My Scariest Moment

This is a post I made almost four years ago on the Western Railroads discussion board on I am reposting it here because I refer to this incident in the caption of one of my photographs.

Wow! After 30 years of railfanning, it finally happened to me!

After spending the morning hanging out with Don and Wayne up at Hill 582 I decided to check out Sullivan’s Curve since I had never been there before. I arrived and scoped things out. It appears that there was storm related track-work being done at the curve so traffic was light.

With nothing else to photograph I shot some pictures of the track gang hard at work.

Around 3:30 PM today, the gang opted to finish thier present effort and clear the track for an Eastbound stack train.

This photo shows that train - the BNSF 5109 East leaning into the brunt of the curve just below the west switch at UP’s Canyon siding. Notice the Roadmaster pacing the train as it tranverses the area where, only moments before, his gang was working replacing ballast.

The train continued on through the curve and I began to walk back to my car when I heard the most God-awful sound I have ever heard. I knew instantly that something was amiss. I hurriedly crossed the UP main to look directly down onto the BNSF Main 1 track and saw the BNSF 238841 derail right before my eyes.

I jumped to capture it on film and had to wrestle with the ON/OFF switch but I was able to get a shot of it right after it happened.I called 911 from my cell phone and while trying to relay all the train’s location to the CHP dispatcher I heard the Roadmaster trying to get the 5109 crew’s attention to stop the train because he saw smoke coming from one car 6 ahead of the rear. They eventually stopped the train about 1.5 miles from the location of the mishap.

The last photo shows the train stopped and the lead truck of the B-end of the car clearly off the track. Highway 138 can be seen in the background of the photo.

I was talking to another BNSF crew later and they said the train ripped up or severly damaged over a mile of concrete ties. It was still tying up Main 1 when I left the hill around 7:30 tonight.

It was a scary moment for sure.

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Reader Comments (2)

WOW, How does one get cars back on track in the middle of the desert?
I know how to do it with HO models, but not real trains.

Love the site BTW:


January 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBob D

I was reading the story on you in the Monday L.A. Times and on a whim, checked out your website. WOW!!! That was FUN!!!

January 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge S., Jr.

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