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

Entries from July 18, 2010 - July 24, 2010


Sunrise East of Cadiz, CA

When out chasing along BNSF’s Needles Subdivision, as a matter of survival, well at least comfort, I prefer to shoot photos when the sun in lower in the sky, say about within 15 degrees of the horizon or so, that occurs at sunrise and sunset. In part to overcome the harsher summer light but also because it is much cooler!

Here are a four photos from a recent outing to the Needles Subdivision near East Cadiz, California:

Cadiz Sunrise 1 [6/13/2010 - Needles Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

Ship Mountains Sunrise [6/13/2010 - Needles Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

A New Day [6/13/2010 - Needles Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

BNSF 7538 East 3 BNSF 7538 (GE ESS44DC), BNSF 5213 (GE DASH 9-44CW), and BNSF 7423 (GE ES44DC), hold the point assignment on this eastbound intermodal consist flying towards West Danby, CA. [6/13/2010 - Needles Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry


Sepia is for Summer

Along with the intense heat, the summer season along the BNSF’s Needles Subdivision, deep in the heart of the Mojave Desert, brings harsh lighting conditions due to the sun’s higher trajectory through the sky. The higher sun tends to wash out color and creates photos with harsh tonal qualities.

Sometimes a sepia treatment of a photo keeps it from going to bit bucket or the discard pile and gives the photos an “old school, summer” look all its own:

[6/13/2010 - Needles Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

Dawn Rails [6/13/2010 - Needles Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

BNSF 4979 East 2 BNSF 4979 (GE DASH 9-44CW), BNSF 4968 (GE DASH 9-44CW), and BNSF 4164 (GE DASH 9-44CW), have the road power duties for this mixed manifest train approaching old Siam, CA. [6/13/2010 - Needles Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry


Review: Pentrex's "Doublestacks over Donner"

One of Pentrex’s latest releases, Doublestacks over Donner.

Back in May, when I ordered the “At the Throttle Cab Ride Volume 5 - The Surfline” from Pentrex, I also ordered their latest release, at the time, Doublestacks over Donner.

Donner Pass has always been one of my favorite locations for vacations with the family. The area is steeped in history and offers a myriad of outdoor activities to do and breathtaking vistas to behold.

For the railfan, Donner Pass is one of the premier locations due to the arduous climb that trains must make through tunnel and snow sheds to conquer the pass. This route dates back to the original transcontinental route that the Central Pacific Railroad completed in the late 1860’s to meet up with the Union Pacific Railroad at Promontory, Utah on May 10, 1869.

Considering most of the line was built back in the 1860’s, many of the tunnels can no longer accommodate the longer and larger containers that are part of today’s international transportation system. As such, this line saw a marked decrease in traffic with many of the doublestack trains being rerouted through the longer, yet less-restrictive, Feather River Canyon route.

Through the years of mergers and acquisitions, this line eventually became part the Union Pacific Railroad and remains a core east-west corridor for the Union Pacific Railroad today. As such, UP decided it was profitable to increase the tunnel clearances on Donner Pass to accommodate the new doublestacks and shorten the distance for trains heading over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. So in 2008, UP began modifying the tunnel portals and linings accordingly.

This video documents the renewed life that the line over Donner Pass is experiencing thanks to Union Pacific’s work in the tunnels. I couldn’t be happier. There’s little that rivals seeing Theodore Judah’s dream of a railroad over the Sierras come true with a nearly 2-mile long doublestack train clawing at the grade! But I digress…

The video presents the glory and splendor of the Donner Pass region unlike any other video I’ve seen in recent memory. The video quality and post-production work is good and the 16x9 format lends itself nicely to wide vistas and spectacle that is Donner Pass. The piece is well written and the narration is spot on. A nice surprise of the DVD is the little bits of historical and operational datum that the narration provides. 

If I could be critical of one aspect of the production, it would be the maps displayed in the video. They are just not on par with all of the other aspects this gem. A rework of the maps, with more details and a fresh look, would have completed this effort perfectly.

However, this is one of my favorite videos from any railfan video publisher. I highly recommend it. A job well done Pentrex, it is truly fun to watch. I will watch it often until I can get back to Donner personally.

My Rating:  A+

2 Hours
In Color with Stereo Sound and Narration
Presented in High Definition 16x9 Format
ISBN: 1-56342-295-6
UPC: 7-48268-00578-7