct if a train was getting "clear" signals. The train would be on the UPRR's Golden State Route that runs from Topeka to El Paso.

The first photo from 9:40pm shows the train echo between Mullinville and Bucklin. The track is located north of the highway from Bucklin to Cullison to Pratt. This is a wide view. The radar would be just off the image at upper left.

The next image (zoomed in) clearly establishes that it is a train on the UPRR. Between Greensburg and
Mullinville, US 54 takes a jog to the south while the Union Pacific continues with its same routing. The echo is clearly north of the highway.

At 10:58  9:58pm, the train is between Greensburg and Haviland.

The last image is at 10:14pm. Again, the echo is clearly centered north of US 54.
Past Cullison, the echo fades away because, even with super refraction, the beam would be above the train.

I have been watching trains since I was 5-years old and have been watching weather radar more or less daily since I was 19. I have never seen anything like this. I'm sure a temperature inversion diverted the Dodge City National Weather Service's radar beam toward the ground (meteorologists call it "super refraction") which is what made this image possible.

Update: From a Union Pacific employee posting at, "Looking at the trains out there right now, there is an auto train, the APXLAR 11, that passed Wellsford at 10:08PM. That is about half way between Haviland and Cullison. Don't know what else it could be. The train is 75 empty auto racks."

And, in the interest of accuracy, there were some Trainorders users who reported seeing trains on weather radar before. If you are interested, go to:,4338439

(c) 2017, Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC

1 comment:

  1. Wow A Trainon the Weathk Radar very interesting.