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

Entries from October 24, 2010 - October 30, 2010


BNSF Celebrates the 125th Anniversary of Railroad Service Over Cajon Pass

125th Anniversary of Cajon Pass Celebration Event Poster
Creative Commons 2010, Joe Perry/ChasingSteel.com. Some rights reserved. (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Rail service through the Cajon Pass is turning 125 years old on November 9, 2010 and the BNSF Railway and the San Bernardino History & RR Museum are throwing a party to commemorate this historic occasion on Saturday, November 13, 2010, and you’re invited!

To get in the spirit of the event, I created the poster above as a salute to all of the men and women who persevered and conquered the pass by rail and to those who operate the trains and maintain the line today. I get a lot of enjoyment out of watching the trains struggle up and down the pass and try to visit it regularly.

This event should prove to be a great one because there will be locomotives on display and a bus tour of  BNSF’s San Bernardino Intermodal Facility, two things you normally don’t get to do everyday. Of course there will be the standard fair of food and music, balloons and face painting for the kids, and plenty of rail-centric information and vendors available.

I plan on attending and I encourage you to as well.  Help celebrate the past and the future of America, San Bernardino, and the BNSF railway in style.

Santa Fe’s California Limited at the summit of Cajon Pass.
Image from Bandini, Helen Elliot (1908). History of California. Project Gutenberg etext number 7778.


An Idea Fueled With Passion Comes to Fruition in Stunning Fashion

Ah, rail-related daydreams, if you will, are part of the railfanning process I suspect. For me it was winning the lottery and buying the Loop Ranch, at the heart of the famed Tehachapi Loop near Keene, California, and opening a bed-and-breakfast for railfans from all over the world to enjoy. To date, that dream has not been realized. Perhaps it might, someday, if I play the lottery. (NOTE TO SELF: Buy a lottery ticket.)

How many times have we all passed a house, predominately in a rural community, and seen some railcar or two on the property perhaps serving as tool shed or a clubhouse? How about a caboose spending it’s final days as someone’s story waiting to be told? I think most railfans have dreamt, at one time or another, about acquiring a cool piece of rolling stock and doing something special with it. 

Photo used by permission. Copyright Tom Lambrecht/Bill ChristopherBack in February of 2010, I made a blog post about just such an effort. However, rather than a boxcar, a reefer, or even a caboose, a couple acquired a locomotive, restored it and then successfully converted it into a beautiful and amazing lodge! (You don’t see too many of those across the country!)

The couple, Jamie and Tom Lambrecht, have a shared passion for locomotives, which helps tremendously, I imagine, when you come home and tell your spouse, “I want to make a lodge out of a locomotive.”

The amazing story of the GN 441’s rebirth with fascinating details and photos every step of the wayWhen I recently revisited the GN441.com website, I was excited to see that there were several posts detailing the story of how the GN 441 came to be.

As I began to read the posts I became immersed in the challenges and struggles of realizing one’s rail restoration dream. The posts are extremely detailed and provide plenty of useful and interesting information.

Along with the superb written account there are many great photographs taken during each step of the way that afford the reader an inside look at locomotive construction in general and the various elements of the restoration process. I particularly enjoyed the section that show the shipment of the GN 441 from RELCO Locomotives, Inc. in Albia, Iowa, where the GN 441 was renovated, to Essex, Montana. There are some great photos showing the GN 441, in consist, at many cool locations along the way. I bet that was some trip in and of itself! (Talk about Chasing Steel!)

The story doesn’t end when the locomotive is restored and placed in it’s final location at the Izaak Walton Inn in Glacier National Park. Rather, that’s when Jamie steps-in and takes over the project to create an amazing interior that even the Great Northern would be proud of.

I encourage everyone to check out their story and once you read the posts, I think, that you too will appreciate all of the attention-to-detail and historical accuracy, where possible, that the Lambrechts paid to the entire undertaking.

I take my hat off to the Lambrechts and proclaim a “Job well done!” I am grateful that they had the vision, the fortitude to see it realized, and the resources to make it happen. Thanks to Jamie and Tom, there is a fine “warrior of the rails” for all to enjoy in a majestic place with a killer view of the tracks for a long time to come.


Toying Around with Hyper-Real HDR

On Labor Day this year I went out shooting. I opted to stay locally, near Ontario, California, and see what I could find since I usually head out for a few days into the remoteness of the Mojave Desert when I get the chance. After I left the Pomona, California area I headed towards Union Pacific’s large classification yard at West Colton, California.

I set-up on the Pepper Avenue Overcrossing, which was my first time at that location, late in the day. I proceeded to take shots into the night and didn’t get hassled once - which was nice. The Pepper Avenue vantage point affords good views of the depature yard and arrivals of trains from points north via the Mojave Subdivision and points east via the Yuma Subdivision.

View Larger Map

In addition, the area immediately adjacent to the Union Pacific property is the Colton, California GATX full-service center, one of many locations where GATX maintains it’s fleet of railcars. On the GATX property, behind a building, is a small stub yard. On one of the tracks in this yard are two old locomotives that appear to be bidding their time until a final disposition is determined.

As I viewed the scene of the GATX complex, I like the way the light fell upon the locomotives and nearby tank cars so I took a series of shots. While I was post-processing the series of images into an HDR image, I felt that these shots, in particular, were a perfect opportunity for me to get uncomfortable and push the envelope with respect to realism.

Normally I prefer to create HDR images that tend to look more like traditional photographs but these photos lent themselves to more tweaking particularily due to the industrial scene and the apparent age of the equipment. I offer the following shots as a first attempt at pushing an HDR image to a hyper-real HDR image:

GATX 46704 at Colton, CA 1
[9/6/2010 - GATX Facility, Colton, CA] © Copyright 2010 Joe Perry.
GATX 46704 at Colton, CA 2
[9/6/2010 - GATX Facility, Colton, CA] © Copyright 2010 Joe Perry.