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

Entries from January 3, 2010 - January 9, 2010


Chance of a Lifetime!

After our recent jaunt out to the furthest reaches of the Needles Subdivision, I spent the next two days refitting and refueling our rig, doing some anaylsis and post-processing of the photos from that trip.  I eagerly looked forward to spending the last four days of my vacation doing mostly nothing except getting caught up on the NHL games spilling out of my DVR and reading some.

Tonight I made the mistake of, or had the good fortune of, learning that the Union Pacific was running a HUGE test train (IDILBF-08) from Dallas, TX to Long Beach, CA (The outcome and net result remains to be seen).  It sounded intriguing so I took a closer look at the schedule and routing of the train.

Holy smokes!  The train is currently scheduled to leave Yuma, AZ around 5:00 AM tomorrow morning bound for Long Beach, CA over the Yuma Subdivision.  The details of the train are staggering!  295 Loads, 0 Empties, 15,498 Tons, and 18,061 Feet!  That’s over 3.4 miles long!

In the 30+ years that I have been chasing steel I have NEVER seen a train that long.  This I have to see firsthand.  I have since broken out the timetables, maps, and assorted planning tools to see what I can do.  Turns out I can chase this train and we should get good light throughout the run from Yuma.

“Deb,” I yelled to my wife, “pack up again.  We are heading back out!”  

“Whaaatt?” She exclaimed.  I explained the significance of the opportunity and she is now fully on board.  I am going to pack up the rig and head out as soon as I can.  I hope we have good luck and get the shots that we want.

See ya!  Yuma-bound!  More to follow…


Finally, The Needles Subdivision Again!

Well the holidays finally came and went.  As is typically the case for larger family gatherings, we were the hosts for the holiday activities again this year.  As such, the requisite holiday shopping and decorations coupled with preparing the home for the eventual army of family members consumed the entire first week of my year-ending two week vacation.

Now that the holidays were over and all the “joy” was behind us, my wife and I set out on one of our adventures to seek the peace and quiet of heavy tonnage and 25,000+ horsepower rumbling by at nearly 70 MPH amidst vast open desert landscapes and arduous grades that only the BNSF’s Needles Subdivision could provide.  (OK, I guess the UP’s Yuma Subdivision technically qualifies as well but it just doesn’t have the traffic density that I prefer).

The first night out we found a quiet patch of hillside upon which we planted our rig, and called it “home,” near Cadiz, CA.  The light was already gone at this point so photography was out of the question but we did enjoy witnessing the exchanging of cars between the BNSF and the Arizona & California Railroad which takes place at Cadiz six nights (at least in the winter months) a week.

Day two was all about finding “the spot.”  The spot is the place that I think would be good to camp at and just take photos morning to night for a day or two.  (As I am getting up in age my health seems to go down the other way so I am not as mobile when I railfan as I once was.  Go figure!)  I planned on the area near Ibis, CA for this trip.  As we drove around the area of Ibis, CA and looked for a good location that had the right lighting and was publicly accessible, I just wasn’t feeling it.  We continued on down the road.

Ultimately, we found a cool site that I liked at the southern end of the Dead Mountains range with the railroad name of Java, CA.  At this location the railroad line curves away from Needles and heads towards Klinefelter, CA.  The dogs seemed to enjoy the area as well.  We parked our rig and shot photos throughout the day and most of the next day.

BNSF 796 (GE DASH9-44CW), BNSF 8715 (EMD GP60), BNSF 4915 (GE DASH9-44CW), BNSF 4461 (GE DASH9-44CW), and BNSF 4198 (GE DASH9-44CW) lean into a sharp curve near Klinefelter, CA with an eastbound manifest in tow.Day three found us leaving the hamlet of Java and headed back west.  I had always wanted to fully explore the area around Klondike, CA (Ash Hill) and today I was going to make sure I did.  Near East Ash Hill, CA we found a easily-accessed public plot of land with considerable photographic potential and great winter lighting.  We took more photos.

Due to unforeseen issues at the Rancho de Perry, we had to cut our trip short and head home.  We stopped for the sunset, which was AMAZING, near Lavic, CA and then headed home with good memories and some good shots.

I uploaded some of the photos to my portfolio.  Let me know what you think of the effort.