Category Archives: Videos

It’s a big, big boy

Railroads & Trains logo

I have been tracking the historic Union Pacific Big Boy #4014 steam locomotive since it returned to the rails in May after being a static museum piece at the RailGiants Museum in Pomona, California, for 53 years.

I visited Ogden and Promontory Point, Utah, for the 150th anniversary celebration of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. More on that trip in my blog post here: Historic trains in Ogden, Utah.

After Big Boy finished in Utah, it returned home to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where it is housed at the Union Pacific steam shops. There it stayed for a few weeks before it embarked on a 2019 tour of Union Pacific territory but only on tracks owned by Union Pacific or tracks over which it has trackage rights. First it went to the mid-west, including Chicago. Then home to Cheyenne for a break.

On September 27, it headed to California, arriving on October 11. That’s when I sprang into action, hopping in my car and chasing it throughout Southern California—Bloomington, Victorville, Barstow, Yermo, Colton, Beaumont, Indio, and Niland.

I only have 31,415,926 pictures and videos which will take the rest of my life to process, but following are some of my better ones so far.

The picture and video below is of Big Boy 4014 going north through Cajon Pass on October 12, heading to Victorville from Bloomington. Big Boy 4014 was built in November 1941, and this is only the second time it has been through Cajon Pass under its own power, and the first time going north, which means it was climbing a 2.2% grade, quite steep for trains. Cajon Pass handles about 150 trains each and every day, going north and south, for both Union Pacific and BNSF.

Union Pacific Big Boy 4014 in Cajon Pass on 10/12/19

Once it climbed out of Cajon Pass, it made a pit stop in Victorville before heading to Barstow. It took me quite a while to get out of the Cajon Pass because of the crowds….Big Boy train watchers in Cajon Pass on 10/12/19

….so I did not stop in Victorville. Just drove by the station to have a look-see. I headed to Barstow, a historic station with a historic Harvey House depot still standing….

Harvey House in Barstow, California

….so I knew there would be crowds there. Indeed there were.

Crowd watching Big Boy in Barstow on 10/12/19

Interestingly, Big Boy spent 2½ hours just south of the Barstow railyard turning around so it could back into the Amtrak station. That didn’t make any sense to me, or any of the other people crowded at the north end of the station because Big Boy would leave and continue going twelve miles north to Yermo, where it would spend the night.

Once the crowd realized that it was backing into the station, thousands of people started running from the north end of the station to the south. I mean, who wants pictures and videos of the rear of the train? It’s Big Boy leading the way that we all wanted. Fortunately, I had been train-watching in Barstow in July 2018. I wanted a picture of Big Boy under the long bridge over the rail yard, and I knew where I had to be in order to get that picture. Thus, I was already at the south end when people started rushing towards me! Unfortunately, the Big Boy consist of over 25 cars was too long for the station, so I didn’t quite get the picture I wanted, but the following three come close.

In the first picture, Big Boy has backed into the station and is at a stop, unloading about 500 passengers way back there who had paid $5,000 (coach) or $10,000 (dome) for a 3-hour ride from Bloomington to Barstow. A little out of my price range…. A BNSF freight train is passing on the track to the right.

Crowds watching Big Boy in Barstow on 10/12/19

In this next picture, Big Boy is moving out of the station. This might be my favorite picture from Barstow—train, people, bridge, people on the bridge, and good smoke!

Crowd watching Big Boy at Barstow on 10/12/19

This last picture most closely captures the type of picture that I was trying to get.

Big Boy at Barstow on 10/12/19

As one who was chasing Big Boy from here to there, I was caught completely off guard when, just a few minutes after leaving the Barstow Amtrak station, it comes back through the rail yard. Backwards! Not only that, but it traveled backwards for the twelve miles from Barstow to Yermo. I got to Yermo just before it did and got a video of it going backwards. This is my first video of a train going backwards.

Big Boy’s overnight stay in Yermo was at the Union Pacific railyard there. It is a private, secured facility, active with lots of trains, and dangerous. There were hundreds of us who could not comprehend the NO TRESPASSING and PRIVATE PROPERTY signs.

Big Boy in Yermo on 10/12/19

Neither the Union Pacific Police nor the County Sheriffs made any attempt to stop us, keep us out, direct us out, escort us out, or arrest us, so I guess all is well that ends well, as my wise old grandmother would say.

In the early days of railroads, competing companies would build rails that crossed each other, creating bottlenecks and, sometimes, accidents. One of the last bottlenecks for railroad traffic was in Colton, California, where BNSF, Metrolink, and Amtrak ‘Southwest Chief’ used the north/south tracks, and Union Pacific and Amtrak ‘Sunset Limited’ used the east/west tracks. There were up to 110 trains daily, all at a ground level on criss-crossing tracks. Union Pacific built the Colton Flyover to relieve congestion. Both directions are double-tracked, so it is possible to find up to four trains concurrently using the Colton Flyover crossing. It was opened in August 2013, so it’s still new and a pleasure to watch train action there.

Here’s my video of 6:35 of action at the Colton Flyover on 10/15/19. Union Pacific starts off the video with a westbound train on the upper tracks. It stops, waiting for Big Boy to come through eastbound. BNSF enters the scene with a northbound train at the 2:04 mark, a 5-engine, 118-car consist on the lower tracks. Big Boy #4014 enters at 5:28 on the upper tracks. Video ends with Big Boy giving a few blasts on its awesome horn.

I took videos with my hand-held Canon video camera. My Canon 760D was on a tripod and set to take time lapse photographs every 5 seconds. Here is one of the time lapse pictures of Big Boy on the Colton Flyover.

Union Pacific Big Boy 4014 on the Colton Flyover, 10/15/19

I knew crowds would be huge in the deserts in southeastern California, and the roads are one-lane with sandy shoulders, so parking would be a problem. However, I also knew where the most popular spots would be, and I knew some secret spots of my own. The following picture is from one of my secret spots south of Indio. Trains often idle here waiting for their green light, so I was 99.9% sure I could get a picture of old meeting new.

Old, meet new. New, old.

Big Boy meets an SD70ACe

There are three people in the picture at center left, and there was one guy behind me. We had the place to ourselves!

As I said earlier, Big Boy was built in November 1941. Diesel engine #8625 is an SD70AC3 locomotive built in June 2008. Big Boy has 4 cylinders producing 6,290 horsepower while #8625 has 16 cylinders producing 4,290 horsepower. I got asked on Facebook how 4 cylinders could produce more horsepower than 16 cylinders. It’s done with cylinder size and pressure. Think about our cars. We have 8 cylinders producing anywhere from 160 horsepower to 708 horsepower, all done with the size of the cylinders (is the engine 160 cubic inches or 500 cubic inches?) and the pressure under which the cylinders are pushed.

The crowd in Beaumont was huge! I suspect it had something to do with Big Boy stopping at the shopping mall there. I felt sorry for the businesses because I think all their customers were out gawking at Big Boy.

Crowd watching Big Boy in Beaumont CA on 10/15/19

Big Boy stopped in Niland, California, for a maintenance check before heading out into the Arizona deserts. Here are the worker ants serving their queen:

Big Boy maintenance check at Niland CA on 10/15/19

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Exhibiting cacti & succulents at the Palomar Cactus & Succulent Show

I live in my own little world

My last post was on October 21. It’s been a long three weeks, most of it having to do with gardening.

The big event was October 27-29. I was getting ready for the Fall Show & Sale for the Palomar Cactus & Succulent Society.

These shows are heavy on succulents and short on cacti. The main reason for that is because cacti are difficult to move with all their spines & thorns pointing every which way. Not paying attention, not being careful, can result in some serious and painful skin punctures.

My intent was to exhibit a lot of cacti to make sure that the cactus side of the show room was full. I spent the month leading up to the event cleaning and repotting show-worthy cacti.

I was hoping to enter 50 cactus specimens. Ultimately, I only entered 44 exhibits – 31 were in the Cactus category, twelve in the Succulent category, and one in the Dish Garden category. My Dish Garden, though, had five thorny cacti in it; of the twelve in the Succulent category, six had spines; and of the 31 in the Cactus category, one did not have spines. So it’s not always about those pokey pokey things. My intent, though, was to fill up the Cactus category, and I definitely helped do that.

I exhibit in the Advanced class now, and won….
     12 first places,
          9 second places, and
               13 thirds.

Ten of my plants weren’t appreciated by the judges. Sad and depressed those plants are.

My Mammillaria parkinsonii, below, received one of the two Judge’s Choice awards, and tied for second for the People’s Choice award.

Mammillaria parkinsonii, Judge's Choice & People's Choice second place

…..was awarded the Granddaddy of them all, BEST IN SHOW, my Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’.

Crassula ovata 'Gollum' Best In Show

I created a video of all the plants I exhibited in the show, although I didn’t find out about the second place People’s Choice until recently, so although it’s in the video with its Judge’s Choice award, it’s not in the video with its People’s Choice second place.

Here’s the video:

Russel’s 44 exhibits 

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SNIPPETS (8-20-18)

Snippets

SNIPPET 1

A short video starring the furry felines at the Friends of Cats from my 2½ hours volunteering on August 19, 2018.

SNIPPET 2

I will be volunteering at Friends of Cats for 2½ hours each day, Sunday through Thursday. Yesterday I spent most of my time letting the FIV cats know that they have not been forgotten. They really enjoyed having me with them. Except this one. I wasn’t fooled. I saw him watching me.

Cat eye

SNIPPET 3

I have a Bachelor of Science in Forest Management from Texas A&M University. So I do, uh, kinda like trees. However, treeless mountains also can be quite beautiful, like these over near Death Valley National Monument in California.

Treeless mountains

SNIPPET 4

Now, along with alternative facts and fake news, we have Rudy Giuliani telling us that “Truth isn’t truth.” Zoey the Cool Cat agrees, I think. Maybe not. Maybe she’s just being sarcastic.

Truth isn't truth!

SNIPPET 5

While volunteering at Friends of Cats for National Clear the Shelters Day on Saturday, I met my first heterochromia cat. Previously all I had seen were pictures. Now I have my own picture.

White cat with heterochromia

Heterochromia can occur in humans and dogs as well as cats. With cats, it occurs mostly in white cats. One eye almost always is blue in humans, dogs, and cats.

SNIPPET 6

When I came home Saturday after 8 hours volunteering for Friends of Cats, I went to hug Zoey the Cool Cat. She smelled me and gave me a look that said, “Dude! You’ve been cheating on me!” A video of many of the little furry ones that I had the pleasure to cheat with on my first day of volunteering

SNIPPET 7

While I was roaming the country a few weeks ago, I made it a point to visit all the great railroad spots, such as the historic California railroad yards in Barstow and Yermo. Here’s a video of a Union Pacific freight train heading west into the Barstow yard. From there it will go either to San Francisco, Los Angeles, or San Diego.

SNIPPET 8

This little guy’s name is Chuckie. He lives at the Friends of Cats shelter in El Cajon, California. He is a finicky eater, preferring only whole chicken from Costco.

Chuckie

SNIPPET 9

Got the official diagnosis Saturday on Zoey the Cool Cat’s blood, poop, and pee analysis. She’s diabetic, although not severe enough to require daily insulin shots. The vet wants to give her a significant change of diet.

Zoey the Cool Cat book

SNIPPET 10

It is often said that you don’t choose a cat, a cat chooses you. I saw that on Saturday while volunteering all day at Friends of Cats shelter in El Cajon, California. It was very moving.

A teen boy came in with his mom. They sat on the floor and were petting cats. A black cat (yeah black cats!) named Ace, a “problem cat” that had been in the shelter for several years, came up to him, flopped on the floor, and proceeded to let the boy rub his tummy and head, and even pick him up. Ace wanted to snuggle and generally told this boy that he was the one. The boy took him home.

Staff was astounded because Ace had never done such before.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Out & About—Santa Cruz sea lions

Out & About The World

If I’m ever not able to get around on my own, just sit me in a chair on the Santa Cruz Wharf and let me watch and listen to sea lions all day. I think these creatures are just amazing and magical. Watch in full-screen mode and turn the volume up.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

It’s raining, it’s pouring…. Zoey the Cool Cat is bored

Did you know?

El Cajon, California, gets an annual average of 13 inches of rain. My front yard has received 9 inches in the past 36 hours. If we can get just 4 more inches today, we can be done with rain for the rest of 2018! Yahooooooo!

My succulent landscaping project has been put on hold, and considering how waterlogged the soil is, I suspect it will be several weeks before I will be able to resume landscaping.

Zoey the Cool CatFollowing is a short video of the
rain the morning of January 9, taken from my home office, where Zoey the Cool Cat sits sadly & silently on an office chair, staring out the office window, wondering where all the rabbits, squirrels, lizards & birds have gone, & wondering what that cold, wet
stuff is that falls from the sky & makes a complete mess.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Out & About—Who knew pollution could be so beautiful?

Out & About The World

Missouri Pacific LinesMy dad and granddad both worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad in Texas. Both were Road Foreman of Engines, which means that if an engine was having problems, they would go fix it, regardless of where it was and what hour of the day. Sometimes that meant them getting up in the middle of the night and driving sixty miles to fix an engine that had stalled or broken down somewhere.

My dad committed suicide in the railroad yard northeast of Palestine, Texas. When they found his body, its condition caused the authorities to estimate that he had been dead for three days. Since they found him on January 18, 1961, that would mean that he killed himself on January 15, which is my oldest brother’s birthday. I guess he had such a love of trains that he couldn’t think of any place better to kill himself…. as if there is a good place for that specific task?

When my wise old grandmother adopted me, my granddad actually lived and worked in Taylor, Texas, about 250 miles away. He would come home to Kingsville every Friday, arriving around 10:00 p.m., to spend the weekend with us. It was a joy when he was in town because I often got to ride the trains with him from Kingsville to Bishop, a 10-mile round trip. He originally had worked in the Kingsville repair shops before they closed so he still had lots of contacts around town. Those contacts allowed me to ride in both the engine and the caboose, and resulted in my own lifelong love of trains.

Whenever there’s a railroading event nearby, and there are a lot here in Southern California, I try to get to them. One that I went to earlier this year was northwest of Los Angeles, in the little agricultural community of Fillmore. I think the city still exists simply because everything throughout the year revolves around the historic Fillmore & Western Railway.

In the spring, they have their annual Railroad Days Festival. If you have never been, go. If you have children or grandchildren, take them.

In all the railroading events I have been to in 55 years, Railroad Days Festival was the best. They have more historic rolling stock than I have ever seen in one place, and they give hourly rides on historic diesel engines, cabooses, passenger cars, and steam engines. Take lots of money because the really great rides, like in an engine cab, cost the most. And there are so many different rides—diesel engine, steam engine, caboose—that you’ll want to go on all of them, like I did. It’s really cool.

One of the most popular rides is in the consist pulled by one of their steam engines. I took the ride first to see where it went. Once I knew that, and with hourly rides, I got in my car and went out to the end of the line where I got the following video. Turn the sound up and listen to the huffing and puffing. And the smoke! Who knew that pollution could be so beautiful?

The Fillmore & Western Railway is a tourist railroad operating on former Southern Pacific trackage from Piru through Fillmore and to Santa Paula. The tracks were built in 1887 to move citrus from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The steam locomotive, #14, is a Baldwin engine built in November 1913 by The Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia.

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Music on Mondays (10-16-2017)—My “Lost on a desert island” music from 1965

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

My Lost On A Desert Island music collection would have 18 songs from 1965 on it, eight of them by The Beatles.

My wise old grandmother adopted me in November 1965, and I arrived at her home on December 18, 1965. My mom’s oldest brother and his family drove me from Brigham City, Utah, where I lived, to Kingsville, Texas—1,524 miles—where my wise old grandmother lived. Four years after my dad’s suicide and the two sides of the family still were at war with each other, so even though my uncle was driving to Kingsville anyway to see his dad, in retrospect I wonder what was going through his mind as he delivered his sister’s child to her dead husband’s mother….

Nonetheless, I have lots of pleasant memories of the music from 1965. Following are all 18. Hope you find one to enjoy or one that brings back some pleasant memories for you this Monday, October 16. Note that there are not any videos on Youtube of original music by The Beatles. They all have been taken down, so even though I might have found a couple for my blog post here, by the time you try to listen to them, they might be gone. You can find various versions for karaoke, live versions, cover versions, etc., if you care to go look for them. I find it odd that every music publishing entity in the world is now providing music videos directly to YouTube under the moniker “Topic” (such as Herman’s Hermits – Topic)…. except Capitol, EMI, Apple Corps, or anyone else holding copyrights to music by The Beatles.

“Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” by Herman’s Hermits

“Down In The Boondocks” by Billie Joe Royal
I didn’t learn until a couple of decades later that
where my wise old grandmother lived in Kingsville
was considered the “wrong side of the tracks.”

“Eve Of Destrution” by Barry McGuire

“Get Off Of My Cloud” by The Rolling Stones
Not until 1978 when I started collecting all the #1 albums
and #1 singles from 1955, the start of the rock ‘n’ roll era,
did I give The Rolling Stones a shot. I was a Beatles fan.

“Girl” by The Beatles

“Help” by The Beatles
This was the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100
while I was at the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital
in Ogden, Utah, in the “Troubled Youth” ward.
This is the song that inspired me to reach out
to my wise old grandmother for help.

“I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher

“I’m Henry VIII, I Am” by Herman’s Hermits

“In My Life” by The Beatles
I sang this song in Student Government on Valentine’s Day in 1971
to my girlfriend at the time, Lynda Young.

“It Ain’t Me Babe” by The Turtles

“Michelle” by The Beatles
NO VIDEO FOUND

“Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” by Herman’s Hermits

“Nowhere Man” by The Beatles
It wasn’t until April 1993 when I “came out” after moving
from College Station, Texas, to San Diego, California,
that I didn’t feel like a Nowhere Man anymore.

“Run For Your Life” by The Beatles
NO VIDEO FOUND

“This Diamond Ring” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys

“Ticket To Ride” by The Beatles

“You Were On My Mind” by We Five

“You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” by The Beatles
This was my favorite song from the movie and album.
In retrospect, I wonder if I knew I was gay
long before I accepted myself being gay.
NO VIDEO FOUND

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post