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

Entries in Operation Lifesaver (5)


Photos From "Cajon Day": Part 1

I have begun the effort of post-processing the mass of photos that I took on November, 13, 2010 at BNSF and the San Bernardino History & Railroad Museum’s celebration of the 125th anniversary of train service through Cajon Pass.

Here are the first shots I took that day which began for me just prior to dawn:

San Bernardino Depot Before Dawn - A quiet shot of the San Bernardino Depot on the monring of the 125th Anniversary of Cajon Pass Celebration.
[11/13/2010 - Cajon Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

Sunrise Over the Depot - A view of the sunrise over the San Bernardino Depot on the monring of the 125th Anniversary of Cajon Pass Celebration.
[11/13/2010 - Cajon Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

BNSF 7350 at the San Bernardino Depot - A few hours from now the BNSF 7350 (GE ESS44DC) will be available for the public to get an up close and personal view of this BNSF workhorse as part of the 125th Anniversary of Cajon Pass Celebration at the San Bernardino Depot.
[11/13/2010 - Cajon Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry


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.

Page 1 2