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Entries in La Posada (4)


Our Best Trip Ever - Part 6 - More Chasing at the La Posada Hotel

(Continued from: Our Best Trip Ever - Part 5 - Chasing at the La Posada Hotel)

Day 2

Track Side at the La Posada Hotel Again

After a nice and luxurious night’s rest at the La Posada Hotel, Deb and I awoke mid-morning to the unmistakeable sound of General MotorsElectro-Motive Division prime movers of yesteryear. After getting cleaned up, we decided to grab breakfast in the camper before we started the day.

On the way to the camper we discovered the source of the diesel cacophony that was to provide an old-school ambience to our breakfast feast. Working the Winslow Yard, perhaps assembling its train, which I assume it to be the Winslow Local, was a pair of glorious old engines. On the point was the BNSF 120 (formerly ATSF 120), which is an EMD GP60M that was built in June, 1990, as part of the first production run of GP60Ms. The second, and final unit, was the BNSF 2333 (formerly BN 2333 and SLSF 478) which is an EMD GP38-2 that was built a mere 13 ½ years prior (in 12/76) to BNSF 120 and some 34 years ago!

EMD Plate

After enjoying a fantastic breakfast burrito, I grabbed my gear and headed track side to catch these old units in action. In some weird way I felt obligated to capture the scene. It felt a little like chasing a steam locomotive except these units were commonplace for me because they ruled the rails back when I started out. It is not that rare of a sight to see on the BNSF today, but what I thought about, as I snapped photo after photo, was the fact that this scene, in particular, was all about predecessors. I suddenly began to feel old.

On September 21, 1995, the Burlington Northern Railroad merged with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway to form the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. The individual roads operated autonomously until December 31, 1996 when the railroads officially joined operations. Then in January, 2005, the railroad’s name was officially changed to “BNSF Railway Company.”

So, here before me, some 15 years after the merger, was a representative unit from each parent railroad — but not just that. Each unit was an “old generation” unit in as complete pre-merger livery as you can get. It was the predecessors of the BNSF Railway and the predecessors of the today’s ubiquitous GE locomotives all rolled up into one. I began to wonder if the BNSF Railway had known I was at the La Posada Hotel and put these two units together for me…ever so briefly!

The EMD GP60M, represented by BNSF 120, was once the pride of the Santa Fe Railroad and held the point on most of the “hot” intermodal and/or piggyback trains of the day. After many years of use and technological advancements in locomotive engineering these units tend to be relagated to switching duties and local jobs these days.

I shot a whole bunch of images as these units continued their work on the east end of Winslow Yard and here is a sampling of that effort:

[4/18/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry
BNSF 120 East - Predecessors for both, the BNSF (Santa Fe & Burlington Northern) and modern locomotives, can be seen in this photo showing BNSF 120 (EMD GP60M) and BNSF 2333 (EMD GP38-2) seen here working at the Winslow Yard in April 2011.
[4/18/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry

Predecessors Postcard
[4/18/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry

During this period there seemed to a lull in mainline trains coming through Winslow. That didn’t last long though. As the local continued to perform switching moves, a massive unit train, which I presume to be carrying some quarry-based product, came in from the east on track 3 and began stopping for a crew change. Even before the brakes where set on the unit train, which had four units up front, 3 mid-train units and two more on the rear — with a ton of cars, I could see headlights on the horizon in both directions. We were back in business.

I continued to shoot from in front of the Winslow Amtrak station for bit as the traffic picked up. Here is a sequence of a hot intermodal (Z-train) coming in from the east. This train crossed over and came in on Track 2 and stopped ever so briefly and then it was gone again with a new crew.

BNSF 7677 West 1, 2, 3 - BNSF 7677 (GE ES44DC), BNSF 4494 (GE DASH 9-44CW), BNSF 6639 (GE ES44C4), and BNSF 7334 (GE ES44DC) hustle this westbound Z-train through a crossover at East Winslow, AZ as they pull along side a massive unit train and into the crew change point at Winslow, AZ
[4/18/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry

My PSA - The Lay of the Land at the La Posada Hotel

The grounds and area surrounding the La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona are an ideal location from which to watch and/or photograph trains along one of the busiest trackage in the southwest. Guests of the hotel are treated to various spots on the hotel’s property where you can find shade, some seating, and a great vantage point. There are some guidelines that you must follow in order to have a hassle-free experience and not become a nuisance for the hotel, the railroad, or other fans.

Remember that the BNSF Railroad’s right-of-way and associated outbuildings, bridges, and signal houses are private property. The railroads take trespassing on their property very seriously and I would caution everyone against trespassing at any level. The BNSF’s crews are required to report all trespassers and, I suspect, the La Posada Hotel wants to keep a good relationship with the railroad, and, as such, has placed signs along the south end of their property to help remind guests that this is a very active mainline and that it is private property. The hotel’s proximity to the mainline is unparalleled and there is no need to trespass onto BNSF property to get a shot or watch the action. Heeding this advice makes it a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved — especially to keep railfans welcome at the hotel and track side.

For those interested, I created the following mash-up showing the locations of key points and photos showing the views of the east and west from the hotel’s grounds. As you can see, there is no reason to enter BNSF’s property:

The Lay of the Land at the La Posada Hotel - Click image for a larger view (4MB). Use the arrow keys to scroll the image in your browser.
© Copyright 2011, Joe Perry.

One potentially challenging aspect of the rail photography experience at the La Posada Hotel is the fact that the hotel is situated on the north side of the tracks. This can put the sun directly in front of you and backlight the scene. You can compensate for this with your camera’s settings or shoot multiple exposures. The best thing to do is to shoot when the sun is lower in the sky, like early morning and evening, and shoot activity in the opposing direction.

Lighting Challenges - While the hotel and depot complex offer an excellent railroad experience it does present a challenge for photographers because the sun is typically on the opposite side of the tracks and this will backlight the scene.
© Copyright 2011, Joe Perry.

Despite the sunlight challenges, there is some great railroad photographic opportunities to be had at the hotel — not to mention the landscape and architecture opportunities as well. Here are a few shots of traffic directly in front of the hotel’s viewing area:

BNSF 6858 - BNSF 6858 (EMD SD40-2 Snoot) is the rear unit in a consist on the point of an eastbound manifest train awaiting a crew change in front of the La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona.
[7/6/2006 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com

Passing Intermodal
[4/18/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com.

Tank Cars on the Move
[4/18/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com.

After a few more trains and a whole bunch of photos, I wanted a change of venue. I was looking for a less-cluttered scene and opted to walk east of the depot and hotel more towards the control point at East Winslow. After crossing a dry creek or wash I found my quarry that afforded a vantage point with less non-track elements in the scene just east of control point CP 2853 and west of East Winslow.

I could see several trains waiting east of this new location but they held their places for a bit as the sun began to beat down on me. I was getting hot and thirsty but I wanted to wait for at least one train to show up so I wouldn’t waste the effort. I held on long enough for one westbound to reach me before I opted to retreat to the hotel for some eats and treats — and shade!

BNSF 5133 West 1 - An apparently fire-damaged BNSF 5133 (GE DASH 9-44CW), BNSF 7588 (GE ES44DC), and BNSF 7671 (GE ES44DC) provide the tractive effort for this westbound intermodal train at CP 2853 just east of Winslow, Arizona.
[4/18/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry
BNSF 5133 West 2 - An apparently fire-damaged BNSF 5133 (GE DASH 9-44CW), BNSF 7588 (GE ES44DC), and BNSF 7671 (GE ES44DC) provide the tractive effort for this westbound intermodal train at CP 2853 just east of Winslow, Arizona.
[4/18/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry

After a sufficient respite in the camper for some soda, shade, and a good long sit, I headed back to the tracks and continued to ply my trade. It was a great day and it kept getting better.

BNSF 5377 West - BNSF 5337 (GE DASH 9-44CW), NS 2771 (EMD SD70M-2) , and CSXT 4811 (EMD SD70MAC) bring their manifest consist into Winslow, AZ after just completing a run across BNSF’s Gallup subdivision.
[4/18/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com
BNSF 7234 West into Winslow - BNSF 7234 (GE ES44DC) leads two other GE ES44DCs and one GE DASH 9-44CW into the crew change point at Winslow, Arizona, having just finished their run over the Gallup Subdivision on April 18, 2011.
[4/18/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com

Parting Shot - BNSF 157 East - BNSF 157 (EMD GP60M), BNSF 1757 (EMD SD40-2), BNSF 6741 (EMD SD40-2), and an unidentified GE DASH 9-44CW are performing switching duties at the Winslow Yard late in the day in April 2011.
[4/18/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry, ChasingSteel.com

Radar Love and the Turquoise Room

I had a full day of chasing steel and photography and I felt I had some great shots so I decided it was time to wrap it up and meet up with Deb.

I put away my gear in the camper, cleaned the grit off of me and proceeded to walk towards the lobby. Just then I see Deb exited the hotel and I smiled. It seems we have always had that “radar love” that Golden Earring sings about, because she was coming out to see how I was doing at the exact same time.

After we greeted each other and shared our day’s events with one another we decided that it would be remiss of us not to partake of one of the La Posada Hotel’s gems, the Turquoise Room.

The Turquoise Room is one of, if not the best, restaurants in this region of the southwest. It is operated by renowned Chef John Sharpe. It is a fantastic dining experience.

Reservations are recommended but Deb and I neglected to make them earlier. Fortunately, it was still early enough in the evening that we were able to get a window seat that afforded us a view of the tracks - of course!

We went all out on the meal and, at our server’s recommendation, we started with the “Signature Soup” which is best described straight off of their menu (The soup is incredible! I am getting hungry and salivating at the thought it right now!):

Creamy sweet corn in the same bowl with smooth and spicy black bean topped with a signature of spicy chile cream.

In keeping with our railroading theme, Deb and I both had dishes from the “Fred Harvey Dishes” section on the menu. She had the prime rib and I had the filet mignon. Simply amazing. You definitely need to eat here if you are anywhere within 250 miles or so.

End of Day 2

After a terrific meal and dining experience, Deb and I took a brief walk around the hotel’s grounds and interior to soak up all that we could. We love this place and it was to be our last night here. While we were sad that it was coming to an end, we had a great time and we were looking forward to adventures unknown that were still to come as we began to chase the BNSF along the Seligman Subdivision for the next week.

We retired to our room and enjoyed our final night’s stay in the fabulous La Posada Hotel. We will be back soon — no doubt.

Tomorrow we would leave for our chase fully rested and relaxed with some fond memories.


Our Best Trip Ever - Part 5 - Chasing at the La Posada Hotel

(Continued from: Our Best Trip Ever - Part 4 - A Railfan Oasis, The La Posada Hotel)

Day 1 (Continued)

Track Side at La Posada

From a railfan’s perspective, the La Posada Hotel is blessed with a plethora of both, mainline trackage and plenty of traffic, that form the southern border of the property. Considering the hotel’s history, a place for weary travelers of the Santa Fe Railway Company to get some rest and good eats, this is by design. As such, the hotel’s grounds provide a welcome sign of sorts amidst the parch and arid landscape in this part of northern Arizona. Butted up against the platforms of the Winslow Amtrak station, a semi-circular brick plaza morphs into a walkway that leads directly to a portico and the lobby of the hotel. Today, as it was then, this area serves as fantastic train watching vantage point, complete with wood rocking chairs for the guests to rock their cares away as they watch the parade of trains, from all points east and all points west, go by.

From a photography standpoint, the track side location presents some challenges with respect to lighting. The orientation of train traffic is east-west but you will be shooting from the north side of the tracks which, given the latitude of Winslow, Arizona, puts you on the dark side of most shots. The early morning hours are great for eastbounds catching a clear indication out the Winslow yard while westbounds are best lit in late afternoon/evening. I favor the westbound shots as the sight distance is greater and often you can catch multiple headlights in one scene.

Winslow is the eastern terminus for the Seligman Subdivision which means trains coming west into Winslow are arriving off of the Gallup Subdivision which covers the territory from Belen Junction, New Mexico to East Winslow, Arizona.

Winslow is a crew change point for the BNSF. It marks the point at which a new crew takes over a train and runs it to the next crew change point down the line or the train’s final destination, whichever comes first. As such, the trackage consists of four main tracks and it is not uncommon to see four trains stopped waiting to be re-crewed and then get a clear indication (green signal to proceed) either west or east out of Winslow. Typically the re-crewing process can happen in minutes, but it can happen rather quickly too if the train’s priority warrants it and the new crew is ready to jump on board. All of this means that you will not, if ever, see a train blow by the La Posada Hotel at any measure of speed like you will out on the mainline but this affords you the opportunity to catch details that are hard to see at 70MPH.

“Well, I’m a standing on a corner — In Winslow, Arizona — And such a fine sight to see…”

After the day’s long drive, a short nap at the WalMart, and the shooting around Winona and Darling, I had resigned myself to take it easy at this point in the day and just enjoy what the hotel had to offer. Camera in hand, but no other gear, I headed track side to see what was going on.

It was late in the day and the sun had already begun it’s final plunge beneath the horizon. I took up position on one of those wooden rocking chairs and prepared to take the sunset in and just enjoy the moment. When I took a look towards the east to see if any headlights were on the horizon I was pleased to see that there was but I was also puzzled because the displacement of the lights were not those typically found on today’s motive power. I saw the “train” take the switch at East Winslow and begin to come down Track 1 — right in front of me.

Once the unit came closer I could discern that this was a “maintenance-of-way” consist and more precisely, a rail grinder. As the grinder slid by I could see that the train set was fully staffed — men at each station along the consist — which told me that this was not merely a move but rather a working job. It was great to see a rare consist but at the same time it was also a little disconcerting because it meant that some of the trackage would be out of service as the work was being performed and this could impact the traffic levels.

I was so inquisitive about the doings that I had completely forgot that I had camera in hand! Just as the head end passed me, it was moving in reverse, I remembered that fact and began shooting. The following few shots are of Loram’s (LMIX) RG402 working on the mainline in front of the La Posada Hotel:

Loram’s RG402 at Sunset - One of Loram’s new rail grinders, LMIX RG402, prepares to work on BNSF’s Seligman Subdivision right in front of the La Posada Hotel in April 2011.
[4/17/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry

Loram’s RG402 at Sunset 2 - One of Loram’s new rail grinders, LMIX RG402, prepares to work on BNSF’s Seligman Subdivision right in front of the La Posada Hotel in April 2011.
[4/17/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry

BNSF 5191 East at Winslow, AZ - BNSF 5191 (GE DASH 9-44CW), BNSF 4485 (GE DASH 9-44CW), and BNSF 7876 (GE ES44DC) hold the point duties on this eastbound manifest out of Winslow, AZ as one of Loram’s new rail grinders, LMIX RG402, prepares to work on BNSF’s Seligman Subdivision right in front of the La Posada Hotel in April 2011.
[4/17/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry

As the sun receded, I began to think of how cool it would be to get a shot of the grinder in action at night throwing sparks. Despite the fact that I had resigned myself to chill that night, I hesitated only slightly before making a beeline off to my truck to retrieve my tripod. A tripod is critical in low-light situations such as these.

Upon my return I saw the grinder in the distance waiting for traffic to clear so that it could switch tracks and make another run. I used the time waiting to some more shots of passing trains and of the Winslow Amtrak station.

Winslow Sunset Silhouette - [4/17/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry

Track Side at the Amtrak Winslow Depot - [4/17/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry

BNSF 6073 East at Dusk - [4/17/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry

Amtrak Winslow, Arizona Postcard - [4/17/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry

During our visit the Amtrak depot is still in use twice a day. There are plans underway to convert the building, which is owned by the La Posada Hotel, into a museum. This would cause the stations functions of being an Amtrak facility to move to the La Posada Hotel proper. A new gate, fitting of such a role, is currently being hand-crafted and assembled to welcome passengers from the Amtrak service to the hotel. Based on what Allan and his team have done with the La Posada Hotel renovation and reopening, I am confident that the new museum will be fantastic and I hope to be there for it’s grand opening.

Southwest Chief Route Map - Click to view larger version.

Amtrak Service at Winslow, AZ - [4/17/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry

Eventually the Loram crew were given the rights they needed to occupy Track 4 and perform their work of grinding the rails. I set-up my tripod and prepared for their run. This was the moment I waited for. As she came by I snapped photo after photo.

When I left the tracks and got back to the room I uploaded the images onto my Mac. I was a tad bit disappointed. I had underestimated the speed the grinder would make as it went by and the result, see below, is blurrier than I had hoped for. However, it was fun to see firsthand and you can clearly see the shower of sparks produced by the train’s effort. (Sorry folks — I am still learning this thing they call photography…) ;-)

RailGrinding Train at the La Posada Hotel - [4/17/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry

In my next post I’ll cover Day 2 of our trip as I “chased” at the La Posada Hotel all day.


Bonus Content - What is rail grinding all about?

As I began to write this post I wondered what the benefits of a rail grinder were so I did a little digging. Here are some of the key benefits of rail grinding as extolled on the Loram Maintenance of Way web site as well as a link to a rather progressive advertisement for their new RG400 series of rail grinders:

Loram’s “There’s a Better Way to Rail Grind” ad.


  • Extended rail life
  • Fuel savings
  • Reduced surfacing cycles
  • Extended track component life
  • Reduced wear on rolling stock
  • Increased axle loads
  • Increased train speeds
  • Improved ride quality and passenger comfort


The next best thing to being there and seeing this activity in person is watching a video of a rail grinder in action at night. Here is a good one from Shemanta’s YouTube Channel:

Great video of a rail grinding train at work at night. Shot at MP 116 on the Norfolk Southern’s Pittsburgh Line by Shermanta.


Our Best Trip Ever - Part 4 - A Railfan Oasis, The La Posada Hotel

(Continued from: Our Best Trip Ever - Part 3 - The Run East Continues)

Day 1 (Continued)

La Posada Hotel Background

There are some, but not many, places that offer a spectacular railroad viewing opportunity coupled with truly refreshing and luxurious accommodations track side. Our favorite, to date, is located in Winslow, Arizona and it is truly an oasis for railfans and travelers alike. It is the La Posada Hotel , a National Historic Landmark, and billed as “Arizona’s grandest estate.

The La Posada Hotel’s historic and notable story begins back in 1901, when the Fred Harvey Company, of the famous Harvey Houses, offered the job of decorating the Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to an aspiring interior designer Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter.

Mary Jane Colter, an American architect.Eventually she began working full-time for the Fred Harvey Company in 1910 and remained in their employ for the next 30 years. In her career she designed many notable lodges and hotels - many of which are located in or near the rim of the Grand Canyon including the Phantom Ranch, Hopi House, Hermit’s Rest, Lookout Studio, Bright Angel Lodge, and the Desert View Watchtower.

As part of the landmark collaboration between the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railrway Company and the Fred Harvey Company, she designed and decorated the La Posada Hotel in 1929. She had a part in every design aspect of the project right down to the china and the modified Harvey Girls uniforms.

The hotel remained in service with the Santa Fe Railway until it closed in 1957. For the next 34 years the property was used as the headquarters of the Santa Fe Railway’s Arizona operations with Colter’s charm and character hidden behind false walls and vinyl flooring. In 1994, with the risk of demolition looming, Allan Affeldt, a self-taught architect and a man with tremendous vision, purchased the property from the railroad — saving this piece of history from certain doom.

Allan Affeldt’s vision was to restore the La Posada’s grandeur to what Mary Colter had created and open the hotel once again despite his lack of hotelier skills. So in 1997, Allan and his wife, artist Tina Mion, moved in to the La Posada Hotel and began their over $12 million restoration effort. No one, not even the Winslow City Council had faith that the effort would ever be completed. Fortunately, they were wrong. Thanks to the tireless dedication of Allan and his team the La Posada Hotel has reopened replete with Mary Colter’s original vision and feel, and, just like Mary Colter, and with selfish interests duly noted, I consider her La Posada Hotel her masterpiece — and today it is also Allan Affeldt’s masterpiece.

La Posada Hotel Postcard - © Copyright 2011, Debra Parra

La Posada Hotel Gardens Postcard - © Copyright 2011, Debra Parra

Check-In Time

Perhaps not unlike train travelers of years past, just under twenty-four hours after we left our modest abode in Ontario, California, we checked-in at the La Posada Hotel. Once we had keys in hand, we headed out to the truck to gather our luggage and cherished belongings because for the next two days we were to figuratively bathe in luxury and, literally, an in-room jacuzzi tub!

Once we reached our impeccable room the grit and grime of a full day’s travel and chase became apparent. After I got my items situated, as I need to be organized, and while Deb slumbered on the bed, I took a shower, all the while eager to watch the night’s train activity on BNSF’s vaunted transcon from less than a stone’s throw away from the hotel.

Check-Out Time

No, we weren’t scheduled to check-out of the hotel for two more days, rather I am talking about checking out the hotel. Once showered, and after bidding Deb a brief farewell as she rested, I armed myself with my camera and made my way towards the lobby for a few interior shots of the beautifully restored and appointed hotel.

The following two shots give a glimpse into the spectacular furnishings and accoutrements of the public areas of the La Posada Hotel:

La Posada Hotel Ballroom - The Ballroom of the gorgeous La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona.
[4/17/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry

La Posada Hotel Cinderblock Court - The Cinderblock Court of the gorgeous La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona.
[4/17/2011 - Seligman Subdivision] © Copyright 2011, Joe Perry
As I went outside to have a smoke and check on the train action I saw something novel and unique. I ran to the truck to grab my tripod to try to get clean photos of the something that should make for a killer image.

In the next post I’ll show you shots from the grounds around the La Posada Hotel.