Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Day 25 - Last day and return home.

Today is our last day in the USA. Checkout isn't until 11am so a couple have high tailed it down to the platform at Fullerton to get those last minute photos and video shots.

My tripod is now kaput and won't be coming home with me so no more videos.

First thing to do is to drop off Lloyd Cross at LAX as he has a connecting flight to Mississippi to visit family before he goes home.

We'll then most likely return to Fullerton to kill some time before returning the vehicles. I've been quite happy to not be driving for a few days - the LA freeways are a nightmare, not a problem if you use them every day, but for a first timer they can be a bit of a concern.

We don't depart LAX until about 10 tonight. All night flight and arrive in Auckland around 6:00 am. I have about 2 hours before I connect with my flight to Palmerston North. If I miss it I won't be concerned, at least I'll be in the right country. It's currently Wednesday morning here and the flight back home will result in us not ever seeing Thursday as we land friday Morning.

It'll take a few weeks to settle down and analyse the trip and sort out the good from the bad, sort through all the video footage and photos.

Not looking forward to going back to work on Monday.

Day 24 - Day trip to San Diego

Today we took the Pacific Surfliner from Fullerton to San Diego, a 2 hour trip along the the Pacific coast. Once there we all (7 of us) visited the USS Midway museum. Some spent more time there than others.

My little group then jumped in a cab which took us to Balboa Park and the Model Railroad Museum. None of us were disappointed in what we discovered there. One lasting impression is the HO scale layout of the entire Tehachapi loop and surrounding areas, a layout that spans three levels and is still under construction. To see in scale form the areas we'd visited only weeks before was quite surreal.

Returning to the Santa Fe depot we discovered that our train was going to be 15 minutes late getting in, which stretched out to 20 minutes. The loco needed fuelling and this made us 40 minutes late in departing, and since we weren't on schedule, we had to wait while other trains went past before we could stop at stations - finally getting to Fullerton 1 hour late.
This didn't really bother us but quite a few on the train were catching it to go to a Baseball game at Anaheim and they were getting roudy.

Overall, it was a good relaxing day out with no excessive walking and no burden of driving.

No piccies worth posting, just more aircraft stuff from the flight deck of the Midway.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Day 23 - LA etc.

Once again, it appears that this railfan tour is turning into a sightseeing trip and many of the group are choosing to ignore the itinerary and just do what they want - so I tagged along and went into LA with the crowd to see what they were going to see. We were supposed to go to Oceanside today, photograph the freights and passenger expresses and have dinner on the beach.....after walking up and down the length of LA Union Station three times feeling like a lost lamb and looking the part as well,  I rapidly lost interest in this wild goose chase and jumped on a random Metro as I had 2 hours to kill before I could get back to Fullerton.

As luck would have it, those of the group that wanted to see trains were on the same Metro and we all ended up at McDonalds in East LA. I do believe Cheech & Chong did a rendition of Bruce Springtseen's "Born in the USA" called "Born in East LA" and this tune came into my head and stayed there for most of the day "..this ain't no Datsun it's a Chevrolet, cruise all day...."

Anyway, my train was due to depart at 12:45 and time was pressing, but I didn't know it at the time.

Our little group boarded the Metro again and the others got off a few stations down and I continued on to Union Station where I walked down and up the steps to the correct platform, found my train, sat down and the doors immediately closed and we departed - I'd just made it in time. I videoed the entire journey to Fullerton for memories sake then hung around Fullerton for a bit to get some photos.

The others are now drifting back and filling me in with stories of big ships, submarines and riding in the underground.

What railfan tour ?

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Day 22 - Exploration of LA/Fullerton

Everyone appears to be in "do as you please mode" as we near the end of the trip and the itinerary is thrown out the window.

I spent all day on the Fullerton platforms and netted over 30 video shots. The others got a $10 Metrolink pass and rode the trains most of the day.

Many amusing stories to report, none worth repeating here.

No photos sorry.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Day 21 - San Bernardino to Fullerton

Fullerton is the last stopover before we come home. Hard to think that 3.5 weeks ago we were getting into San Francisco - where has the time gone ? We spend 4 nights here.

Today we re-visited the lower slopes of Cajon Pass and discovered some great places to film and photograph trains. We had another run in with Mr. no neck security guard who told us to get back behind a gate, which was cool as I didn't like filming there anyway and we went separate ways. The 'B' team told us of a good place they found and we told them where to find McDonalds.

Whilst the 'B' team filled their bellies, we went to a place called the Blue Cut on Cajon Boulevard. Up until then, traffic had been pretty slow but steady, nothing amazing. We sat at the Blue Cut for about 15 minutes and then all hell broke loose:

I was getting ready to film a train from the right, and when I turned left to tell my team mates about it, they were frantically trying to get my attention and tell me about two coming from the left.  It was a triple track line  - so no worries about collisions. What we did witness was a pretty rare feat - the train on the far line was well ahead of the train on the middle line which were approaching from the left, but by the time the locos were directly opposite me, the middle line train had caught up and was overtaking. At the same time, the one from the right came around the corner on the near track, and all three trains met at almost the exact same spot right in front of me - I got the whole lot on video and still managed to snap off a few stills. The other team were sooooooooo jealous !

We hung around for a few more then decided to head off, losing the other team again who were feeling a bit tired and were in need of a nap.

We went to the construction site of the new Colton Flyover which is still under construction, then went to a bridge that went over the far eastern end of Colton Yard. Some local had told the other group that Colton Yard was dead with nothing happening. I couldn't drag my guys away it was that busy with locals, switch jobs and main line arrivals and departures. This resulted in us being too late to visit other locations, and also meant that I had to take the most direct route to the hotel - along the San Bernardino and Orange Freeways - which in one place was 7 lanes wide - all doing 70 mph. Insane.

Dinner at the cafe on the platform at Fullerton watching the trains go by.

Awesome day.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Day 20 - Day trip to Salton Sea

Today we traced the tracks of the Yuma Subdivision of the Union Pacific and went as far south as Salton Sea. The day dawned overcast, foggy and there were a few spots of rain in the air.

At Palm Springs we broke through the mist into clear skies, however the wind made things rather uncomfortable.

By Indio the temperature was hovering around 32 degrees C and almost dead calm - it was hot and dry. At Salton Sea there was a mild breeze making the 33 degree temp a little bit more bearable.

The history behind Salton Sea and how it accidentally came into being is interesting. Google it.

My good fortune of finding trains kicked in immediately and as soon as we stopped at Loma Linda a south bound turned up, which we followed and last saw at Palm Springs, capturing it and seeing a few others along the way.

Roadside lunch near Mecca and a short 30 minute stop at Salton Sea before heading back to San Bernardino.

Tomorrow we depart for Fullerton, being the last stopover before returning home.

"Mr Frog, meet Mr Pelican. You two should get on like a house on fire.... oh, you're eating him."

Palm Springs wind farm. They go on for ever.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Day 19 - Cajon Pass

What can you say about Cajon Pass - a railfan's Mecca ? Quite possibly. As the sun moves around so does the best place to take photos.

We took off and the "B" team decided that they hadn't got enough of Frost so spent the morning there - I stuck with my plan and went straight to Cajon Pass with the first stop off being the Mormon Rocks - probably the most photographed rocks in California. Their smooth appearance and the acute angle they appear at is something quite extraordinary. Putting a train in the foreground sets the scene.

We then relocated to Hill 582, entering our names in the visitors book and admiring the handiwork of railfans and their attempts at landscaping this prominent geographical feature. Some trains went past as well. We caught up with the B team here and they entertained us with their tails of confronting their first rattlesnake, which was sunbathing in the middle of the road. We countered their story with our story of running into a private security guard who reminded us to purchase a day pass permit - which we did. $5 for the permit or $100 fine - no brainer really.

We all then relocated to the top of Summit where you could look down on the triple tracks. Good photo spot but shocking for video - lots of vehicle noises and people pulling over to have a look and then exercising their jaw muscles in conjunction with their voice boxes. Funnily enough, it was other foreigners that felt obliged to ruin my soundtrack.

Dinner at a local Chinese diner, a chat with the local CHiPs and settle in time.

Piccies below.

Mormon Rocks, Cajon, Ca.

53 foot domestic container on top of a standard 40 footer. Big, isn't it ?

Looking beautiful in blue...

One of the curves from Hill 582

The triple tracks at Summit and the fourth track further to the left up the hill.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Day 18 - Ludlow to San Bernardino

After three nights of blissful peace and quiet at Ludlow, we once again find ourselves in a big city. Day 18 covers the relatively short drive from Ludlow to San Bernardino - about 3.5 hours driving that once again took us all day.... "ohhh, look at that !".  We drove along Route 66 as much as we could but soon had to resort to using the freeway - jostling for position at 70 mph is an interesting experience, and recent road works got Sally confused and she sent me on a wild goose chase in the wrong direction. Luckily we knew where we should have been and ended up at the motel a few minutes later.

The drive was uneventful with a large part of the day being spent in the Victorville suburb of Frost, where we could look down onto an area where one set of tracks pass over another.

The check-in process to our motel was the quickest and most painless so far...although we're in an area that is not favoured by the rich and famous.

Nothing exciting to report - yet. Tomorrow we tackle Cajon Pass.

Pics from today:

Day 15 - 17 - Las Vegas to Ludlow

Ludlow didn't have internet, in fact the rooms didn't even have a phone, or a lobby. More on that later.

Day 15 was the day trip from Las Vegas Nevada to Ludlow California via Cima, Kelso and Amboy. The scenery was absolutely stunning, the heat was stifling. This is the heart of the Mojave Desert where yuccas, cactus, and other exotic plants and animals are abound.

We had lunch at Kelso and just as we were ready to give up on seeing anything on the rails, everything started going crazy. The gradient from Kelso to Cima is very steep and I managed to film the same train about 5 times.

We continued south to Amboy where we had a cold soda at Roys Cafe - a lot of history in this place and is very remote. The final drive took us past the Amboy Crater, which I was eyeing with envious eyes as we drove past. Everyone was hot and tired and just wanted to check in and crash.

Ludlow is a very remote town of 2 streets, about 6 houses, two service stations, a Dairy Queen, Cafe and Motel. The motel is administered from one of the gas stations, and the entire town is more or less owned by one person who has declared the area a dry zone - no alcohol. Anyone who knows me will realise that this wouldn't be a problem at all. On top of that, if you present your room key to the attendant at the gas station, you get endless free coffees or pops (coke, sprite etc.). The rooms in the motel are adequate, the water pressure could be referred to as "drip" but it's right on the the BNSF main line and the scenery is something else.

Trains were going through at about one every 20 minutes, averaged out, and there are plenty of locations to film from. A shame we struck another Monday work day and the wind was quite irritating. We ended up spending three nights here and still didn't cover all locations - the distances to drive are quite vast.

This blog then covers Day 15, Day 16 and Day 17, and includes a lot of filming around Ludlow, a trip to the Amboy Crater, a trip to Cadiz to see the interchange of the BNSF with the Arizona & California and their massive SD45 & SD45-2 locos, and a visit to the wye at Siberia.


The signal arm at Ludlow - seeing a green on the right is always a good sign.

A&C 4004 - a rebuilt SD40M-2, which was once an SP SD45

BNSF grinding up the hill at Ludlow

Sunset on the Cadiz Turn - a train from Barstow that meets at Cadiz with the Arizona & California where they swap trains. The A&C goes to Phoenix. The Cadiz turn is currently operated by five B40-8W locos in various paint schemes, including one in Warbonnet BNSF and one in Warbonnet Santa Fe, albeit very faded.

 The view from the Amboy Crater as a BNSF intermodal freight passes by.

This is the real Mojave desert - dust covered rocks with sharp edges and scattered plant life.

The Amboy Crater and its associated lava field - last erupted about 500 years ago. It's a 3 hour climb to get to the top, I opted for the short 5 minute walk to the observation platform....

Four of us were lucky to witness a random meet at Bagdad.

Accelerating out of Amboy.

Passing through Ludlow

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Day 14 - Williams to Las Vegas

I know what you're thinking about me being in Las Vegas, and you'd be totally wrong. I'm in my hotel room writing up my blog, sorting out maps and references for tomorrows leg and doing a load of washing....although I did make time to have a nice salad and some fries for dinner served by young girls in tight orange shorts and white singlets - something to do with owls - I'll figure it out one day... ;-)

Anyway - today I decided that we (as in my vehicle) would stick stringently to the itinerary I'd written up prior to the commencement of the tour. Thankfully the Johnson luck of finding trains kicked in and I filmed 10 trains in total - all before 2 pm. Within 10 minutes of turning up to the new location, something would turn up.

We departed Williams and headed back east to check out a few spots I'd identified on Google Maps and they turned out to be really good. We then returned to Williams to witness the departure of the Grand Canyon Railway train, led by a couple of F40 locos - ex Via I think.

We then headed to Seligman, but this time I stuck to the itinerary and got onto Route 66 on Crookton Road to check out the overpass. Excellent. Further along the road the trains just kept coming and coming. At Seligman I took a break from driving and Greg got us to Crozier Canyon where things seemed to slow down a bit, but we still got a couple.

We then continued onto Kingman where we then swung north and headed towards Las Vegas, stopping off at the Hoover Dam. This place isn't on my bucket list as it's man made, but it's still pretty darned impressive. The heat was pretty intense but we all managed to make the long walk up a gazillion steps to view the dam from the new road bridge.

A quick stop at the Lake Mead info centre for some scenicky photos and it was off to Las Vegas. Sally (we call her that) the GPS Hertz Neverlost told me one thing, and I saw another - and I missed the off ramp to our Motel so had to double back via - oh gawd - Las Vegas Boulevard. That was a driving experience and a half.

Despite my best efforts, Sally got us to the Motel unscathed - just in time to see a guy being arrested and carted off - right on the doorsteps of the main foyer. Great !

Dinner at Hooters, bought some stuff from their store, and I'm back in the Hotel. Personally, I dislike Las Vegas. I get the impression that the general attitude is "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" and being there is an open cheque book for personal behaviour that would not be normally carried out at home. Maybe I just need to spend more time here and take in more of the good side of Vegas.

Other than that, bright lights, big city, lots of people - including a raft of young adults from California on a weekend holiday. I'll be glad to get to the peace and quiet of the Mojave desert again - Ludlow tomorrow and we're there for three days - they're so remote I don't think they have internet - we'll see.


Lots of these little fellas hanging around - he sat still just long enough for me to shoot off this shot. It's a railroad milepost marker.

Some of you will realize the significance of this sign, and how old it is.

The Grand Canyon Railway departing Williams AZ

Mr Hoover's little concreting project. The difference in colour above the waterline shows where the waterline should be - it's 128 feet low.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Day 13 - Flagstaff to Williams

Two items were struck off my bucket list today - a visit to both Meteor Crater and the Grand Canyon. Photos cannot do these places any justice - you have to see them.

The day started off departing Flagstaff and heading east to Meteor Crater. On the way there and back we stopped off at Cosnino Road and at Winona - which the old Santa Fe called Darling. My insistence of calling this place Winona is falling on deaf ears.

The light was good, there was no wind and trains were aplenty - until just before we got back to Flagstaff, where we stumbled across the aftermath of a grade crossing incident - train versus pedestrian. Flagstaff is split by the railroad and having a 2 km long freight blocking every grade crossing in town while the police and fire service sort out the mess can cause traffic mayhem.

We had lunch and due to the muck around, decided to alter the itinerary a bit and drove direct to Williams, from where I took two others up to the Grand Canyon to see it at sunset - stunning is an understatement.

At 6000 feet deep, the Grand Canyon is one big hole in the ground.

BNSF through Winona, AZ

Meteor Crater

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Day 12 - Kingman to Flagstaff

As promised, we returned to Kingman Canyon to make use of the morning light. Only two trains passed through for the hour we were there - something was up. As we departed Kingman we soon discovered the problem - two trains were being held back to allow the UPS hotshot to overtake, thus preventing both tracks from being used until this special train had passed through. On top of that, a loco was having its traction motor being changed out in a siding.

We immediately hit Route 66 where our first stop was the Hackberry General Store where I spent too much money on crap I didn't need.. I did my thing for NZ-US relations - wrote my name on a NZ 5 dollar note, pinned it to the world map and put another pin in the map on top of Feilding.

The second stop was at Crozier Canyon where two trains were filmed. A quick stop at Peach Springs netted two more. Seligman was our lunch stop and this is where we lost the other vehicle - not a problem. We'd finally meet up at the hotel.
We continued on along I40 where Greg took over the driving while I slept - missing out on Williams altogether. Our next stop was on Sherwood Forest Road just short of Flagstaff. We were there for no longer than 10 minutes and saw two trains - one of them having three new ES44C4's on the point, two of them were consecutively numbered.

We shot past Flagstaff and stopped off at Cosnino Road and further along at Winona (Darling). We ended up pacing an intermodal all the way to Winslow, at one stage we were doing 75 mph and not gaining on it. Crazy.

More shots from Winslow - I did manage to stand on a corner in Winslow Arizona, but not the touristy corner.

Back to Flagstaff where re rocked up the same time as the other team.

The Winslow Gap.

Kingman Canyon

Kingman Canyon

Hackberry, AZ

Peach Springs, AZ

Winslow AZ

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Day 11 - Needles to Kingman

We're flying through the tour now, rapidly heading east. Today was only a short drive but there was plenty to do - lots of waiting around, a bit more waiting around, and then some more waiting around.

We headed out of Needles and drove down I40 and got off at Park Moabi. The BNSF cuts through a lot of old mine tailings here and the view from the road is pretty darn good. Alas the scanner revealed that a loco was having compressor problems at Needles and was fouling the main line - no trains for ages. We got a couple though, and also saw a meet on the Topock Bridge across the Colorado River.

A reasonable drive north saw us having lunch at Kingman followed by the entire afternoon at Kingman Canyon. The light was OK, but this place is more suited to morning shots, which we'll get tomorrow.
By the time we got there the backlog of trains was starting to clear with one turning up about every 15 - 20 minutes. Beautiful scenery.

I've rapidly picked up the necessary skills to survive driving in the USA, and tonight I found out that I don't make a very good passenger - finger nail marks in the dash board when one of the others took us to the supermarket.

Not many piccies, but I managed to film 14 trains today.

Northern Class loco on display in Kingman. The drivers are just over 6 feet tall and this beast totally dwarfs anyone who stands beside it.

BNSF intermodal at Park Moabi near Topock

BNSF at Kingman Canyon

BNSF at Kingman Canyon