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

Entries from May 2, 2010 - May 8, 2010


A Day Chasing Steam - The Santa Fe 3751 Heads South with San Diego Steam Special II - Part 3

(Continued from:
A Day Chasing Steam - The Santa Fe 3751 Heads South with San Diego Steam Special II - Part 2)

Our savior, so to speak, declared that he was certain the San Diego Steam Special II would be stopping at “Poinsettia” for servicing which will take about an hour. He also said that the Santa Fe 3751 would be performing a series of run-bys at that location as well!

“Really?” I exclaimed as I gave Dan a raised-brow glance. “Let’s see where Poinsettia is,” I said as I pointed the man towards my truck.

I pulled out two books - one was the PSV’s Comprehensive Railroad Atlas of North America and the other was Delorme’s California Atlas & Gazetter. We walked inside the Del Taco and proceeded to discover where the station called Ponsietta was located compared to where we were.

It turns out that it was about 10 miles south of our present location in Oceanside. The man gathered his family, hurried them outside, packed them in his car and headed south towards Poinsettia.

Dan, meanwhile, had purchased us some food and we soon followed the man and his family south.

I discussed our options with Dan as we negotiated the heavy traffic on the freeway. We both agreed that it would be in our best interest to forego the notion of going to Ponsietta to shoot the run-by and servicing. We reasoned that there would be plenty of people already there waiting and the shots would be littered with people.

Rather, we opted to use the time consumed by the servicing and run-by to locate a nice position in front of train or south of Poinsettia. As we sped south we listened carefully to my radio receiver tuned to the frequency for the railroad channel used in that area. Our new found expectation was validated as the signal strength of the transmissions from Santa Fe 3751 as the engineer called out signal indications became stronger and stronger. We were back in the chase!

Eventually the traffic waned at, you guessed it, Poinsettia Drive. Clearly we made a good decision by continuing further south now that we were once again ahead of the train.

Totally unfamiliar with the territory that we found ourselves navigating through, we exited the freeway at Leucadia Boulevard, two exits further south than Poinsettia, for no other reason than it afforded us more time to find a photogenic location to make our final shot from.

We traveled south on Vulcan Drive and followed the right-of-way. We approached any area where the track entered a sweeping curve that looked promising. For better or worse, we decided to make our last stand here. It turned out to be the Coaster Encinitas Station.

One aspect of chasing in unknown territory is that you could be just a mile from the most perfect spot ever and not even know it. That could be true today as well. I opted to make the best of the location we had found and parked the truck. We gathered our gear and made our way onto the closet platform.

Dan reconnoitered a few other possible locations by walking around a bit. Eventually we stayed where we were. Once in position, video cameras securely mounted to a track side sign post and still camera slung around my neck, we waited.

And we waited.

While we waited some more, we chatted with a few of the other spectators that had also stopped at the Encinitas Station to see the 3751 blow by. The folks were friendly and we all shared information as it became known. All totaled we waited about two hours for the train to arrive.

During this time we were fortunate enough to have several standard trains pass through or make a stop at the station. With each passing train I took several shots to keep an eye on the changing light conditions and get a sense of the location’s track speed.

Here are two shots that I took while we waited:

A Coaster train makes it’s scheduled stop at the Encinitas, CA station while we ait for the 3751 to show up. 

Having been issued a slow order while passing the San Diego Steam Special II at Poinsettia an Amtrak Surfliner gathers speed as she blows through the Coaster Station in Encinitas, CA.

After each train passed I reviewed that shots, (I love digital!), and altered the settings accordingly. I decided that I was pleased with the location and had great lighting when we initially arrived. No, two hours had passed and the lighting had shifted to the other side of the tracks. Being a fan of shadows, I thought it would complement the whiteness of the steam and smoke so we stayed where we were.

Eventually, the radio crackled with the sound of the conductor of the 3751 calling out “Highball 3751!” This meant she was on the move again. About 10 minutes after that we heard the distant rumbling and then a distinct steam whistle sound. “Here she comes!” I shouted.

As the noise became louder, the folks gathered along the platform with us began to cheer. Odd, I thought initially, but now I see how appropriate that was because we each had a story to tell about our own private chase and it became clear that it all was not to be in vane.

The crowd of “fans” that dotted the platform with all of their camera gear and tripods attracted a lot of others who knew nothing that was about to happen. Mostly they were locals who appeared to be living that “carefree existence” typical of the southern California beach scene.

Soon the relative calm of this station, with it’s great view of the ocean and comfort of a cooling on-shore breeze would be tossed askew with the majestic sound of man’s ability to harness the wild. Steam pure and simple.

As she rounded the bend, I took careful aimed and waited as long as I dared. I pressed the shutter:

The Santa Fe 3751 leads the southbound San Diego Steam Special II into a curve in Encinitas, CA on May 1, 2010

I am pleased with the result. I like the blur which contrasts with the sharpness of the rear of the locomotive and accentuates the length nicely. Also the steam and smoke created a shadow as well.

Here is the video of the train’s passing:

In a mere fraction of a fraction of the time it took to arrive, the train was gone - and so was our chase. Dan needed to get home and we had been fortunate enough to get another chance to capture this awesome scene thanks to an unknown man at a Del Taco, so we took our little victories and headed home.

The end.


Truckee Railroad Museum Grand Opening

Most appropriately so a new railroad museum is having its grand opening on National Train Day, May 8, 2010. 

The Truckee Railroad Museum will be opening it’s doors in a town which played an important role in the transcontinental railroad and remains steeped in railroad tradition and lore to this day. So much so, in fact, that I am a little surprised that there is not already a museum in Truckee.

Here is the info from “Truckee Donner Railroad Society” web site:

Truckee Railroad Museum

Grand Opening - May 8, 2010

Truckee Donner Railroad Society has been working on the first implementation of the Truckee Railroad Museum over the past 2 years. It is finally time to open its doors. “This marks a milestone in our efforts to bring a railroad museum to downtown Truckee”, says presenter Don Davis of Truckee. With the support of the Town and many local businesses and residents, the museum is ready to open.

Truckee Railroad Museum is located next to the old railroad station in downtown Truckee. This adds historical significance to the area, as the caboose is from the Southern Pacific Railroad and was used in the area. Paint for the caboose matches the original SP paint scheme. Inside the museum are stories, pictures, recreations, and railroad artifacts depicting the impact of railroads in the formation and development of Truckee. The First Transcontinental Railroad, Logging Railroads, and Tourism by Rail all played an important part in Truckee’s history.

Some of the primary goals of the first phase are:

  • Begin to show the impact of railroads on the Truckee area
  • Bring visitors to the downtown area.
  • Provide a focal point for sharing information and fundraising for the permanent museum.

Opening Day Activities - May 8,2010:

  • 10:00 - Truckee High School Jazz Band
  • 10:10 - Introduction - Bob Bell
  • 10:15 - About the Museum - Nelson Van Gundy
  • 10:25 - Thanks to Contributors - Don Davis
  • 10:35 - Ribbon Cutting with Mayor Carolyn Dee
  • 10:45 - OK Chorale
  • 11:00 to 1:00 - Ongoing activities


10075 Donner Pass Road
Truckee, CA 96161

 Click for larger view.


SECOND CHANCE - See the Santa Fe 3751 Run This Weekend in Southern California

Per the Santa Fe 3751 Facebook page,

Santa Fe 3751 will haul 4 private cars and a Metrolink diesel from San Bernardino to Los Angeles as part of the Railroad Days event in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the city of San Bernardino. For tickets and information call: 909-792-3827.

Here is a map of the route that I put together to assist you in planning your chase:

View Route of the 3751 for May 8-9, 2010 in a larger map