UP in Oregon

The Eastern Oregonian published a nice series of videos about railroading in Oregon.  They cover the facts about Oregon’s railroads, a look at the Hinkle engine facility, and a family’s story of working for the UP.  I think you all will enjoy the stories and the wonderful videography.

You can find all three videos at these locations.

Oregon Railroads: Just the Facts

Behind the Scenes: Locomotive Repair Shop

6 Generations of Railroading



Your Heritage Is Showing

Sunday morning a UP crew brought a couple of locomotives to Vancouver for the O-VWWO empty dirty dirt train.  One unit in the consist was UP 6231, a former Southern Pacific unit, still in “patched” form.  The  crew dumped the power off on the tail track and promptly headed for Muchas Gracias for a mid-morning Mexican food treat.  The railfans of course swarmed like flies on … ahhhh … well … an SP painted locomotive.  Not to be outdone I captured a few images myself.

Built in May 1995 this locomotive is definitely used.  The nearly 17 year old paint is showing signs of all this unit has been through.  The scar on the side indicates it has had the standard GE fuel leak and subsequent fire.  The rust and faded paint show just how long something which sits outside its entire life will remain painted.  Of course the appearance of a locomotive is not what moves the train.

Most interestingly its heritage is showing.  Scarlet and gray paint colors and speed lettering (albeit not an original SP item) shout “SOUTHERN PACIFIC”.  The patch does little to hide the locomotive’s SP heritage.

In The Cascades

When you drive up the Columbia River Gorge on the highway it is really tough to tell sometimes that you are passing through a pretty major mountain range.  The mountains are certainly there but they tower above so high that it isn’t really obvious what is going on.  If you drive I-84 and look across at Washington the mountains are not as abrupt or as steep as on the Oregon side so you have the illusion that you are passing through a gentle valley.   That’s far from the truth.

I love to find places where the river is fairly narrow and you can easily photograph across it.  Moffett Creek below Bonneville dam is one of the places where that is possible.  With fresh snow on the mountains and the rocky terrain I knew I wanted to visit here and capture a Union Pacific train crossing the bridge.   UP set me up with two trains for this so I took advantage.

What is hard to see in this image is how tall the mountain in the background really is.  The river is around 40′ above sea level and Wauneka Point tops out at over 2800′ (according to mytopo.com)!   This image is actually a panorama shot vertically at 51mm and from what I can tell I’m only showing about 1/3 of the mountain.  Impressive to be in the Cascades.

Thanksgiving Trains


Racing Along the Sound

Amtrak Cascades train 507 races along Puget Sound passing under the  Tacoma Narrows bridge near Titlow.

Thanksgiving isn’t always the best time to head track side to see trains.  Many times the crews are enjoying the holiday with their own families so the railroad tends to move slower.  I decided to chance it anyway and head to Tacoma for some railfanning time with my Dad and daughter on Saturday.  It was nice to do a bit of exploring around town and find a few places I’d never visited before.

We hit D Street in downtown after exploring the new overpass being installed over Pacific Avenue for the Sound Transit Lakewood extension.  We drove the Schuster Parkway and Ruston Way out to Ruston.  We visited Titlow Beach and the adjacent park.  In the end we saw 3 Amtrak trains including one of the special holiday trains, 2 UPs, and a BNSF vehicle train.  Not bad for 4 hours of railfanning!


Summer Solstice at Fields – The Making Of

A few weeks ago I posted a time lapse video to Facebook for my friends there.  It isn’t all the remarkable of a time lapse but does have a quite the story behind it.

I knew there was a southbound out of Eugene and I had an idea for a time lapse sequence up at tunnel 6.  I drove up there as the sun was setting which would give me time to get set up while it was still light.  As I turned onto the road to tunnel 6 I had to stop.  There was a 2′ high snow drift across the road and I was stymied.  No time lapse at tunnel 6.  Strike 1.

I decided to head back down to Fields and set up there for a time lapse sequence.  I drove into the open area of the Fields slide and proceeded to set up my gear.  It was more dark now so a light was required.  I began to pull my gear out of the Yukon and suddenly realized something was missing.  I checked several spots in the rig.  Sure enough, I’d left my tripod at home.  Strike 2.

I stood there for several minutes listening to the train climb up through McCredie Springs.  I criticized my packing skills using some colorful language and pretty much figured I was doomed for any night photos.  I then sat in the rig and sulked for a bit.  Game off.

Then it hit me.  I could use something to set the camera on and get it above the level of the grass in the field.  But what?  The 5 gallon water jug I carry for extra water would work!  Game on!  I pulled it out and found an appropriate place to set it up.  I set the camera on it and looked through the viewfinder.  Not bad!  I grabbed a small piece of wood to prop the lens up a bit and composition wise I was in business.  A few test shots later and I was ready for a train.

Since the train sounded to be all EMD I grabbed the Zoom H4n and prepped it for recording.  Of course the stand for it was at home next to the tripod.  Strike 3.  I choose to just set it on the ground about 100 feet from where I stood with the camera.

When the train came out of tunnel 18 I turned on the recorder and headed back to the camera.  DON’T BUMP THE CAMERA!  I picked up the remote did another test shot and then waited for the train to come out of tunnel 17 to begin firing.  Through all 84 images I took I kept my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t bump something and mess it up.  I moved slowly and carefully and everything seemed to go fine.

After the DP went out of sight around the corner to tunnel 16 I ceased firing and felt comfortable picking up the camera to see what I’d done.  A quick pass through and every thing seemed OK.  Whew, I think I pulled it off!  I stood there for at least another 5 minutes and let the Zoom record the sound of the train climbing up through Fields and finally shut it off after the DP went through ‘downtown’ Fields.

Despite being out on strikes I was still able to cobble together something pretty cool.  At one moment I figured I was going to be totally out of the night photo game but the scout in me kicked in and I tried something on a whim that worked well.  Now it is time to go build a check list so I don’t forget stuff like this again!