UP’s 150th In Portland

Two weeks ago Union Pacific brought their E units and the 150th Anniversary train to Portland for display.  Thanks to a family Disneyland vacation my only opportunity to see the train was Friday the 13th, one of the two days it was on display.  The other days it spent in the Northwest I was either in sunny California or was just too warn out from the trip to consider much of a chase.

The fun thing about visiting on Friday was we had the train to ourselves!  Only 50 or so folks wandered around while we took our tour.  This allowed me an opportunity to photograph some details around the train and the locomotives that I wouldn’t normally get.  I also had a chance to meet Ken Fitzgerald, who travelled with the train as the photographer.  He was busy taking photos of VIPs on the rear platform but I did have a chance to chat with him a bit.

I do have to say I was a bit disappointed with the condition of the train.  From a distance everything looked great.  When I walked along the platform next to the train I noticed how dirty it was.  I was shocked to see a light haze of mud on the windows and the sides.  At the front I found the nose of the 951 peppered with bugs.  Had the UP not washed the train?  UP is a class outfit so I’m really surprised they hadn’t hit it with a pressure washer before putting it on public display.   That minor gripe aside (damn, I’m picky) the train really did look good.

Happy Birthday Union Pacific, here’s to another 150!

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



It’s Early

16 minutes before sunrise an eastbound Union Pacific manifest train nears the summit at Telocaset, Oregon.  By the time the train crosses the summit and descends to the Baker valley the sun will be up and a new day will have dawned.  Right now though the train is illuminated by the twilight reflecting off the atmosphere and giving me the hint a new day is coming.

Getting up early has its rewards!

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.