random thoughts on railroad photography, railfanning, technology, and such

Entries in News (41)


BNSF Unveils a New Site for "Friends"

Friends of BNSF
BNSF’s latest web offering for the community at large.

A few days ago BNSF unveiled a new web offering called “Friends of BNSF.”

According to John Ambler, BNSF vice president, Corporate Relations, 

Friends of BNSF will allow us to keep the community informed about issues that are important to freight rail transportation and its role in the U.S. economy. Rail fans, freight rail advocates, members of communities in which BNSF operates, and of course our employees and retirees are all welcome at Friends of BNSF.

The website, which is free to join, will contain material from BNSF’s extensive historical archives — historical photos and videos, authentic maps and documents, and classic brochures and advertisements.

Friends of BNSF will be updated with new content regularly and members can elect to receive e-mail notifications when new content is posted in their selected areas of interest.

BNSF’s Arizona Fact Sheet
An example of some of the content available.

Members will be able to view special news articles and videos, explore a one-of-a-kind resource library packed with company information, download exclusive wallpaper, ringtones and a screensaver.

BONUS: The first 10,000 new members who complete their profile including mailing address will receive a free 2012 BNSF calendar, which displays a collection of spectacular photos of BNSF trains taken by BNSF employees.

I have joined the site and I have found the content interesting and informative. My only gripe, thusfar, is that the opportunity to have one of your photos chosen for the calendar is open to employees only! :-(  


A View of Metrolink's New "Guardian Fleet" - the Safest in the Nation

At a series of stations throughout Southern California, Metrolink (Southern California Regional Rail Authority, SCAX), the southland’s local commuter rail provider, debuted their new cab and passenger cars. The new equipment, dubbed the “Guardian fleet,” is considered to be the safest in the nation.

Read “IMPACT TESTS OF CRASH ENERGY MANAGEMENT PASSENGER RAIL CARS: ANALYSIS AND STRUCTURAL MEASUREMENTS (IMECE2004-61252) [November 13, 2004]” by Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, US Department of TransportationThe new cars were designed and built in Korea by Hyundai Rotem, a railroad equipment and systems manufacturer since 1964. What makes these cars so special and safe are the fact that they contain the cutting-edge in crash energy management (CEM) technology. The technology includes energy-absorbing retractable couplers, crumples zones, and interior improvements that decrease the forces involved during a collision. This technology is very similiar to the technology available in most modern automobiles today.

Here is a video that shows the cars, having recently arrived at Long Beach Harbor from Korea, still wrapped in shipping material and describes the technology in lay terms. The video is narrated by Keith Millhouse, Moorpark City Councilmember and Board Chairman for Metrolink. (Not the best produced video ever but I am glad it is available): 


Here is another video (more of an slideshow with audio but very good nonetheless and thanks to AmtrakSurfliner768!), that details the cars a little more and provides some background information on the need for cars such as these:


For those of your interested, here is a video showing the cars being unloading at the Port of Long Beach:


As a rail advocate and daily commuter on Metrolink, I was happy to be extended an opportunity to get a VIP tour of the new equipment as the result of a contest that Metrolink held via Twiiter. So I took a day off of work and Deb and I attended the “Whistle Stop Tour” at the famed San Bernardino Depot which is the eastern most terminus for Metrolink.

After finding a parking spot and grabbing something to eat, Deb and I crossed the street and made our way to the depot. Already in place was a Metrolink consist with 2 locomotives on the head-end and three of the new cars — two regular passenger cars and one cab car. The new cars are predominately stainless-steel, which was a surprise to me, that gives the fleet a taste of the good ol’ domeliner cars of yesteryear (much like the banner photo at the top of this page). The lack of paint which reduces the weight of the cars also affords reduced maintenance costs over the lifetime of the cars. As for the new Metrolink paint scheme, well, who knows, maybe it will grow on me - not a fan!

After poking around a bit and making some introductions, I set about to shoot some photos prior to the official ribbon-cutting ceremony which was preceeded by the requisite speeches from local dignitaries and Metrolink management.

Debut of the Guardian Fleet - As part of a multi-stop tour, the newest cars of Metrolink’s “Guardian Fleet”, are staged at the San Bernardino Depot for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
[12/8/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry
The Business End of SCAX 638 - This is engineer’s end of SCAX 638 which is part of the new “Guardian Fleet” for Metrolink.
[12/8/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

SCAX 638 Debuts - Metrolink’s newest cab car, SCAX 638, waits for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the San Bernardino Metrolink station.
[12/8/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

SCAX 638 Waits in the Morning Sun - As the morning sun begins to clear the Metrolink San Bernardino depot, Metrolink’s newest cab car 638 waits for the pomp and ceremony to begin.
[12/8/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

Cutting the Ribbon - A host of local dignitaries and Metrolink council members, including John Fenton - Metrolink CEO , far right, are just about to cut the ribbon on the new Guardian Fleet debut at San Bernardino, CA.
[12/8/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

Currently ten cars are planned for immediate use and, according to Metrolink, their board recently approved an additional 20 more cars to be acquired to bring the total to 137 cars which are slated to be fully in service by late 2012. While the inital cars were manufactured in Korea, the balance of the new cars will be assembled at Metrolink’s Eastern Maintenance Facility in Colton, California.

Pristine Nevermore 1 - A view of the interior of the upper deck of Metrolink’s newest cab car, SCAX 638, which will never looks this good again.
[12/8/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

Pristine Nevermore 2 - A view of the interior of the upper deck of Metrolink’s newest cab car, SCAX 638, which will never looks this good again.
[12/8/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

At one point I was granted access to the cab car to have a look around and grab a few shots. I was impressed by the appearance of the interior and pleased to see that they raised the height of the seat backs. The interior seems roomy and well lit and it has that “new car” smell!

I can’t wait for these new cars to arrive on the San Bernardino line! Good job Metrolink - now how about WiFi? ;-)


BNSF and Others Threw Quite the Railroad Party

125th Anniversary of Cajon Pass Celebration Event Poster
Creative Commons 2010, Joe Perry. Some rights reserved. (CC-BY-NC-ND)
Lately I have been consulting for a couple of rail and historical web sites to include standing up new web presences for each entity and creating accompanying artwork. This effort has occupied all of my free time, as the lack recent posts can attest to. However, I made sure to clear my calendar for Saturday, November 13, 2010. In my calendar I created an entry to block out my time and labeled it simply “Cajon Day.”

In case you missed my previous post entitled “BNSF Celebrates the 125th Anniversary of Railroad Service Over Cajon Pass,” November 9, 2010, marked the 125th anniversary of train service over Cajon Pass. The BNSF Railway, in concert with the San Bernardino History & Railroad Museum and Operation Lifesaver, wanted to mark the occasion by having a celebration complete with food, entertainment, equipment and vehicle displays, and BNSF wanted to showcase their energy-efficient locomotive technologies. The event was held at the San Bernardino Depot.


After spending the requisite amount of time to ready my truck and camper, as I was anticipating a long day, I was off early to scout out the event in hopes of getting the best early morning light for some uncluttered shots of the locomotives. As luck would have it I arrived with plenty of time to spare, a full hour before sunrise. I parked near the tracks in the nearly empty east parking lot.

As I walked on the track side of the depot, I found my quarry. The scene was ideal for most rail aficionados. There was a gentle glowing of the eastern sky as the sun marched forth. Next to the very historic and beautiful depot, lit in period lighting, were several examples of BNSF’s motive power fleet, freshly bathed and looking their Sunday best, without a sole, except me, around. The event had not been fully set-up just yet so, as such, there were no stanchions and chains, cones, or signage to “pollute” the view. I pressed the shutter a few dozen times. (Some of these images will be posted separately in the coming posts.)


After sufficient time for me to have unfettered access to the equipment and the depot, the BNSF and San Bernardino History & Railroad Museum’s army of employees, volunteers, and contractors began to arrive to complete the process of preparing the area for the public. One of the first on the scene was an apparently supercharged and motivated individual that made many trips carrying armfuls of stuff from her car to the depot. In short order it became apparent that she was the nucleus for the beehive of activity that had moved from a slow rumble to a full-blown ballet of utter chaos - at least that’s how it appeared to me initially.

After spending some time taking photographs of the worker’s activities and trying to stay out of their way, I discovered that there was a method to the madness. It was clearly orchestrated chaos. When all of the exhibits, vendors, and entertainers were ready, I discovered that the area had morphed from the tranquil scene described previously to one, perhaps, more suited to a county fair than a metropolitan train depot. To wit, at one end was a stage prepared by roadies for the musical group The Legendary Mustangs, followed by a food service tent, kettle corn and snow cone vendors, clowns and balloons were everywhere. 

The lady at the center of all of this was Lena Kent, Director, Public Affairs for BNSF’s western states. When all was said and done, Lena had pulled off a great job of planning, coordinating, and preparing the event. BNSF should be very proud of accomplishments and the environment she created for BNSF to interact with the community.

BNSF MOW vehicle serves as the event’s flagpole.

Static Displays

From BNSF’s fleet of energy-efficient motive power on display were two identical units. The first was BNSF 1308 (NRE 3GS21C). This unit was rebuilt from an EMD SD40 which was originally built 39 years prior and was open for guests to inspect the locomotive’s cab and engines. The other unit, which was not open for viewing, was BNSF 1303 (NRE 3GS21C). Rounding out the motive power offering was an impressive road unit, BNSF 7350 (GE ES44DC), which was also available for a walk-through.

Several fine examples of BNSF’s maintenance-of-way vehicles were also on display, all nicely posed on the rail as they might be during use in the field. There was the track inspector’s vehicle, a HiRail, and a MOW boom truck which doubled as the event’s flagpole.

The Signal Team had a working grade crossing gate and CTC signal mounted on a trailer for guests to play with and rounding out the vehicular exhibits were a couple of BNSF Police Team’s modern SUVs.

All of the exhibits were manned by the appropriate BNSF employees to field questions and offer details about the operation and role of each item on display. Many BNSF employees also enlisted the help of their family members to assist in the day’s activities which gave the event a more personal touch.

Also on hand were members of the BNSF Police force to press the flesh, field questions about their service, and to allow the kids a chance to play with the lights on the squad cars.

Throughout the coming weeks I will be post-processing my photos of the vehicular exhibits and subsequently posting them here for all to see.

Dispatcher Display

My personal favorite exhibit was the one that was manned by the BNSF train dispatchers. I approached their table, which contained a single Dell laptop computer and an external monitor, to discover an actual display of the San Bernardino Subdivision track schematic which showed route alignments, signal indications, train locations and symbols, all in real-time. Ask anyone who knows me and they can attest to my interest in train dispatching because it is the culmination of four of my main interests; railroading, computer technology, radios, and efficiencies. It is the center of my Venn Diagram, if you will. I was like a kid in a candy store on Christmas with Santa Claus handing out free candy and presents on the first day of summer! (Yeah, I liked it!)

BNSF Dispatcher’s view of the San Bernardino Subdivision in all of it’s glory.


Among the other things to do during the event, the bus tour of the BNSF Intermodal Facility proved to be extremely popular. Also, inside the depot were several railroad and local history authors selling their wares. I had the distinction of meeting one author in particular who, it turns out, is Joe Strapac, only one of my favorite railroad authors ever. (More on that encounter in an upcoming post.)

After seven hours of walking up and down the entire area which contained the celebration countless times I was tuckered out. I had shot nearly 1,000 images and thought it was best to head home. It was a long day but one full of interesting surprises and, hopefully, fruitful with respect to decent photographs taken. I did take away a lot of potential ideas for blog post content and subjects, now if I can only find the time to compose and post them!

I would like to thank all of the employees, families, and volunteers of the BNSF Railway, the San Bernardino History & Railroad Museum, and Operation Lifesaver for their tireless dedication and service to our common goal of celebrating the institution of railroading in America and enlightening the public on the value railroads provide to strengthen America - today and tomorrow.