As I alluded to in my “From the Mountains to the Desert” last week I ran into a few fires east of the mountains.   In fact fires defined the first few days of the trip.  As I crested the Horse Heaven Hills west of the Tri-Cities the first radio conversation I heard with the Pasco East dispatcher was something to the effect a large fire was burning near the track near MP 103.5 and the track was closed.  What a great way to break into my Providence Hill railfanning vacation!

As I drove east of Pasco I realized what had happened as I saw fire apparatus along the right of way from Eltopia all the way to Hatton fighting various sized blazes.  From what I could gather from radio conversations an eastbound train had a locomotive in consist that released sparks periodically which started all these fires.  By Cunningham the offending locomotive was taken off line and the new fires stopped.  That was enough to create a mess though as trains were starting to tie down at various places because of all the congestion caused by closing the track.

The next day as I drove east from Hatton to Cunningham I came across another blaze at the intersection of the Lind-Hatton Rd. and the Cunningham Rd.  Fortunately this was away from the tracks so trains kept moving.  The couple shoveling dirt on the flames with their hands had way more to deal with than they could handle but they’d called it in and fire crews arrived soon after we passed.

On the third day I spent most of the morning hanging around Beatrice and photographing trains under some wonderful Kodachrome skies.  Off to the west there was a smoke plume which rose occasionally then dissipated.  After noon the plume was still there but seemed much larger than before.  Robert suggested we go see what was going on since the trains had temporarily dried up.   10 miles west of Providence we came across a couple of hundred acres of charred wild land and more fire apparatus engaging the blaze.  The most interesting part of the fire fight (aside from the resident of Lind who liked to talk) was the trio of crop dusters dropping water on one flank of the blaze while fire crews attacked another.

The blaze burned on for most of the afternoon and it wasn’t until sunset that the smoke finally blew away from us up at Keystone.  This fire didn’t impact BNSF operations but had the Milwaukee Road been operating they would have closed most likely since this was up against their (former) right of way.

Saturday and Sunday were thankfully fire free days.   Finally we could enjoy the trains without the distractions!

Been Awhile

The first part of July has be quite busy for me and my family.  Thanks to a vacation out at the coast, a picnic, and other miscellaneous activities I’ve been tied up with non-railfan activities which has limited my available time to write up blog posts.  The good news is I’ll have a few more railfan activities though August and September so my posts should be more regular.

In the mean time here’s a couple of photos of an empty grain train from Rivergate crossing the Columbia Draw.

Fine ’til the 4449

Like Steve, I ended up down at Portland’s Union Station last weekend for National Train Day. Having been to events such as this with large crowds of the public, I knew I probably wasn’t going to get any prize-winning calendar shots. I’ve recently started playing around more with HDR photography so I decided to take a few photos that might let me explore this technique. This worked well for a couple photos, such as this one of an ex-UP caboose:

I was also able to pull out a decent amount of shadow detail around the Oregon Pacific 1202:

Things didn’t go so smoothly for the 4449. The running boards of the locomotive where nice and shiny which reflected the colors of the crowd next to her. These reflections weren’t too bad in the original image, but after processing the photo and tone mapping, the reflections turned into random noticeable splotches on the side of the locomotive:

You win some, you lose some. Hopefully I’m smart enough to learn as I continue to work on technique.

I’m testing a new embedding method with the images in this post. I see a couple issues so I’ll need to get those resolved.

East Into the Blues

With friends from California in tow I headed east to help Robert show off the Blues.   We made a few stops in the gorge at places along the UP that I’d never visited.   Its amazing how many times I’ve driven through the gorge and have never stopped at some of these fabulous locations.


Between Biggs and Rufus

As train traffic in the gorge petered out (and the local out of The Dalles derailed at Hood River) we headed to Kamela summit for what was a reasonably busy afternoon.  It was really fun to see and hear the excitement as the foreign guests witnessed their first train topping over amid the Tamarck’s changing for the season.  The 10,000ft long stack train didn’t hurt anything either.


Topping over Kamela Summit

After a night in LaGrande we headed over Telocaset in mixed fog and sun.  The Baker valley always seems to deliver good light in the morning!  The last train on the pass was a westbound inspection train after which we ended our brief tour of the Blues.


Nothing like North Powder in the morning!

[tags] trains, railroad, railfan, photos, photography, blue mountains, the blues, union pacific [/tags]

Last Summer… in 1880

This past summer, our family took a roadtrip back to South Dakota to visit family. While we were there, one of our activities was to ride behind the “1880 Train” – more properly known as the Black Hills Central Railroad. It’s a tourist line running between Keystone and Hill City, South Dakota. While the train made a passenger and water stop in Hill City, I took a few photos. According to the railroad, the Black Hills Central 110 is the only articulated mallet in operation. Here’s one of my favorite shots from the trip: