Kansas Street/Kentucky Street Railfans
Memphis' Trains Magazine Hot Spot

Kansas Avenue Railfans is an informal organization of people who like to watch trains. We regularly meet at the BNSF location called Kentucky Street, near the bridges across the Mississippi River in Memphis, TN. This location offers us a view of UP and BNSF trains, along with NS and CSX run through trains along the 6 track alignment seen in these views called "Broadway". Some transfer runs turning on or off the BNSF at CN Jct. will have CN/IC power. Some days the CN/IC crosses "Broadway" to switch industries just north of CN Jct.

Photos by Mike Condren
Two NS trains are seen on Broadway. One is a general freight on the "west bound" NS track. The other is an empty unit coal train on the "east bound" NS track, headed by BNSF units returning from a power plant in the southeast. As the head end of the empty coal train reaches my location, a BNSF stack train appears. These shots were taken from the end of Kentucky Street where it once crossed the BNSF and UP tracks, 5/20/07.

Photo by Mike Condren
On Sept. 16, 2007, I caught this CSX double stack transfer headed to the UP intermodal yard in Ebony, AR headed by a control slug and a GP40.

Photo by Mike Condren
This CSX transfer is seen returning from the UP intermodal terminal at Ebony, AR, August 20, 2009.

Photos by Mike Condren
BNSF usually runs a stack train mid-afternoon eastbound as we see here on August 20, 20009. This train will terminate at the new in 2010 Intermodal Terminal at Tennessee Yard.

Photos by Mike Condren
On August 27, 2009, we caught the CNIC transfer for the BNSF at Danny Thomas Blvd. coming out of "South Yard" at CN Jct. This is along Broadway about a mile east of Kentucky Street.

The special agents tolerate us here on railroad property as long as we play by their rules, no crossing of tracks. We park on the south side of the tracks at the dead end of Kentucky Street. Lighting is fairly good for photography most of the time of the year.

What are you likely to see?

"I have logged trains at Kansas Ave for many years, and I have always averaged 3 trains an hour whenever I logged. Only exceptions were derailments or MW curfews. Have averaged 4 an hour many times for 6-8 hours. Safe to say that 72 trains pass every 24 hours. BNSF is by far the biggest show. They run 40+ per day. Usually 2 per hour average for BNSF. The 72 count includes trains that go to and from the CN yard and operate east of CN Jct. The 72 count is for the CN Jct. But not that many trains go or come from the east for the CN. They include 2 BNSF transfers, 2 NS manifests, and a CN coal sometimes. UP does not operate that many across the river, less than 20. The UP intermodal ramp is in Arkansas. So at Kentucky Street, the count would be 60+ for sure. 'Broadway' is 72 or more for sure." Jim Ammons

In addition to these freights, there are Amtrak #58 and 59 City of New Orleans that cross "Broadway" about 3 blocks east of the Kentucky Street site.

Kentucky Street Location

The red X on the map represents the Kentucky Street location. The location can be reached from downtown by driving south on Riverside Drive. Take Crump Ave. east to Kentucky Street. Turn left onto Kentucky Street and follow north to the dead end at the tracks.

From I55 take Crump Ave. east and follow the previous instructions.

Kansas Ave. Location

The blue X on the map represents the Kansas Ave. location. That location can be reached from downtown by driving south on Riverside Drive, turning left at W.Carolina Ave (marked by BP station), and right onto Kansas Ave/Channel 3 Drive.

From I55, take Riverside Drive north to W. Carolina Ave. and turn right. Then follow the previous directions.

Memphis Radio Frequencies

Photos by Mike Condren
Another location is on the other side of the tracks at the end of Kansas Ave/Channel 3 Drive, reached from W. Carolina Street off Riverside Drive. This eastbound UP is led by #5113. Here we see it beginning its crossover of the BNSF mainlines on its way to the CN/IC Johnston Yard by heading down throught the former IC South Yard. 5/30/08.

Photos by Mike Condren
My first train on Sept. 27, 2009 was this NS stack train from the UP which got permission to proceed down the UP track to KC Jct., 1:23 PM. Note that the train gets a flashing red at CN Jct. and moves slowly onto Broadway. By 1:27 PM a BNSF train is seen on their Main 1.

Photos by Mike Condren
Later I got this sequence. The NS transfer keeps coming, the BNSF keeps going, and the UP moves into the picture. The parked empty coal train then comes into view. Four trains in the same photo, 3 of them moving.
On this afternoon I photographed 13 trains total, including 2 NS,1 CSX, 2 UP, and 8 BNSF. There were 3 stack trains, a transfer, a loaded unit coal train, 2 "bare tables", 1 general freight, and 5 empty unit coal trains, 4 BNSF and 1 UP. See Recent Trains 56 for the complete sequence.

This area is relatively safe during the day, especially in a group, but is not recommended at night.

Normal meeting times are Saturday and Sunday. The largest number of watchers is during the afternoons, usually 3:00pm till.

For historical information about Kentucky Street as a control point, click here.

Send comments, suggestions, and requests for more information to: mcondren@cbu.edu