Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cool Chromes -- My First California Trip (Part 4 - North To South)

Amtrak; Norden, California; May 1991
In the last few editions of Cool Chromes we have been looking at scenes from my first trip ever to California in May 1991. In the first part we looked at a few random images; in the second part we focused on the Santa Fe Railway; and in the third part we chased Southern Pacific 4449 from Klamath Falls, Ore., to Sacramento. In this final installment, we'll do a quick tour from north to south in the Golden State. Since this was my first trip to California, I had to see it all and did cover the whole state from the Oregon border to San Diego. We'll start this last tour high in the Sierra Nevada as the California Zephyr emerges from the snowshed at Norden and is about to make its descent down Donner Pass on Southern Pacific tracks. Even this late in the year, the winter snow remains piled high.

Our next stop is in the Central Valley below Sacramento. Stockton is the easternmost port in California that ocean-going ships can reach (it's well inland, but the San Joaquin River is navigable from San Francisco Bay) and as such is a busy rail center. Two short lines serve Stockton, the Central California Traction and the Stockton Terminal & Eastern. During the 1991 visit the ST&E was still powered by diesels from the American Locomotive Company, including S4 No. 564 built in 1951.
Stockton Terminal & Eastern; Stockton, Calif.; May 1991
West of Stockton, the upper Bay Area is full of refineries. We caught Southern Pacific SW1500 No. 2662 hauling tank cars near the passenger station in Martinez. In 1991 only a couple of Amtrak trains served the small station here. However, Amtrak California greatly expanded service in the region, with trains serving Sacramento and Bakersfield from Oakland passing through Martinez. Today Martinez has a brand new station that serves over 30 daily trains.
Southern Pacific; Martinez, Calif.; May 1991
Moving down along the Bay, we are on the south end of the peninsula just north of San Jose to see Caltrain action at Santa Clara. Caltrain is the commuter line that heads south from San Francisco to San Jose, with limited service beyond to Gilroy. The circular ramp made a nice photo prop for F40 No. 902. Note the train number boards sticking out near the cab window indicating that this is train No. 32.
Caltrain; Santa Clara, Calif.; May 1991
Down in Los Angeles, the only passenger trains serving the city were Amtrak trains, coming into recently restored Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal. On the way into the station, trains had to pass by Terminal Tower, which controlled movements through the complex. Here's a somewhat unique Amtrak train with a baggage car and Amfleet cars; double-deck Superliners are more common in the west.
Amtrak; Terminal Tower, Los Angeles, Calif.; May 1991
Up next we head out into the desert east of Los Angeles on the former Southern Pacific. In 1991 Beaumont Hill was not seeing much traffic -- the stack train boom was in its infancy -- but it was still worth a visit. We caught GP60 No. 9707 (lettered for SP subsidiary St. Louis Southwestern -- better known as the Cotton Belt) passing under a cantilever signal bridge in Beaumont.
Southern Pacific; Beaumont, Calif.; May 1991
Next, we find an Amtrak Surfliner heading south (the locomotive is actually pushing the train) as it heads through San Clemente. In 1991 the coastal town was only 17 years removed from its claim to fame as the location of the Western White House, the residence of President Richard Nixon.
Amtrak; San Clemente, Calif.; May 1991
We started our tour on snowy Donner Pass and we'll finish our tour basking in warmth of the Pacific sun. In 1991 Los Angeles had no commuter train service -- Metrolink was still a couple of years away -- but there was one commuter-ish train running down the coast line from Los Angeles to Oceanside. The train had double-deck gallery cars from Caltrain's San Francisco commuter service, with an Amtrak F40 on the south end for power and an Amtrak cab car on the north end for the northbound trips. We see the train at the end of the run as it comes into Oceanside. This concludes our tour of California in 1991 and you can see why the Golden State is almost railfan heaven!
Amtrak; Oceanside, Calif.; May 1991

Monday, January 27, 2014

Florida Pot Pourri

Florida Northern; Ocala, Fla.; December 16, 2013
With a polar vortex gripping a lot of the U.S. right now, let's warm up a bit with a trip down to Florida. Over the past few weeks we've shown parts of this trip with posts on an evening in Jesup, Ga., street running in Augusta, Ga.,  chasing the Pickens Railway in South Carolina, and a set of night photos from the trip. To recap, my brother and I were delivering a car to Florida and spent some time railfanning along the way. Now we're in Florida, and we'll see some of the interesting sites the state has to offer. We'll start with the Florida Northern in Ocala on December 16, where GP9 No. 60 from sister railroad Florida Central was returning from delivering cars to an industry on the west side of tow. Spanish moss makes for a nice frame as the train returns to its yard (above).

Back at the yard, the crew continued on another branch to pull cars from a scrap dealer. The train made for a nice shot as it entered the yard on the return trip.
Florida Northern; Ocala, Fla.; December 16, 2013
There was a time when the Florida Central was known for its CF7 fleet. The CF7s were built by the Santa Fe on frames of old F-units; once the Santa Fe was finished with them, they became the de facto short line locomotive of the 1980s as they scattered on the second-hand market. Florida Central's No. 63 still sits in the Ocala yard. with traces of moss and vines showing that it hasn't run in a long, long time.
Florida Northern; Ocala, Fla.; December 16, 2013
Florida Northern also has a line that heads south, crossing CSX on a diamond at the Ocala passenger station before doing a few blocks of street running. Alas, the railroad did not run this direction on the day we were there, but CSX polished the diamonds with several trains, including this southbound led by C40-9W No. 9023.
CSX Transportation; Ocala, Fla.; December 16, 2013
Next up we find a CSX northbound on the south side of Ocala, with AC44CW No. 561 in the lead. Trailing the power is a string of white refrigerator cars carrying Tropicana orange juice to New Jersey. The orange juice is not concentrate -- it's pure as-squeezed orange juice in cartons ready for the store shelves of the northeast.
CSX Transportation; Ocala, Fla.; December 16, 2013
Finishing off our first day in Florida, we scoot a bit east so we're now north of Orlando. A northbound Amtrak train races past a signal at Eldridge on the former Seaboard Air Line. The defect detector nearby, which broadcasts over the railroad radio, indicted the train had no defects and was moving at 79 m.p.h. The signal is of a design that was unique to the SAL; like many other unique signal systems across various railroads, it will ultimately be replaced by generic signals as Positive Train Control is implemented.
Amtrak; Eldridge, Fla.; December 16, 2013
The next day we headed down to the South Central Florida Express, a railroad owned by U.S. Sugar Corp. to serve the cane fields around Clewiston, south of Lake Okeechobee. You might recall we visited this same railroad in February 2013, but a steam line rupture at the mill in Clewiston had all operations shut down. This time the mill was running and cane was being cut. We caught a train of loaded cane cars west of Clewiston as it headed towards the mill. The smoke on the horizon is where cane residue is being burned; you can always find the fields being worked -- and the trains serving the fields -- by looking for smoke.
South Central Florida Express; Clewiston. Fla; December 17, 2013
There are dozens of loaders along the railroad, with trucks bringing in cane from the field to be loaded into rail cars. On any given day, different loaders can be in service. GP11 No. 303 lead a string of empty cars southeast of Clewiston past an inactive loader. The cars are adapted from a variety of original cars, mostly boxcars with roofs removed.
South Central Florida Express; Clewiston, Fla.; December 17, 2013
Sugar cane is highly perishable and needs to be processed within hours of cutting. If an empty train goes out, a loaded train will soon be coming in. Such was the case with No. 303 -- we caught it a little bit later in the afternoon going past another loader as it came back with cane loads.
South Central Florida Express; Clewiston. Fla.; December 17, 2013
With a flight home the next day, our railfanning would be concentrated within striking distance of the Orlando airport. We set up on a parking deck near the old Orlando station on Church Street where we were surprised to catch a SunRail test train running. SunRail is the new commuter service for Orlando scheduled to open later in 2014.
SunRail; Orlando, Fla.; December 18, 2013
The Church Street Station was used by Amtrak, but the passenger carrier has relocated to a new station about a mile south. However, Church Street Station is seeing a rebirth as a passenger station; the platform canopies are all new in anticipation of the SunRail service. Not far behind the test train was a southbound Amtrak train, easing its way through the entertainment district that has grown up around Church Street.
Amtrak; Orlando, Fla.; December 18, 2013
Once Amtrak was through, it was time to leave downtown and head for the airport. On the way, there was time for a quick stop at the Florida Central's small yard at Silver Star, where GP9RM No. 7032 was sitting. This locomotive started life working for Canadian National and was later transferred to work for the Agence metropolitaine de transport, a Montreal commuter railroad; the locomotive still wears its AMT colors. After this stop, it was off to the airport to catch a flight, bringing an end to the southbound trip to the Sunshine State. A complete photographic gallery of the trip can be found here.
Florida Central; Silver Star (Orlando), Fla.; December 18, 2013

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Tour of Towers

Conrail; Banks Tower, Marysville, Penn.; Winter 1980
A quick tour through my photo collection will quickly reveal that I have a thing for towers. These buildings used to appear every several miles along the main lines or at every at-grade crossing of two rail lines. Today, there are very few towers left, and even fewer still doing their intended job. In this post we'll look at  few towers, some still standing and others not. We start in Marysville, Penn., and Banks Tower, located along the Susquehanna River. Conrail B23-7 No. 1947 was leading a westbound train past the tower in the winter of 1980 (above). Banks has since been torn down.

The Northeast Corridor (former Pennsylvania Railroad, now Amtrak) had a lot of towers between New York and Washington, and many of them survive (although only a very small handful are still manned). There were two towers near Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore, one at either end. B&P Tower was one, and Union Tower was the other. Both towers were removed when the tracks around the station were realigned. Below we see Amtrak AEM7 No. 941 passing Union Tower.
Amtrak; Union Tower, Baltimore, Md.

Okay, how about a tower that's still there. Let's stick with the Northeast Corridor and check out North Philadelphia Tower, adjacent to the station of the same name. This stretch of the corridor sees frequent SEPTA service, and a branch to Chestnut Hill diverges here. We see a SEPTA train roll past the tower, which is now used as a maintenance base, on December 14, 2008.
SEPTA; North Philadelphia, Penn.; December 14, 2008

Moving west, we find another tower still used as a maintenance base. In the shadow of the House That Peyton Built, we find a CSX train passing IU Tower near Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on July 19, 2010. Peyton may have left town, but the tower is still there. The view is from a parking garage that gets really hot in July.
CSX Transportation; IU Tower, Indianapolis, Ind.; July 19, 2010
Our next tower is another one that is no longer there. Gratiot Tower was located adjacent to the Gateway Arch and served the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis. With several Class I railroads entering the city from all directions, the Terminal Railroad Association provided access between yards and helped expedite traffic through the city. We're in June 1990 for this scene -- Union Pacific had just recently swallowed the Missouri Pacific, and we see MoPac GP38-2 No. 2310 lead a transfer of UP power past the tower.
Union Pacific; Gratiot Tower, St. Louis, Mo.; June 1990
We'll finish up our tower tour on the left coast. We find another tower that still exists, but is no longer manned. We're in Hobart, Calif., not far from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where Union Pacific SD70M leads a light engine move past Hobart Tower in March 2002. The UP power is about the clatter over the diamonds crossing several tracks of BNSF Railway. We'll end this tower tour here, but undoubtedly there will be more, as I really like towers!
Union Pacific; Hobart Tower, Hobart, Calif.; March 2002

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cool Chromes -- My First California Trip (Part 3 - SP 4449 Edition)

Cool Chromes is a semi-regular feature where we look at slides that have recently passed through the scanner.
Southern Pacific 4449; Klamath Falls, Ore.; April 28, 1991
In the last couple of editions of Cool Chromes we have been looking at my first trip ever to railroad heaven -- also known as California -- in April and May 1991. In the first round we looked at some random images from around the Golden State, while in the second round we concentrated on the Santa Fe Railway. The reason I had ventured to California was to visit RailFair at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. As part of the festivities, a few guest locomotives were being brought in.. One of those locomotives was Southern Pacific "Daylight" 4-8-4 No. 4449. This would be my first encounter with the 4449 and it instantly became one of my all-time favorite locomotives. In this post we'll chase the second day of 4449's journey to Sacramento (the first day took it from its home base of Portland, Ore., to Klamath Falls) on April 28, 1991. We pick up the train on a misty morning just north of the California border in Klamath Falls, Ore. (above).

Next up, we catch the train just as it's departing Klamath Falls. The skies were still cloudy as the train headed southward.
Southern Pacific 4449; Klamath Falls, Ore.; April 28, 1991
At Black Butte, Calif., the train would get a pair of diesels put on the point to assist with braking down the mountains. Southern Pacific provided squeaky clean GP40R's 7112 and 7113 to assist the train. We next see the train leaving Black Butte.
Southern Pacific; Black Butte, Calif.; April 28, 1991
The diesels would be cut off at Lakehead, but just before arriving there the train popped out of a tunnel and onto a massive bridge near the north end of Shasta Lake.
Southern Pacific; Lakehead, Calif.; April 28, 1991
Once again running unassisted, the Daylight entered the flatlands, passing the massive elevator at Biggs. The matched orange and red consist made for one of the most beautiful trains top oprate anywhere in the U.S. in quite some time.
Southern Pacific 4449; Biggs, Calif.; April 28, 1991
Finally on the outskirts of Sacramento, the train crossed the American River and circled past Elvas Tower. Many years later the tower was dismantled and moved for eventual reconstruction (at least partially) at the California State Railroad Museum. When the tower was moved, it was said that "the building has left Elvas."
Southern Pacific 4449; Elvas Tower, Sacramento, Calif.; April 28, 1991

Monday, January 20, 2014

Southern Nights

Aiken Railroad; Aiken, S.C.; December 13, 2013
We've spent some of the last few weeks exploring parts of a driving trip to Florida I took with my brother Bruce. This time we'll look at some night activity from along the way. In previous posts we've already looked at night photography in Jesup, Ga., done daytime and night photography on the street running in Augusta, Ga., and spent a day chasing the Pickens Railway in South Carolina.

CSX; Dixiana (Cayce), S.C.; December 13, 2013
As related in the Pickens post, once we were finished there on December 13, 2013, we headed over to the scrap steel mill at Cayce, S.C. After finishing there, we went out seeking a night photo opportunity. That chance came when we found a CSX train working an automobile sorting center south of town. The train was inaccessible, but we could see it working to our south. We set up just north of the sorting center, where we found a railroad signal that was distinctly Seaboard Air Line -- a predecessor of CSX. Many railroads of the mid-20th century had their own distinctive styles of signals that varied from one road to another; today many of these unique sentinels are being replaced by standardized signals as railroads install Positive Train Control along their lines. Thus, a chance to shoot a train past a signal of the past was a good opportunity. After a long wait, the train finally pulled far enough north that we were able to get CSX C40-8 No. 7586 passing the signal.
CSX Transportation; Dixiana (Cayce), S.C.; December 13, 2013

During the day we had stopped at the Greenville & Western in Belton, S.C., where we found they had borrowed a GP30 from sister road the Aiken Railroad. An employee in Belton said it was one of two GP30s owned by the Aiken, and the other was in the railroad's namesake town. We had left Cayce and were heading for Augusta, Ga., when we saw a sign on the interstate saying that Aiken was off the next exit. How hard could it be to find a GP30 in town? Google satellite images of the town showed an obvious spot where motive power might be kept, so we headed there and -- voila! -- there was the GP30, along with LTEX SW1500 No. 1543, a leased locomotive from Larry's Truck & Electric. We broke out the lights and duly captured both locomotives (below and top photo of this post).
Aiken Railroad; Aiken, S.C., December 13, 2013
The following two nights we've already discussed in previous posts (in the Georgia towns of Augusta and Jesup). Finally we made it to Florida on December 16! After a day of shooting in the Ocala area, we knew a train was coming down the former Seaboard Air Line and would pass the Amtrak station at DeLand. Just after sunset, we were able to get the southbound train with CSX AC4400CW No. 410 leading.
CSX Transportation; DeLand, Fla.; December 16, 2013
Our last full day in Florida was spent on the South Central Florida Express, the last sugar cane railroad in the United States, operated by U.S. Sugar in Clewiston, Fla. Our next (and last) post on this trip will be next week where we'll look at some Florida railroading, but in keeping with our night photo theme we'll finish with the last shot we got of SCFE on December 17. After a day of shooting we knew a switcher was coming back into Clewiston and it would get in just after sunset. We set up along a bridge over the canal (the adjacent road bridge was gated at the far end, giving us a convenient place to park and set up our flashes). Like clockwork, the local appeared just after the sun set but before darkness settled in, letting us get a twilight shot as the orange sky reflected off the canal. The strobes provided just the right amount of fill flash to make the train "pop." It was a unique shot to finish off our night photography for the trip.
South Central Florida Express; Clewiston, Fla.; December 17, 2013

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Tough Day In Maryland

All the photos taken this day can be found in Photo Lines here.
Maryland Midland; Union Bridge, Md.; January 17, 2014
Short line railroading is in a constant state of change. With corporations gobbling up profitable short lines, locomotives get shuffled around and paint schemes get standardized. The Maryland Midland is a railroad about to undergo change -- located in Union Bridge, Md., the MMID has been owned by Genesee & Wyoming since 2007, and its locomotives will soon lose their blue and orange paint, replaced by G&W's orange and black.

On January 17 I headed down to the Maryland Midland with brother Bruce Barry, and we met up with Bill Kalkman there. Rumors of new paint were in the air, and we wanted to get one last hurrah of the blue and orange. The railroad is shaped like a giant cross, with the east-west lines much longer than the north-south. The eastern end of the cross goes to Emory Grove, served on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  while the west end goes to the CSX interchange at Highfield, served Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The east-west line is the former Western Maryland main line, and the MMID began operations on this route in segments starting in 1983. The south line goes to a stone quarry, while the north line serves a single industry, and both of those see trains when the mood strikes. The north-south line is the original Maryland Midland, a former Pennsylvania Railroad branch that the MMID began operating in 1980. Indications were we'd get a train to Highfield, the most spectacular part of the line, on this Friday.

The Highfield line is the former Western Maryland main line, and makes a spectacular climb from Thurmont to Blue Ridge Summit, Penn. The train usually runs 20-30 cars or more, with four locomotives often leading. Anxiously we set up for a shot just west of the headquarters town of Union Bridge, waiting on the show. Imagine our surprise, however, when the train trundled by with a single unit, GP38-3 No. 303,  and only three cars. To add insult to injury, the locomotive was backwards.
Maryland Midland; Union Bridge, Md.; January 17, 2014

Undaunted, the chase was on. The train did not pause at Keymar (where the two lines of the cross connect), heading on towards Thurmont. We got another across the field shot near Rocky Ridge, then waited -- a long time -- in Thurmont. When the train arrived, we found that it had picked up a boxcar from a brickyard, and was pushing that boxcar in front of the engine. At Thurmont they shoved the boxcar into an industrial siding, ran to the other end of the siding and pulled out a long cut of cars, put the train together and headed up the steep grade towards Blue Ridge Summit. We set up on the grade for a shot (below). It would have looked (and sounded) a whole lot better if it had been a more typical big train with multiple locomotives.
Maryland Midland; Thurmont, Md.; January 17, 2014
Maryland Midland; Sabillasville, Md.
At Sabillasville the tracks make a huge horseshoe around the town (it's actually a part of a large "S" as the tracks swing back again up in the mountain above town). We set up for a shot of the train passing a mast where a Western Maryland signal was once mounted. There are several remnants of the WM along the line, including a couple of signals with the heads still in place.

After circling Sabillasville, the railroad briefly pops into Pennsylvania at the top of the grade at Blue Ridge Summit. The station is still here, now serving as the town library. As soon as the train crests the summit it heads back into the adjacent town of Highfield, Md., where the MMID connects to CSX's ex-Western Maryland line that comes down from Gettysburg.

It is not uncommon for CSX to be in Highfield at the same time as MMID. This was not the case on this day. After dropping the cut of cars that had come from Union Bridge and Thurmont, the lone locomotive picked up a string of covered hoppers destined for the cement plant back at Union Bridge. We were about to get rewarded for our chase of a backwards locomotive -- we would now have the locomotive facing the right way with good light on the nose for the chase back to Union Bridge.

Except we didn't. High clouds moved into Highfield just as the train was ready to head back down the hill. We set up on the horseshoe curve at Sabillasville for a shot that wasn't bad, but would have been a whole lot better in sun.
Maryland Midland; Sabillasville, Md.; January 17, 2014
Outside of Sabillasville we got another nice shot that would have been well-lit if the sun had been out. The clouds were beginning to thin out already, but luck wasn't quite on our side.
Maryland Midland; Sabillusville, Md.; January 17, 2014

Finally, as the train arrived in Thurmont, the clouds thinned enough to put some light on the train. We shot it from a hillside adjacent to the cemetery on the west side of town.
Maryland Midland; Thurmont, Md.; January 17, 2014
I slipped coming down the hillside and landed on my back. Ouch. My camera went flying. Double ouch. However, I picked myself up, found my camera and cell phone (which had also gone airborne) and jumped back in the car. Our next location was near the brickyard. The sun was finally out!!! I put my camera to my eye, went to focus -- and discovered I could not focus or set the f-stop. I missed the first properly oriented sunny shot of the trip! Back in the car I quickly deduced that the lens mount ring on my camera was damaged (again -- I had damaged it at the Cass Scenic Railroad last May), but if I held the lens firm against the ring, I could still shoot. The next shot was at Detour, Md., and this one I was able to get,
Maryland Midland; Detour, Md.; January 17, 2014
Okay, I should still be able to get a handful of decent shots. The sky was much improved, and we buzzed through Keymar and set up for a shot outside Union Bridge. The train took an unusually long time to get to us. The good news was the sun was out. The bad news was the train stopped at Keymar and picked up a flatcar, which it was now pushing ahead of the locomotive.
Maryland Midland; Union Bridge, Md.; January 17, 2014
Back at Union Bridge our only hope was that the train would run to the large Lehigh Cement plant south of town. We headed to the wye where the interchange to the cement plant was located -- Bill had a set of screwdrivers with him and we were able to repair my camera -- and after about 90 minutes we were rewarded with the train coming with a cut of covered hoppers. A second locomotive was added to the consist for the run up the hill (below and the top photo of this post).
Maryland Midland; Union Bridge, Md.; January 17, 2014
The train would push back into the plant, where it vanished for about a half hour. That's pretty typical for a run up to the plant.
Maryland Midland; Union Bridge, Md.; January 17, 2014

Finally the train came out and we were able to get the "money shot" from the adjacent hillside as it went past the plant.
Maryland Midland; Union Bridge, Md.; January 17, 2014

The train headed down the hill and pushed back into the yard at Union Bridge. We asked the conductor if there was anything else going on that day, and he said this was it. Bruce and I said goodbye to Bill and we headed for Norfolk Southern in Pennsylvania. It was a challenging day on the Maryland Midland, and hopefully we'll get back one more time before Genesee & Wyoming's paint brushes get to the power.
Maryland Midland; Union Bridge, Md.; January 17, 2014

About Me

Newton, New Jersey, United States

Thanks For Visiting