The Albina Conference

Like a ritual, BNSF’s Everett, WA to UP Albina yard manifest train stops at the Vancouver depot on every trip.  This stop is primarily to pick up UP orders but usually turns into a conference of sorts as the yard master and conductor review the paper work and delve into other issues of the day.  For unqualified crews, the UP will supply a pilot to help them through the maze of radio contacts and unfamiliar tracks but since this has been a regular train for a few years now fewer BNSF crews need guidance.

After this day’s conference the conductor climbed back aboard the train to go down through the contact list.  Albina run through yard master, Albina tower, Vancouver Terminal dispatcher, and finally the Columbia Draw.  Ten minutes after the conference is over the M-EVEABN is finally on their way again.

Big Train at Bealville

Big Train at Bealville Illustration

What’s not to like about the curves visible from the north switch at Bealville?  Long trains will wind in and out of all the little valleys the original engineers used to help maintain the grade up Tehachapi.  Oh and the grade.  What a better way to see the impact of the grade than to see the same train on 5 different levels?  For trains this is as sexy as it gets!

The reality of Bealville is that it is almost 2 rail miles from the south portal of tunnel 2 to the Allard crossover so the odds of seeing the head end power and the DPU of the same train is pretty slim.  If a two mile long train isn’t in the cards the best bet is to have a meet between Bealville and Allard and good timing so the power of both trains is in the right spot at the right time.

So what happened in this image?  Neither thing happened.  I positioned the DPU in the right spot and the head end in the right spot and used some technology to make a big train at Bealville.  Forgive me.

And The Sky With No Clouds

The desert never has any clouds…right?  After this trip I wouldn’t say never.  Thanks to an advancing storm front we experienced some pretty interesting clouds as the storm moved ashore.  The nice thing about the weather changing in the desert is the fact you can see the sky from horizon to horizon.  So when the clouds start to roll in they become part of the landscape.  On four days of our desert journey we were treated to fabulous skies and I tried to take advantage.

Just north of Mojave is a signal bridge that I’ve seen photographed numerous times.  As we approached to photograph it on the second day I couldn’t help but notice the sky and how interesting it was.  While the crew used long lenses and framed the nose of the train with the signal bridge, I hiked .3 of a mile up the access road and used a wide angle lens to bring in the cirrus and con-trails.   Add in the UP 1995 this was certainly a great start to the second day of the trip.

Mojave Bridge

After spending the morning of the third day at Lavic, Ludlow, and Bolo, we landed at Goffs for one train each way.  I set up for the photo below of a westbound passing under the signal bridge at East Goffs.  Just like at Mojave I couldn’t resist the cirrus that were preceding the storm coming ashore.  Of course just after I set up we could hear an eastbound climbing up from Fenner.  Great, my shot was going to be blocked.  Contrary to usual railfan luck the eastbound cleared and gave me long enough to change lenses and reset for the westbound.  I love the desert!

Goffs Bridge

Near the end of the third day it became quite apparent that the weather was changing.  There was moisture in the air and being from the Northwest I could tell it was going to rain.  In fact by the time the sun dropped behind the clouds at Ibis the streams of rain could be seen falling from the sky over the Dead Mountains.  A perfect backdrop for another stack train.

Ibis Storm Clouds

The fourth day it rained.  Not monsoon rain, Northwest rain.  How far did I travel to photograph trains in the rain?  Well, the nice the about California and Arizona is that when the weather changes, it changes.  Thanks to 3G coverage in the desert we could tell the rain ended somewhere west of Pisgah.  Driving west we came out of the rain between Ludlow and Pisgah and into fabulous clouds trailing the rain storm.   Add in a Z train speeding through Newberry Springs and the combination looks great!

Out of the Rain

Once we hit a lull on Monday we decided it was time to head south to Palm Springs.  On arrival at the Salton Sea we found the desert a big mess thanks the thunderstorm from the night before.   All the washes that crossed the road were wet and filled with debris.  At one point we ran across a CDOT front end loader scraping the debris off the road attempting to get things back to normal.  The next challenge was to find a train to photograph with one of these washes.  Between Rogoza and Wister we found a great sample along with super desert sky.

Desert Wash

How did I shoot these photos?  All 5 were taken with my Canon 10-22mm EF-S lens at focal lengths from 10mm all the way to 22mm.   On some a circular polarizer was used and on some it was not.  In Lightroom I added clarity to the sky areas to help the clouds pop out and used Photoshop CS3 to correct the perspective.   I can’t say enough about the 10-22 and what it will capture.

On the First Days of the Journey

On the first days of our desert adventure we visited Tehachapi.  Tehachapi is one of my favorite locations because everywhere you look the railroad is interesting.  If I lived nearby like our friend Darren, I’d love it because there is so much to see and photograph.  I’d love to be able to spend the time to wait for the right light for some of the unusual locations on the pass.

We were quite fortunate to find the grass green below the loop so we spent some time chasing the variable light and the green grass.  The results were spectacular!  In the photo above from Bealville the hills in the background demonstrate how the light was quite hit and miss. 30 seconds before I snapped this photo the entire south switch area was shadowed.   Then wham, out comes the sun!

I really had to keep my eye on things as the light changed so quickly.  The next photo is the same train passing the NSS Cliff and within a few seconds the light would again change but fortunately everything held up and the train and hills were lit just right.

Sandcut is the site of many a fabulous sunset photographs and despite that this is my first visit to this location in 4 tries.  Sadly timing of the the train traffic didn’t support a perfect sunset photo.  Instead I had to settle for this photo of the H-EVEBAR leaving Bakersfield and heading for the hill under a sky that saw sunset about 20 minutes before.

I’m ready for Tehachapi again soon!