Amtrak Cascades train 509 has a clear indication on the cantilever signal at Vader, WA on a beautiful September evening. 509 was the last of 14 trains passing this spot in a 4 hour period on September 12th 2013.
Some of the best weather we have in the Pacific Northwest happens in September. The sun starts down after 7pm but with the warm days the temperatures are still comfortable enough to be outside after sunset. Early September usually remains dry so the skies are clear and the bugs are few. All this adds up to some great September nights outside!
For the last week I’ve been on a railfan vacation in New Mexico and Arizona. I landed in Albuquerque and drove west with my friends to visit places along the Transcon, visit the Apache Railway, visit the Copper Basin Railway, visit the Escalante & Western, and somewhat unintentionally visit the Arizona and Eastern. Here’s some of the vital statistics from the trip:
- 453 DSLR photos
- 32 iPhone photos
- 1801 miles driven
- A few scratches on the skin
- 24.2 MPG in a 2013 Escape
- 2 liability releases
- 2200 flight miles
- a few new friends
These stats don’t necessarily convey the complete experience we had on this trip so over time I will share some of my images along with my thoughts about what I saw.
On the first day we made a quick trip into Belen then proceeded west to Dalies and on to Rio Puerco where we captured an eastbound stack train just as the sun began to set. Despite the appearance, this train is descending a long grade from the continental divide nearly 100 miles to the west near Gonzales, NM. The location is 2178 feet less than the 7227 foot crest. The elevations in this part of New Mexico and Arizona are amazing!
One of the big reasons to travel to Eastern Washington in June is the sun. June tends to be cloudy and gloomy west of the mountains but east the sun is usually out this time of year. Add in the fact this spring was historically cool and damp and there is a great motivation to head into the scab lands for some trains in June.
On Friday of the trip we experienced some of the best sun all year. As we sat at Beatrice and let the trains come to us the sun, clouds, and sky conspired to form an almost a painted scene. Thanks to the cool, wet spring the wheat was still green and lush making what looks like a green carpet. A great location to photograph one of the many manifests headed to Pasco for classification.
Eastern Washington is also a wonderful place for sunsets. With no trees blocking the horizon it is easy to enjoy the very last moments the sun appears above the earth. Add in a few of the leftover clouds from the day and it can be a wonderful scene. We sat at Keystone from the late afternoon and into the evening enjoying wonderful train traffic and a great sunset!
It is mud season in central Montana now. With snow down to the valley floor in early May followed by warm temperatures streams are running high and low spots are collecting water and turning to mud. It’s a good thing there’s lots of mud to go around because Central Montana Rail and BNSF seem to enjoy rolling in it. Read this article by James Woodburn, a Geraldine-area producer who serves on the Central Montana Rail board of directors, and see what I mean.
Let’s hope mud season is short and everyone can get back to business soon.