Desert Perspective

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series 2012 New Mexico Adventure

The last day of our desert adventure started off at Grants, NM.  Drew, our tour guide for part of the trip, had another wonderful experience lined up for us.

Every morning the Western Fuels Association’s Escalante Western Railway makes a trek up the Lee Ranch sub to the Lee Ranch mine to load 52 cars of coal for the Escalante Generating station at Prewitt, NM.   This is another scheduled operation so we departed Grants early enough to ensure we were track side by 7:30am when the train was expected to arrive near Ambrosia, NM.  Just like Drew promised (well maybe a few minutes late) the train arrived led by 3 SD40-2s screaming to pull the empties up the 1.5-1.7% grade to the mine.  That’s certainly a sound you don’t hear much these days!  I enjoyed hearing it again for sure.

We hurried up the line a bit to a second photo location and took a last photo of the train before it disappeared into the Lee Ranch Mine complex.  That was it for photos on our trip.  The remainder of the time would be consumed with transit back to Albuquerque and hopping our flights back to the Northwest.

This trip to the desert certainly had its set of unique experiences.  It isn’t often that as railfans we are welcomed in so many places these days.  Certainly this was refreshing and made several days of this trip interesting.  I guess I have to say thanks to the Apache Railway and the Copper Basin Railway for understanding our hobby and making a reasonable accommodation for our interests.  BNSF certainly didn’t treat us badly.  The train crews always seemed to have a big wave but honestly it doesn’t feel a nice as when you are invited in for a tour.

Along the way we made some new friends and shared some adventures with them.  Scott and Mike were a pleasure to hang out with on our day at the Copper Basin.  Dru and Mark were a couple of new/old friends that made our first and last days fun.

In addition I believe our travelling group had a great experience.  I was honored to hang out with such a talented group of people who enjoy creating their images in their own style.  Just look at what a couple of the guys did with the Escalante Western…. Drew, Joel.  You can’t beat that sort of creativity and unique viewpoint when we are all travelling together.  We could all line up at the same spot but we don’t.  We all seek out own perspective and we do it naturally.

Except maybe at the cattle guard on the Apache….


Friends In The Desert

My traveling companions from last year’s desert adventure are back in the desert this week.  Checking in with Robert today they we out around Mojave looking at the UP and chasing the Trona.  What fun.  Hopefully I can get back down there again soon to relive moments like this at Ludlow.  What a beautiful place.

“Mad” Desert View

I really wanted to post a link showing off Mike’s (“Mad Dog”) work from our desert trip but I’m having trouble finding anything.  Ahhh, Mike, did you forget something?  So instead of praising him for the great photos which I saw him set up for I will have to jump directly the incriminating photos with too long captions.   If you want to see some of his photos drop him an email, text, or a phone call to encourage him.

“Mad Dog” Shoots Goffs, CA
Mike, the trains are over here!
The women here really aren’t what you are looking for

Relaxing in the desert
This house sale thing is hard work
“You know maybe Brian’s right I should transfer to the Yellow railroad”

I promise I’ll return to the regular programming now…

‘Cause The Desert Had Turned To Sea

After 5 days in the desert we didn’t let the horse run free but instead we drove from the Needles sub down to UP’s Yuma sub.  The rains we’d experienced the day before certainly had left their mark on the land but in their wake the sky was clear and we were ready to take advantage of the light.  Of course grabbing a photo or two of the remaining ponds, like this one at Wister, was imperative.

Desert Pond

At the south end of the Rogoza siding is a United States Border Patrol inspection station.   Here the westbound trains are inspected for riders in any open or unsecured cars as well as in distributed power units.  Westbounds slow so that the border patrol can inspect both sides then they will stop the train to walk through the DPUs.  These guys seem to mean business so attempting to ride northwest from Yuma appears to be a quick trip back south of the border if you aren’t authorized to be in the U.S.

South of the sensitive area of Rogoza is the much more pleasant location of Wister where the Chocolate mountains form a backdrop for an eastbound auto rack train.

Wister and Chocolate

The Yuma sub from Thermal east to near Yuma is still single track and looks much like it did when the Southern Pacific ran it.  The signals, pole line, and bridges all say SP despite the fact the sign age and trains shout UP. It’s clear from radio conversations that terms like “east siding switch Bertram” have deeper meaning to the employees than the UP designation of “CP SP648”.  As long as the economy remains slow the last vestiges of the SP will hold out but once the economy picks up and the 2nd track goes in, they will be gone.

East Siding Switch Bertram

This is the sunset route.  Clear, sunny days with fabulous sunsets are what it’s about.  As the sun began to set behind the San Bernardino mountains west of the Salton Sea, a westbound manifest entered the Mortmar siding.  With just a car length to spare this westbound crept into the 84 hundred and 83 foot siding for several minutes clearing just as his meet arrived at the west switch.  Good planning or just luck?

The Sunset Route

This post brings to an end my review of my trip through the desert.  I’m hoping everyone enjoyed my views of Southern California and Arizona.  In the future expect to see a few more photos from this trip as I have others that didn’t necessarily fit into the story but I think are compelling.  Oh, for those of you that caught the references in the post titles, the horse did have a name.  Nitro, Dodge, Nitro.

It Felt Good To Be Out Of The Rain…

….at least for a few days.  As I mentioned in previous posts it can rain in the desert just like it does in the Northwest.  On the fourth day of our journey we awoke in Kingman, AZ to a steady drizzle.  Certainly not enough to get really wet but enough to know it was raining.

We first drove east to Walapai, Hackberry, Valentine, and the west end of Crozier Canyon.  Just west of Hackberry we found a nice spot that really shows off the grade that takes the railroad over the northern shoulder of the Peacock Mountains.  Normally the hills in the background would be quite visible but not today.

Hackberry Hill

As the day wore on the rain increased.  After a few wet hours in Kingman Canyon we made our way west to get ahead of a slew of westbounds and hopefully get out of the rain.  No luck on getting out of the rain.  We landed at Saltus to catch the Cadiz local which, as typical, had some interesting power.  First though an eastbound had to blow through the wet desert.  Mmm the smell of creosote bush in the rain is wonderful!


Rain In The Desert

The Cadiz followed the stacker up to Saltus where it stopped to line into the back track.  Out hopped the conductor and brakeman fully dressed in rain gear looking like switchmen in the yard here in Vancouver.  How many times do you see that in the Mojave?


Pickup In The Rain I


Pickup In The Rain II

Ok, enough of the rain.  The purpose of the trip was to be out of the rain not in it.  On to the Salton Sea!