Our Best Trip Ever - Part 7 - Chasing From Winslow to Flagstaff
Saturday, July 9, 2011 at 1:00PM
Joe Perry in Arizona, BNSF, Cosnino, Flagstaff, General Photography, Railroad Photography, Ramblings and Such, Seligman Subdivision, Sunshine, Winona, Winslow

(Continued from: Our Best Trip Ever - Part 6 - More Chasing at the La Posada Hotel)

Day 3

On The Road Again

It had been a glorious two days hanging out at the La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona but it was time to leave. In part because our reservations expired and, equally important, because we came to see BNSF’s Seligman Subdivision. The last two days were the perfect starter course for this vacation and we now felt calm and relaxed — ready to enjoy what laid ahead.

After sleeping in for a bit, Deb and I reluctantly packed our belongings and checked out of the hotel. She still wanted to take one last walk around and throughout the hotel so I left her there, to say her “goodbyes,” while I went and prepared the truck for departure. I loaded our gear and headed off to get gas and propane along with some munchies.


SONIC® Drive-In’s Footlong Quarter Pound Coney - MMMMmmm great!As I headed towards the Winslow “Flying J Travel Center” I saw a SONIC® Drive-In and I thought that sounded good so I stopped in. I ordered Deb her usual and I grabbed two of their Footlong Quarter Pound Coney chili dogs, one for now and one for later in the “woods.” Definitely not the healthiest of foods — but hey, we’re on vacation!

After an uneventful refueling of the truck and refilling of the propane tanks, which is always a good thing, I headed back to the La Posada Hotel to grab Deb and head out.

Upon my arrival she was taking some photos of the hotel so I woofed down the dog and then proceeded to set-up my radios and computer to track our quarry. Shortly thereafter, we were on the road again!

I knew this leg of our journey was going to end at Flagstaff by day’s end because I had secretly planned to make a side-trip for Deb’s sake in Flagstaff. Consequently, we set out on a leisurely pace heading west on Interstate 40. I kept an watchful eye on the computer display for any indication of nearby traffic. 

The track of our third day on the Seligman Sub. The black camera icons indicate the locations that I shot.

In Search of Sunshine

There was no train traffic to speak of as we headed west until we approached the area near Red Gap Ranch Road. Judging from what we could see from the freeway and on the computer, there were a few trains transiting the area. Ideally we would have raced to Canyon Diablo, the area’s preeminent photo location on the BNSF, and took shots there, but not this time. If you recall from a previous trip I took there, recounted in this post, the road to Canyon Diablo is much like the canyon itself — a devil. No way we were going to chance it on this trip and we certainly weren’t going to get there in time to catch these trains. So I looked for a potentially easier way in which to reach the rails. I found what looked like an ideal location off of the Meteor Crater Road exit.

Taking the exit, making a right turn, and not seeing any signs that indicated the area was private property, we found that the paved road gave way to a decent dirt road. So far, so good. The GPS indicated that the road we were on should take us up to the railroad’s right-of-way sans issue. What the GPS did not show, however, was the vast number of cattle that sauntered, lounged, and swarmed all over the range land. Deb and I, far from being classified as cattle-savvy people, quickly began to evaluate each near-miss or approaching cow/steer for trouble. I feared, perhaps unnecessarily, that a perturbed bovine might charge us or our truck. Over time I realized that the cattle appeared to be harmless and it became humorous and it certainly didn’t deter us from getting track side.

It turns out that our destination, unbeknown to us at the time, was a railroad location called, aptly, Sunshine, Arizona. Taking artistic license, I created the following piece, which portrays an imagined, old western flash card of a “moo cow” nailed to the side of a barn, from a photo Deb took of a steer watching a passing train, to commerate our experience getting in and out of Sunshine, Arizona:

Moo Cow
(moous cowus yumus)

[4/19/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Debra Parra, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com.

It turned out that our timing was impeccable because we set-up in time to catch about six trains back-to-back in a span of about 30 minutes or so. In two cases, two trains met right near us as seen in the following works:

BNSF 5256 East - BNSF 5256 (GE DASH 9-44CW) and BNSF 1069 (GE DASH 9-44CW) are on the point of this eastbound manifest as she passes the siding at Sunshine, Arizona.
[4/19/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com.
Manifest Meet at Sunshine - BNSF 5256 (GE DASH 9-44CW) and BNSF 1069 (GE DASH 9-44CW) hold the point of this eastbound manifest as she meets a westbound counterpart with Warbonnet-schemed BNSF 752 (GE DASH 9-44CW) leading BNSF 5731 (GE ES44AC), BNSF 4884 (GE DASH 9-44CW), and NS 9588 (GE DASH 9-40CW) at Sunshine, Arizona.
[4/19/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com.

BNSF 752 West at Sunshine 2 - A westbound manifest train, with Warbonnet-schemed BNSF 752 (GE DASH 9-44CW) leading BNSF 5731 (GE ES44AC), BNSF 4884 (GE DASH 9-44CW), and NS 9588 (GE DASH 9-40CW), strains against the grade at Sunshine, Arizona.
[4/19/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com.

We were fortunate, at least in my eyes, to catch the preceeding mainifest train, struggling hard against the grade, with an ex-ATSF (Santa Fe) painted unit on the point. Another nice rarity feature about this train was the fact that on the rear of the freight consist was six former American Orient Express passenger cars heading to the Grand Canyon Railway (GCRX) in Williams, Arizona. I don’t know if the cars were sold to the GCRX or if they were going there to have some work done in the GCRX shops. Maybe one of you know and can let us all know:

[4/19/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com.

More good fortune for us came as we were leaving Sunshine and approaching the freeway. I turned to look back and saw a third train meet in the making. I jumped out and shot this scene. As it unfolded before me I found myself thinking about what this scene would have looked like back in the late 1800s as the trains streaked across the desert. As such, I crafted this piece:

Fast Freight for Shippers.
[4/19/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com.

We Didn’t Forget Winona

After bidding our farewells to the cattle and trains, we headed west once again on I-40 towards Flagstaff. In this area the tracks of BNSF’s Seligman Subdivision parallel the freeway, as the photo below shows. I could see that we would be passing a train shortly, and despite the high midday sun, I decided to take the Townsend Winona Road exit ahead of the train, once again, and shoot this train as well since the exit afforded an easy-off and easy-on access to the freeway.

Our luck continued as a previously unseen eastbound was also approaching West Darling at the same time our westbound train passed us. Another meet. Here’s part of the sequence I shot:

Meet at West Darling - Sequence
[4/19/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com.

BNSF 7355 East at Winona - After meeting a westbound stack train at the switch at West Darling, BNSF 7355 (GE ES44DC) leads an all GEVO set with BNSF 7418 (GE ES44DC), BNSF 7913 (GE ES44DC), BNSF 7882 (GE ES44DC), and BNSF 7367 (GE ES44DC), on the point of an eastbound stack train approaching the underpass at Townsend Winona Road.
[4/19/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com.

Shapely Curves

When initially scouting possible locations for this trip using the planning maps I made and Google Maps, one of the locations I was intrigued by is an area known as Cosnino, Arizona. After studying the maps I got the sense that this spot might afford me an opportunity to shoot a nice shot on a curve with a mountain as the backdrop. This location was one my list of places to stop and it was next up.

While driving there, and as I thought about the shot, I remembered the Warbonnet train we shot at Sunshine. If I hurried we might be able to catch that train at Cosnino Road. I mashed the accelerator pedal and got my rig doing a pretty good clip.

Using the GPS as the guide, we reached Cosnino Road in short order and I turned right onto a dirt road that headed east along the south side of the tracks. Immediately thereafter we came upon a BNSF worker in a company pick-up truck. I pulled to the side of the road to give him clearance to get by. My hope was that he wasn’t going to give us grief — and fortunately we just exchanged waves and nods and continued on our separate ways.

I reached the curve and fortunately the area was wide enough for me to park the truck on the side of the road, which I did. I assembled my tripod and camera gear and waited. We had waited some twenty minutes or so before I heard the distinctive rhythmic sound of an approaching train. As the train came into view I was thrilled to see the Warbonnet on the point:

BNSF 752 West at North Cosnino Road 1 - A westbound manifest train, with Warbonnet-schemed BNSF 752 (GE DASH 9-44CW) leading BNSF 5731 (GE ES44AC), BNSF 4884 (GE DASH 9-44CW), and NS 9588 (GE DASH 9-40CW), strains against the grade and curvature near Cosnino, Arizona.
[4/19/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com.
BNSF 752 West at North Cosnino Road 2 - A westbound manifest train, with Warbonnet-schemed BNSF 752 (GE DASH 9-44CW) leading BNSF 5731 (GE ES44AC), BNSF 4884 (GE DASH 9-44CW), and NS 9588 (GE DASH 9-40CW), strains against the grade and curvature near Cosnino, Arizona.
[4/19/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com.

BNSF 752 West at North Cosnino Road 3 - A westbound manifest train, with Warbonnet-schemed BNSF 752 (GE DASH 9-44CW) leading BNSF 5731 (GE ES44AC), BNSF 4884 (GE DASH 9-44CW), and NS 9588 (GE DASH 9-40CW), strains against the grade and curvature near Cosnino, Arizona.
[4/19/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com.
BNSF 752 West at North Cosnino Road 4 - A westbound manifest train, with Warbonnet-schemed BNSF 752 (GE DASH 9-44CW) leading BNSF 5731 (GE ES44AC), BNSF 4884 (GE DASH 9-44CW), and NS 9588 (GE DASH 9-40CW), strains against the grade and curvature near Cosnino, Arizona.
[4/19/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.co

Missed It By That Much

After the we caught the manifest train at Cosnino, Arizona, I began to worry about the time. I had planned something special for Deb and needed to get to Flagstaff soon. We packed up our gear and got back on our trusty road, I-40.

As we approached, and throughout the drive through, Flagstaff, Arizona, it was hard not to stop to take photos as I saw plenty of trains and cool spots but I was on a mission for Deb. The first order of business was to secure a campground so we didn’t have to worry about it later and we did just that at the Flagstaff KOA.

Once that task was complete we headed to our secret destination stopping to replenish goods from a local supermarket along the way. Every now and again we would pass a roadside sign pointing the way to our destination and I would glance over at Deb to see if she noticed the sign and figured out what was up. Fortunately she was taking in the whole view and didn’t notice the signs specifically. Whew, my cover was not blown.

I will reveal the details and the location of of my secret side trip that I had planned for Deb in my next post. Suffice it to say that it was well received and appreciated — though I was off by one day. Since we weren’t going to do what I had planned today, we headed down to the depot to soak up the local happenings and become one with the Flagstaff — so to speak.

Here are the results of our time at the depot: 

Flagstaff Depot - Desktop
[4/19/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com.

Flagstaff Depot in HDR
[4/19/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com.

Flagstaff Depot Framed
[4/19/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com.

Despite the fact that not a single train came by while we were at the depot, it was fun to chat with the Amtrak personnel that staffed the depot and take shots of the cool building itself. We would be doing our special event tomorrow evening so we headed back to the KOA campground to set-up the truck for the night, have some dinner, and check out the photos we took today on the Mac.

It had been a good chase.

Article originally appeared on railroad photography and blog by joe perry (http://www.chasingsteel.com/).
See website for complete article licensing information.