Thursday, 17 April 2014

A day off and the last day - last post

Today was a free day and allowed everyone to do their own thing and wind down.

Jim went to see the Queen Mary and sat at the Santa Fe Springs station where he froze his butt off watching trains.

Chris and Judy did some shopping locally and generally just chilled out.

I watched a movie (no, Batman) then did some shopping at Walmart (threw out all my old clothes) and on the way back to the hotel called in to get a haircut - 00 buzz cut of course, and this time she didn't fall asleep on my head and push the cutters into my skull - long story from the last trip. Whilst getting my haircut, I glimpsed a guy getting a foot spa and the look on his face said it all.... another $25 later and I was sitting beside him soaking my feet - nails got done, legs and feet massaged and 49 years of dry flakey skin were scrubbed free - it wasn't as gross as it sounds !!

Jamie went to the station, went shopping, annoyed me while I was watching a movie, probably annoyed a few local girls as well, and disappeared again.

Later on we all (except Judy) went back to the Fullerton Station to get some late afternoon shots and watch Amtrak No 4 the Southwest Chief to Chicago pass through. A cool breeze was blowing through and it was overcast so there was no argument when I suggested we depart.

Tomorrow we visit Milepost 38 Hobbies at Anaheim, return to Fullerton for lunch and hang around until it's time to depart for Hertz Returns to drop the beast off, catch the shuttle bus to LAX, check in and fly home.

That then ends the trip - 3.5 weeks on the road. Lots of trains, lots of video and photographs taken. As you get with any group of people who wouldn't normally socialize together, there were some clashes of personalities, but they were brief and few and far between.

Generally, a pretty good trip, and as always, as soon as you start deviating from the plan, things go wrong - I prefer to put up with a few sulks than have everything go to the pack just because someone wants to do something different. The hard part is not succumbing to the pressure of those who wish to do their own thing.

Another one ?

Probably not unless someone approaches me and asks me to put one together.

All the best, Erin.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Day trip to San Diego

Today we caught Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner to San Diego and back - 2 hrs each way. The view across the beaches is awesome - surfers, swimmers, pelicans and dolphins all within view as the train raced along the beachfront.

I had a seat to myself on the way down...however on the way back.... more on that later....

We all visited the San Diego Model Railroad Museum at Balboa Park, then two of us went on the USS Midway for a look around. Me and Jamie were about to walk back to the Santa Fe depot to catch our train when a guy on the 3 seater bike pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride - 10 bucks later and we were on our way. Just as I said to Jamie" I wish Chris and Judy could see us now", there they were at the station - Chris promptly getting out his video camera and Judy cracking up at our antics.

The train was chocka full as we loaded up at San Diego and my chances of having a seat to myself were rapidly dwindling.  The thought of being jammed up against the window by an unclean sweaty behemoth ravaged my imagination - until....a 20 something Canadian lass on an 8 day trip with her mother (and had just about had enough of her) sat down beside me, instead of sitting with her mum. Excellent trip home talking to both of them.

Dinner again on the platform.

Excellent day, no photos or video.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Cajon Pass to Fullerton

Yippee !! We're finally on our last leg of the tour.

First stopover was on Pepper Ave at Colton Yard where we spent about 3 hours watching the goings on - the time just flew when it was busy.

Next stop was at the Union Pacific Yard to check out the Big Boy that was parked there...we were only allowed to look at the rear end of the tender but over the fence you could see the loco.

Riverside for lunch - Chinese buffet - all you can eat and drink for $10 - oh dear.

Owing to a slight clearance issue with the vehicle, it's now starting to make some very odd noises, so as a precaution decided not to drive all the way over to the far side of LA to Travel Town, instead went to Commerce City Metrolink. This was a new location on the itinerary and turned out to be OK - not a huge amount of traffic but the backdrop of the BNSF loco servicing depot made up for it.

Next stop was check in at Fullerton and dinner on the platform at the Cafe. Last year there was one homeless person living on the platform - now there were at least 10. A church group were running a soup kitchen for them, and as expected, a car load of people pulled up, all the kids bailed out and got a frtee feed - hard not to be judgemental (if you can afford the gas...) - but if you're hungry and have run out of cash, then the service is there to be used. This now means there is one side of the platform that is way off limits, which is fine as it's on the shaded side and no good for photography anyway.

We hung around till 8pm to try our hand at some night shots - lookin' pretty good so far.

I've purchased the tickets to get us to San Diego tomorrow - train ride on Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner.

A couple of piccies below.

Colton Yard from Pepper Ave.

Colton Yard

Commerce City

Monday, 14 April 2014

Cajon Pass

At some stage last night I must have agreed to commence train chasing at 7 am this morning - needless to say I was wondering why someone was knocking on my door at 5 past 7, wondering where I was.

Five minutes later we were on our way to the Mormon Rocks for early morning photography, followed by Blue Cut, then lunch, than back to Blue Cut, then Summit then Silverwood. And that's it.

We took a drive to Phelan where I shouted everyone dinner and witnessed the rising of a massive full moon over the horizon - apparently it will be a full lunar eclipse around midnight tonight - I will be asleep.

No piccies worth posting.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Ludlow to Cajon Pass

Today we left the thriving metropolis of Ludlow and relocated to Cajon Pass. Only one stopover and that was at Frost, a dot on the map within the city of Victorville.
Cajon has changed a lot - a large collection of beehives prevented us getting to Alray; a landslide that reduced the roadwidth prevented us getting to Sullivan Curve and although my effort was valiant, the road to Hill 582 was totally impassable. Roll on Marc Fournier, who was in his 4x4, met us at the foot of the hill and showed us a new area that was being developed for railfans at Silverwood. With easy access and suitable for all day photography, this place turned out to be a real gem.
More on Cajon Pass tomorrow.
Today I saw a coyote as I was filming - awesome, and a centipede that was about 6 inches long - not so awesome.
PS - today at Frost I met Tony Stark. The other day he was boating with Taylor Swift and he reckons he can buy lots of weed in New Zealand because he's famous. I didn't catch his real first name but this teenager came up the hill to watch me film. He was as high as a kite and wanted money, smokes or something to drink. After a while I asked him to stand back from the camera, and told him to keep going - he kept going.

Frost, Victorville, Ca.

All of Ludlow in one post

Ludlow is a dot on the map along Interstate 40 between Needles and Barstow. It's hot, dusty and on a bad day can be really windy - and did I mention it can get hot ?

Here's 4 days worth in one post:

9 April14
Today we went further west, leaving Kingman to take on the Mojave desert in all its heated fury. The first stop was at Topock to revisit that new lookout I discovered on the way over. The morning light was good and trains were a plenty.

The second stop was at Arrowhead Junction, northwest of Needles. By now things had slowed down and trains were running on the wrong track to cater for a welder carrying out some repairs.
A quick stop at Fenner to freshen up and then it was down to Essex on Rte 66. The temperature and been climbing steadily and it was really starting to warm up.
The next stop was at Amboy for a drinks break, and this is where the outside temp peaked at 98 degrees
Farenheit - awefully warm methinks.
A quick stop at the Amboy crater had us interacting with some wildlife, much to its disgust:

The journey to Ludlow had us stopping in various places as eastbound trains just kept coming and coming - until one of them suddenly glided to a stop right beside us. All I could think was "What on earth have we done"? We managed to backtrack to the locos and just after we got there, the entire train glided downhill with only the lead loco providing minimal of power. At Ludlow we bumped into a loco repair crew from Barstow who told us that the MU cable was pinched, which cut out all the locos and they had to go reset and test all the computers for the crew. Interesting times.
Those two BNSF guys have never met anyone quite like Jim, who can talk at 100 mph and change the subject just as fast - those poor guys never knew what hit them !

An evening at the Ludlow yard - if you can call it that - had Jamie bumping into a group of railfans from Cajon who kept him entertained for about an hour. It turned out that it was none other than Marc Fournier - co-producer of 7 Idea productions. We has a wealth of knowledge on local operations and invited us to catch up with him when we were in his area - Cajon Pass. To be continued. An evening at Ludlow lasts about 20 minutes - twighlight about 5 minutes - the sun drops like a rock i nthe desert - one minute it's light, the next it's dark.
A couple of trains trundled through, but nothing to write home about. A BNSF maintenance truck rolled passed us and slowed down so he wouldn't kick up any dust - very thoughtful of him.The Cadiz turn (a train that goes from Barstow to Cadiz and back to interchange with the Arizona & California) went through late and as I write this at 9:20 pm, has still yet to return.

The entire group has been sitting outside in the dark and the heat spinning a few yarns, drinking free drinks
from the gas station and bonding well, looking at all the unfamiliar stars in the night sky. Good to see.

Ludlow is a dry town - which doesn't bother me or Jamie in the slightest. The aircon in my room was on the
fritz, which was totally unacceptable - especially in this heat, so I bought the tool I needed from the gas
station and fixed the darn thing myself. Happy as. We commence our exploring tomorrow.

Today we headed to Kelso for the simple pleasure of filming the Union Pacific on the Cima hill and having lunch at the Kelso Depot. On the way we saw a dead snake on the road that the ravens were making a meal of.
Things have changed a bit: the Kelso depot is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and when it is open, you can no longer have a meal there. This initially changed my best laid plans, however as we were sitting in the shade deciding what to do, a train turns up - never saw them all move so fast.
Further up the hill there was a meet with a downhill train, and by the time we caught up with the original one,
it was just about to round the top of the hill. On the way back to Kelso "hawkeye" Jamie spotted another one on the way up. That was number three.
With no-where to eat and relax, and the fuel gauge indicating the wrong side of half full, it was time to head back to BNSF country.

One of the amazing vistas on Kelbaker Road on the way to Kelso.

Today we found out from some very frindly BNSF staff that everything was stuffed up - something we alluded to this morning. Lots of track maintenance was backing things up - trains parked up "on every siding to LA". Although this suits the photographers, it's not much fun looking at stationary trains. One loco engineer was kind enough to give us 2 bottles of water - straight out of their fridge - it had ice in it. Much appreciated as the max temp we endured today was 102 F (38 degrees C) - rather warm.
The constant parade of stack trains is a tad annoying, but it's just the way it is.

Today we were supposed to chase the Cadiz Turn from Ludlow to Cadiz - oops - no-one knew that it didn't run on Fridays (or Saturdays for that matter). That didn't turn out to be a bad thing as we got lots of shots locally - and as I write they keep thundering through Ludlow. Hot again, but not as bad - 92 degrees.

Today is another exploration day around Ludlow and we didn't really end up going all that far. Although Siberia sounds like it should be in another continent, it's a landmark about 10 miles from Ludlow where the double tracks split into two single tracks. Myself, Jim and Chris spent a bit of time exploring this area - read as: hurry up and wait - as well as Ash Hill. The desert winds are starting to build, however the temp has dropped to around the mid to high 80's.

Piccies around Ludlow:

The background almost looks like a studio backdrop.

One going past and one on the way. Average train length is about 7500 - 8000 feet with 13500 horses (3 locos) on the front and 8900 horses (2 locos) on the rear.

Foreign power is becoming more prevalent on the BNSF.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Head West, Young Man...

Today we commenced our return to California and drove from Flagstaff to Kingman - via Rte 66 where we could.

Signals and radio transmissions heard on the scanner kept us guessing as to what on earth was going on, however luck appeared to be on our side.

Crookton proved to be an excellent place for morning shots, and after about 5 trains decided to proceed to Seligman for lunch - where nothing passed through the entire time we were feeding our faces.

Peach Springs saw one pass through and the return to Valentine/Crozier Canyon saw about a 10 - 15 minute wait between trains.

Check in at the motel in Kingman and we hit the road again to return to Kingman Canyon during excellent lighting conditions.

17 trains filmed today with a couple of photos to boot. A long day that seemed to go by really fast.

The weather has improved 100 percent, with the next 4 days forecasted to be very warm and fine. Today we hit 81 degrees F - 27 degrees C - it was very dry and there was a slight breeze - lots of water downed.

As of tomorrow we will be at Ludlow CA where there is no internet - no more posts for 4 days.

Crookton Road overpass, south of Seligman, AZ

Kingman, AZ

Kingman Canyon, AZ

Monday, 7 April 2014

Standing on the corner...

Today the weather just got better and better and I suspect tomorrow it will start to progress from warm to very warm.

Today's travels was half touristy stuff and half train spotting. We visited Meteor Crater which never fails to impress - another impressive hole that's not man-made.

We then went to Winslow, Arizona where we all did the obligatory "standing on the corner" thing on the official corner. For those of you not up to speed with this, The Eagles' song Take It Easy has the lyrics "I was standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona...." and "'s a girl my lord in flat bed ford, slowing down..." etc.
So when in Winslow, you have to stand on the 'official corner', where there's also a flat bed Ford pickup. Winslow is a pretty small town so it's people are very friendly and were great to talk to. More Rte 66 fridge magnets for my daughter.

We then went back to Winona which is on the outskirts of Flagstaff to commence some serious train watching. The railroad many years ago called this place Darling and the name has stuck, with a small area being called Darling.

Being a Monday, the concern was that the BNSF Railway would not be running trains, however they did come, although in noticeably reduced numbers. Monday is generally a work day where track and signal maintenance is carried out and trains are not run. We more or less spent the entire afternoon here and the wind was noticed to drop over time.

We then relocated to the Rte 66 overpass from the previous night and caught a few more here, although we did have a one hour wait at one stage.

Shopping at Wal-Mart and retire early - the desert dry is taking it's toll - crack dry lips and early nights.

Jim is getting a bit annoyed with my timing - as soon as we turn up to a new location, a train is already passing through - never mind, there'll be another one.

More foreign power in the form of two Canadian Pacific units today, so that kept Jim happy.

Piccies below.

Standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona (insert piccie of me in there somewhere)

Foreign power on a BNSF stack train

The Darling Cinder Pit at Winona, where scoria is mined.

BNSF stack train at Winona

BNSF stack train at Flagastaff, Rte 66 overpass

Tail end charlie

BNSF trailer train at Flagstaff, Rte 66 overpass

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Williams to Flagstaff

Today's drive was a short one on purpose - so we could sit around and play the waiting game all day - and so we did.

First stopover was the Grand Canyon Railway's station to check out the arrival of the GC train. Because of the number of tourists with cameras getting in the way, we re-located to a grade crossing by their depot so we could film the departure of this train.

Next stop was CP Chalender where the wind cut right through us. It was a clear day but the wind was really cold.

This pushed us further east to Parks where there was a bit of shelter and the peak of Mt Herbert could be seen above the trees.

Next stop was Flagstaff for lunch at an Irish Pub - excellent food (I had a chicken salad) and while sitting there, 3 trains went through.

Next stop was Cosnino Rd where we spent the rest of the afternoon.

Lots of BNSF stuff going on, but more important, the foreign power in the lashups - Canadian National & Norfolk Southern.

No piccies - it was all video today.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Kingman to Williams, Arizona

Talk about four seasons in one day - the day dawned bright, sunny, warm and partly cloudy. By the time we got to Seligman the wind had cooled a bit, and when we got to Crookton, it had picked up and off in the distance we could see lots of clouds oozing with precipitation. By the time we left Williams to go to the Grand Canyon, it was snowing !!

The road trip side of things was pretty good, departing Kingman and then following Rte 66 to Hackberry, Valentine, Peach Springs (no peaches) and Seligman, then Crookton Road (Rte 66) to I40 then Williams.

The trip to the Grand Canyon saw me having to pull over to the side of the road to avoid a definite head-on  - the car behind me did the same as well - it looked like a bunch of tourists in the car.

The only other excitement today was seeing a couple of hobo's getting a free ride on a train today.

The Days Inn at Williams is flash as.

Not many photos, but 11 trains filmed, although about 15 were seen.

Check out this guy.

Crookton Road Overpass

Crookton Road Overpass

A big ditch that the American's didn't build.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Needles to Kingman

Today we drove along Interstate 40 from Needles to Kingman, Arizona. The overall distance is not all that far, so most of the day was spent sitting, waiting and filming/photographing.

The day started at Park Moabi and Topock. At Park Moabi the tracks thread their way through the extensive gold mine tailings and just around the corner, there's a huge bridge across the Colorado River.

Last minute research had us exploring a potential location across the river at Topock which looked down on the bridge and tracks - chalk that one up for next time.

Next stop after a long drive was Kingman Canyon. Usually I'd follow Rte 66 into the canyon, however since it was late in the afternoon I went to the opposite side. Lots of trains - lots.

During the course of the day I filmed 21 trains, but in reality it was 24 as three of them were meets that occured in the same shot.

Tired, sore, cracked lips and sun burned again. Awesome day.

Piccies below:

BNSF intermodal at Park Moabi, CA

This is what the city of Needle is named after, the Needles Mountain range.

Chris Wilson doing his video thing at Kingman Canyon.

Kingman Canyon - no sunlight - another overcast day darn it all.

Hurtling through Kingman Canyon in low light conditions.

Kingman Canyon - again

Santa Fe unit on a Santa Fe bridge.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Mojave to Needles

Today we departed the chilling cold of the Californian west and crossed the Mojave Desert to Needles, on California's extreme east side - a total of 218 miles.

First stop was at Barstow where the group were allowed to look over the external exhibits at the depot, before popping off down the road to Daggett to commence some serious train spotting. Five trains seen in total, two of them using the Union Pacific line through Yermo, something I didn't see last time around. one of the trains that passed through had four GP60's on the point, which had us scratching our heads....

Leaving Daggett, we followed the old Rte 66 to Newberry Springs, where we caught up with the GP60's about to do some switching with a tank car that supplies fuel for the local gas station - then we clicked - this is the Cadiz Turn and it is now run with Geeps instead of the usual Dash-8-40B locos. This was confirmed when we saw said Dash-8-40B's on another train returning to Barstow. Not sure where they were coming from though.

Anyway, we continued east to Ludlow, where I pointed out the Pisgah crater and associated lava fields along the way, and at Ludlow we had the first of many meals that would be indulged there - we stay at Ludlow later in the trip.

From Ludlow we did the huge push along the very picturesque Needles freeway to Fenner, we we re-joined Rte 66, which we followed to Goffs and Arrowhead Junction - obtaining many shots at these two locations. It wasn't an exceptionally busy day on the rails, but it was enough to keep us happy.

Checked in to Motel 6 where the water pressure is somewhere between drip and dribble - it's only one night and will be struck off the list for next time. Billy Bob and Zeb were checking in at the same time, I suspect they're off to do some snake wrangling tomorrow or some gator wrestling, after spending all night playing in the local Recovering Alcoholics Blue-Grass Jug Band - if you ever needed an example of red-neck - these two guys were it.

Speaking of snakes, can confirm that they are out there. Will have to be especially careful at Kingman Canyon tomorrow.

I didn't take many photos but filmed some of the best shots I've ever done - so I've attached some video frame grabs as well.

The weather was fine and warm all the way across from dawn till dusk.

Video frame grab - Daggett

Video frame grab - Daggett

Video frame grab - Goffs

Video frame grab - Goffs

Morning shot from Mojave.

Morning shot from Mojave.

Morning shot from Mojave.

Morning shot from Mojave.

Some sort of attempt to be arty at Arrowhead Junction - yeah right - I was on the wrong side of the tracks.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A day on Tehachapi

Hoping for a fine, sunny, warm and windless day on Tehachapi Pass was asking too much. We awoke in Mojave to a a freezing cold wind that cut right through us - and for good reason - it snowed last night and the surrounding hills had a good dusting on them. We decided to venture back north towards Tehachapi Pass to see what the state of the play was and came across a few trains parked up on loops quietly idling - one of them was being snowed on, so we all jumped out and got covered in the white stuff to get the photo.

The town of Tehachapi was getting snowed on and it wasn't looking good. However the further we ventured, the better the weather became, and by late afternoon the sun was out and the wind was dropping. Here's how the day panned out:

Bealville, Tehachapi Loop, Tunnel 2, Caliente & Monolith. I hit the record button 15 times (15 trains) and took about 250 photos.

While at Bealville, the local Ranch owner came out of his house to have a chat with us and hung around for a bit telling us stories of rattle snakes, bears and mountain lions that live in the area....what?!? Bears and mountain lions?  Apparently a mountain lion was killed on the highway recently. I guess the local attraction of farm animals brings them in.

Tonight the sky is clear, but the wind blowing off the snow covered hills is a tad chilly.

We are now five - Paul has had to go to the UK to attend to urgent business matters and couldn't hang around for the remainder of the trip.

Piccies below:

I've finally photographed a train in the snow, while it's snowing. Monolith.

Tehachapi township.

Tehachapi loop. 
Tehachapi loop.

Tunnel 2, near Caliente.

Caliente horseshoe curve


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

From Fresno to Mojave

Today we relocated to Mojave.

After last nights rain, the day dawned foggy, but it soon burned off to reveal patchy cloud. We spent 30 minutes at the Fresno Amtrak where we caught a BNSF freight and Amtrak's San Joaquin service.

A quick at the BNSF depot at Fresno revealed that there were almost just as many Canadian Pacific units on hand as there were BNSF. There was also a Norfolk Southern unit sitting there to be photographed as well. We saw one train pass through but the view was blocked, but was going slow enough to be chased. It ended up being a UP manifest and it gave us no end of grief. It was pulling into many loops to allow others to pass, but we couldn't manage to film it.

We then had lunch at Tulare where we over to Cororan and highway 43 which we followed to Bakersfield, which was by-passed so we could get to Tehachapi sooner. Along HWY 43 the signals indicated that a meet was imminent, so we hung around, and sure enough, it happened within 5 minutes.

On to Tehachapi Pass, we stopped at Tunnel 2 and filmed a slow intermodal crawling up-hill - which turned out to be one of the trains we saw on HWY 43. We attempted a chase to Bealville, but it beat us.

Things then started to go astray - the intermodal just stopped on  the main line while climbing out of Bealville, so we continued onto the Tehachapi Loop at Walong iteself. Along the way we noticed 3 trains were parked up in passing loops before the loop, and another four were parked up on the other side. Nothing was moving.... and nothing continued to move for at least another hour.

A spot of shopping was done at K-Mart and we moved on to Mojave to settle in for the night.

The weather: freezing cold wind at Tehachapi township, but warm and calm at Caliente and Bealville. There is a dusting of snow on the hills and the locals are talking about more tonight - great. It seems that the foul weather is a welcome sight for the locals - the land is very parched - especially for Spring time.

Photos below:
BNSF depot at Fresno - arty reflection shot

Union Pacific manifest at Selma.

A meet along Highway 43 somewhere between Corcoran and Bakersfield - third unit is CSX - yay !!

Easy to take photos like these when the train isn't even moving. Monolith, between Tehachapi and Mojave.

Another one at Monolith, but closer to Mojave.