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

Entries from June 6, 2010 - June 12, 2010


The Memorial Day Weekend Mega Tour - Part 1

I didn’t plan to do what I did. I mean, I did have plans to spend two or three days of the Memorial Day weekend out trackside, camping in my rig and taking in the serenity of the Mojave National Preserve and, of course, trains, but it didn’t work out that way. It turned into “the mega tour.”

I had spent most of the week prior getting everything in order for the trip. I had the truck serviced and a part replaced that had broken on my last trip to Cajon Pass. The truck and camper both got a bath and I sanitized the fresh water tank and throughly cleaned the inside of the camper. Hell, I even used Carpet Fresh.

Finally, the rig was set so I sat down to finalize the route and get a rough idea of what I wanted to see and where I wanted to go. The rough plan was to go chase Union Pacific’s Cima Subdivision from north the area of Afton Canyon to the Nevada border.

I have not spent much time along the Cima Subdivision, in part because it is not the most accessible of subdivisions to chase. A good portion of the route is far from paved roads and runs right through the middle of the Mojave National Preserve. Now that I have a truck capable of making the trek on unpaved and unimproved roads, I felt up to the challenge. This was going to be the trip to really see the Cima Subdivision. My anticipation grew all week as I counted the days until Saturday.

Being a three-day weekend coupled with my route requiring me to take Interstate 15 towards Las Vegas, Nevada, I knew better than to try and leave on Friday night. For the uninitiated, the road to Vegas most weekends, let alone on a three-day weekend, is miserable - certainly no way to start a relaxing trip. Consequently I opted to leave before sunrise Saturday morning.

After far too few hours of sleep it was time for me to depart. I bid my family farwell and set off on an 85 mile detour because I forgot a key element of my navigation/tracking device at my office in downtown LA. Not what I wanted to do but necessary to let folks at home know my position as I made the solo trip.

Having retrieved the missing element I headed east, bound for my first stop which was Daggett, California. Daggett is the jumping off point for the Union Pacific Railroad which uses the BNSF tracks to ascend Cajon Pass and reach its home rails again at Daggett en route to Las Vegas.

I arrived later than I had hope as the sun had already risen but a quick look at the signals showed that the BNSF dispatcher had cleared the route for an eastbound UP train through the interlocking complex at Daggett. It arrived on the scene promptly thereafter and was a doublestack train:

Returning to Home Rails - UP 7416 (GE C45ACCTE), UP 5188 (EMD SD70M), UP 4500 (EMD SD70M) are on the point of this eastbound intermodal consist as it returns to home rails at Daggett, CA after making the run over Cajon Pass on BNSF trackage. [5/29/2010 - Los Angeles Subdivision]

Moments later, an eastbound BNSF stack train came into view and held short of the signal. A wait of a few more minutes provided the answer to the reason why. The dispatcher had apparently planned to run another, higher priority train to run around the BNSF train:

Powered to Go - (Above and below) BNSF 1036 (GE DASH9-44CW), leads 7 more units - BNSF 5469 (GE DASH9-44CW), BNSF 5138 (GE DASH9-44CW), BNSF 4804 (GE DASH9-44CW), BNSF 4742 (GE DASH9-44CW), BNSF 4778 (GE DASH9-44CW), KCS 4009 (EMD SD70ACe), and BNSF 4655 (GE DASH9-44CW), as they overtake another eastbound intermodal at Daggett, CA. [5/29/2010 - Needles Subdivision] 


BNSF was putting on quite a show, as always, but this trip was all about the Cima Subdivision. I packed up my gear as I quelled my desire to head east. I put the truck in drive and turned right on Daggett-Yermo Road bound for Yermo and adventures unknown…