Railroads: New meets old

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When I was growing up under the tutelage of my wise old grandmother in Kingsville, Texas, I used to sneak out and go down to the railroad yards. I had to be careful sneaking out, obviously, but I also had to be careful at the railroad yards since that’s where my granddad worked as a Road Foreman of Engines for Missouri Pacific. Missouri Pacific LinesMy dad and his three brothers also worked for Missouri Pacific at various times, so they could have friends there who might recognize me. It was dangerous, and I’m not even talking about possibly getting smushed by a train!

Railroad classification yards have always fascinated me. When I moved to Houston in 1977, I quickly found Englewood Yard and Settegast Yard. Both are huge classification yards, both now operated by Union Pacific, but formerly used by Southern Pacific (Englewood) and Missouri Pacific (Settegast). Unfortunately, we don’t have much of a railroad yard here in San Diego, , and the one we do have is not accessible to rail fans without, say, a 1200mm camera lens.

Up in Los Angeles, however, they have several classification yards. I think the huge Hobart Yard is the biggest, but there also are several huge intermodal yards, which is where trains, big rigs, and ships come together. Truckers who don’t want to drive cross-country can move their truckloads by train. Containers from ships travel the same way. Huge cranes lift the trucks and containers on and off the rail cars.

Intermodal rail traffic (trucks and containers riding on trains) is heaviest in the nation going into and out of Los Angeles, most of it handled by the Union Pacific Railroad. When I was up in San Bernardino at Railroad Days on April 13, I got to watch some intermodal cranes in action at the BNSF San Bernardino Intermodal Yard from the top of a bridge that spanned the rail yard. Here’s how it works in a 1:50 video:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Of course, I took lots of pictures and videos of trains. Following is a video of a BNSF freight train rumbling past ATSF 3751, the 1927 steam engine that I went up to see. I had the pleasure of riding in the consist being pulled by ATSF 3751 from San Bernardino back to Union Station in Los Angeles that day, and for just $40!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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12 thoughts on “Railroads: New meets old

  1. Patricia Salamone

    Very interesting Russel, I do enjoy reading your blog. It will take me time to get through it, but I will prevail. I intend to leave comments from time to time and hope that is alright with you. There are many post here that I am interested in reading.

    Patricia :o)


  2. philosophermouseofthehedge

    A train can’t go by without getting a look. And the engineers used to pull the horn/whistle. We ran along side in bare feet down the red dirt. Trains are summer. (In winter while everything is chilled and in coats, their sound is much more mournful – funny about that)


    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      You should have seen the long trains I saw this weekend. Unfortunately, I was on a non-picture taking mission so I didn’t get to take videos of them. But now I know where to go to see trains that are longer than anything else in the world!


      1. Karen

        Wow, you’re so lucky 🙂 trains where you are, are so different. The longest I’ve seen in the UK are about half the length of the one in your video. South Africa has a few decent length freight trains 😀


        1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

          In the area where I was yesterday, freight trains are often up to 2.2 miles in length, the maximum permitted by current technology, and they run about ten trains per day, in EACH direction. The longest train ever run in the United States was by Union Pacific (the railroad in the video), on the line where I was yesterday, and was 3.4 miles long. Here in San Diego, BNSF runs a train out of San Diego at 8:00 each night that is usually about 1½ miles long.



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