UP Monster Train (IDILBF-08) at Bombay Beach, CA (Longest Union Pacific Train Ever)

Our effort to see the beast paid off!

We did manage to get into position to catch the Union Pacific’s longest freight train ever ran near Niland, CA.  Using all means of tracking the trains we were able to establish where we wanted the chase to begin.  Turns out, after factoring in the sunrise, our position and that of the train, the location would be near Bombay Beach, CA.

I heard the train before I could see it.  I think that had to do with the fact that the train noise was echoing off of the higher elevation behind it.  I climbed atop my Lance Camper to see if I could see anything.  Holy Smokes!!!!  There it is.  The train was MASSIVE!  It stretched out far beyond what my naked eyes could see.  I believe that haze and distance from the train where against me.

The time seemed to stand still as it closed the distance between us.  Finally I was able to see, through the camera lense, what I thought was the entire train.  I snapped this photo:

My Whole Train Shot. (Click to open full-size version)

The train was quickly passing me up now and I was shocked at the speed at which it was moving!  Clearly it was doing timetable speed.  Quick snap a couple more:

The head end of the IDILBF-08: UP 7454, UP 7419, UP 7462 - all GEVOs

The Union Pacific’s Longest Train Curving towards East Bertram, CA next to the Salton Sea

We jump into the truck and race off to the west.  As we round the bend towards East Bertram, CA the train is NOWHERE in sight.  She was clearly gonna make us work to see her again.  I was up for the challenge but the traffic and speed limits were not in my favor.

I mashed the accelerator, I wanted more shots.  More to follow…

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Reader Comments (8)

yay joe i saw the train on the news

you should make a picture book of all the pictures you have taken of trains

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbryan

Yes, I read about all of this in this morning's L.A. Times. It is very exciting.
I can't get your picture showing the whole train in one picture to open up, from your web site. It says the picture is there, and to click to open it - but all I get is a full page of solid light blue. Can you help me see this picture? Thanks and congratulations on your interesting activities. Nancy

January 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Bird

Hi Nancy! The photo is there. It is just a BIG photo. You should be able to use your arrow keys to scroll around and see the image.

January 18, 2010 | Registered CommenterJoe Perry

You've got some nice photos here, they really capture the spirit of the "open rails." I grew up in a railroad town (Pocatello, ID) and my dad use to take me down to the Amtrak station (now defunct) when the old steam trains would come through town. I loved it! You could here the steam whistle no matter where you were in town....Maybe the railroads will stage a comeback now that we realize what an economic and ecological disaster the trucking industry has been. Glad I found your blog, I'll check in periodically.

January 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatt

Really enjoyed your photos. As a former seasonal fire fighter stationed in Phelan, CA (Summer of 1973) with the State of CA Division of Forestry (now renamed Dept. of Forestry), I had the pleasure going into the back country of San Bernardino County to witness first hand the slow arduous climb these long fully loaded trains must undergo (let alone those witnessed adjacent the climb Highway 15 through the El Cajon pass as one travels towards Las Vegas). But the "UP Monster Train" you witnessed would have been an awesome sight in person! As you may know these trains on their down hill travel place great dependence their brake shoes and occasionally throw off sparks to the adjoining dry grass or brush that can spark a fire. That summer I had the experience of such a fire caused by a prior train when from a distant mountainous bend we (the fire crew and I) hear an air horn blowing yet another freight train was announcing its arrival bearing straight down upon us as we scrambled to pull hose as fast as we could that we had laid across the track less we wanted a three-piece hose as souvenirs afterward. But moreover too, being of Chinese American ancestry and at the time, attending UC Davis with nearby Sacramento and the high Sierras, I had the pleasure of driving up Highway 80 to the Sierras and appreciate what a tough job it must have been to construct the mountainous tracks and tunnel passes largely by hand and dynamite, particularly during the harsh Winters with much labor contributed by the Chinese from China.

Again, great photos and thanks for the opportunity to view such a sight. Only wish I had known and had been able to view some part of "UP Monster Train" first hand too!

Dream: I would love to be a locomotive engineer for one day with a few hundred box cars behind and feel the tremendous power of those engines.

Gar J. Chan

January 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGar J. Chan

Very interesting comment Gar! Thanks for posting it.

Sounds like you can certainly appreciate the awesome power and struggles of mountain railroading firsthand. Cut hoses would have been bad news without a doubt.

I'll share a fire story with you: I was stationed in Hawaii in the Army as a Combat Engineer. One day at the range we set off all of our remaining explosives that were leftover from a training exercise. Well, the explosion was massive and cool but the resulting grass and range fire was not. We worked with our shovels until the first units arrived. The units were from the nearest fire station which was a volunteer station. As such we assisted the short crew and I was at the end of a hose. One thing led to another and then I found myself about 40 feet below a ridge with a wall of fire about 20 feet tall down slope racing to get me! I thought I was a gonner for sure when all of the sudden I was knocked down on my ass by the life-saving and extremely timely drop from a fire-fighting Huey helicopter! Never met the pilot but I say "thank you very much" to this today!

I too had always loved the Donner Pass, the Transcontinental Railroad story, and especially the astonishing work that the Chinese laborers did during it's construction. Surely a debt of gratitude is owed to a few by all!

Don't know if your trip through the area included the California State Railroad Museum or not but I think it s one of the finest in the country. Our (CA) own version of the Smithsonian, if you will.

Take care and thanks for participating!

January 18, 2010 | Registered CommenterJoe Perry

Hi Joe,

Just wanted to share one final story. As a senior at UC Davis in 1974, I lived in an apartment complex called Cranbrook Court which paralleled the North-South corridor for rail traffic towards the Pacific Northwest. Note: Alternatively, the East-West corridor was for rail traffic to the East and over the Sierras and West traffic towards the San Francisco Bay Area. Any who, there is (was) a Spreckel Sugar Refinery Plant in the City of Davis. When sugar beet season was in full bloom, it made for considerable rail traffic as sugar beets were brought in for harvest in "hopper cars". Some of these "hopper cars" would occasionally required they be parked on the side rail which I believe resulted when the Spreckel Sugar Refinery was already operating at maximum capacity. I would learn one afternoon from my apartment glaring out the window seeing kids out from a nearby school, no older than about junior high school age walk along side these parked "hopper cars" hit a released button on each car and out came the vacuum air sound "pewsssh", "pewssh", "pewssh", etc. from the air pressure reserved tank that secured their brakes. But, thank goodness, these parked "hopper cars" also had their wheels physically secured by the equivalent an automobile's "hand-brake" which is a mechanical turn-style wheel linked by a chain a control bar that set the brake shoes to its braked and closed position. Dear I guess what could otherwise have happened if these physical hand brakes not existed as well? Maybe some runaway hopper cars.


January 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGar J. Chan

FYI - Just wanted to correct my previous citation. It was 1973, i.e. my junior year at UC Davis that I resided at the Crankbrook Court apartment complex when I made my observation these young kids releasing the air tanks from the parked "hopper cars". My senior year in 1974, I lived off of 8th Street in Davis. Also, accept my mistake too, "Dear" should have be correctly spelled "Dare".


January 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGar J. Chan

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