Tag Archives: bnsf

Out & About—The Cajon Pass by freight train

Out & About

Even before California was admitted to the United States on September 9, 1850, as the thirty-first state, there was great interest in it. After gold was discovered in 1848, starting the California Gold Rush, the population exploded, mostly “immigrants” from the United States. Travel between California and the United States, however, was arduous, time-consuming, and dangerous.

Not until the Transcontinental Railroad was completed from San Francisco to Omaha did travel become reasonably less time-consuming and much less dangerous. The railroads have always been a significant part of the State of California, and although the Eastern railroads are older, their history is no more significant than the California railroads.

Once the Transcontinental Railroad was completed to San Francisco, northern California, people began looking for a way to build a transcontinental railroad into southern California. The competition for the western terminus was between San Diego and Los Angeles. For a while it looked like it would be San Diego when the California Southern Railroad (a subsidiary of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway) built through the Cajon Pass in the early 1880s to connect Barstow and San Diego. Today, however, the Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway use the pass to reach Los Angeles. San Diego is a secondary afterthought.

The interesting Mojave Desert mountain scenery, as well as the many long trains that transit Cajon Pass, make for a fun day of train watching. The video below is a BNSF container train heading east, so the containers mostly likely are fully loaded with cargo from ships docking at the Port of Los Angeles. There are 117 railcars carrying 234 containers. Quite a load up a 2.2 – 3 percent grade. There are two front engines pulling and two rear engines pushing. All four engines have 4,400 horsepower each, for a total of 17,600 horsepower getting these 117 railcars over the Cajon Summit.

With my new high-flying drone and a new-as-of-today 150-600mm lens for my Canon 760D camera, I have plans to return to Cajon Pass for some great pictures and videos, both from the ground and from the sky, to satisfy my thirst for trains in unique places.

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Trains—A short history of the Colton Crossing

Halls of History

If you look back at the rich people in history, they pretty much were land barons, newspaper publishers, or railroad tycoons. In some cases, they were all three because many state and federal governments gave free land to people who were willing to build railroads on that land. The only people who could afford to build a railroad were newspaper publishers, so they became land barons and railroad tycoons.

Many of the railroad tycoons, like Leland Stanford (Stanford University) and Cornelius Vanderbilt (Vanderbilt University), are considered now to have been robber barons, a derogatory metaphor of social criticism originally applied to certain late 19th-century American businessmen who used unscrupulous methods to get rich. The robber baron list is long and includes many names familiar to us today from many industries, such as Andrew Carnegie of Carnegie Library fame, Marshall Field of Marshall Field’s, J.P. Morgan of J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil, Charles M. Schwab of Bethlehem Steel.

In San Diego history we have our own personality who made the robber baron list:
John D. Spreckels, making his claim via the water transport, sugar, and railroad businesses. He built the San Diego & Arizona Railway (SD&A) from San Diego to Yuma. It was during my early research into the SD&A for a railroad book that I’m writing that I discovered the Colton Crossing.Union Pacific on the flyover at Colton (CA) Crossing

The SD&A’s construction costs were said to be underwritten by Spreckels but in actuality were underwritten by the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP). After the transcontinental railroad was completed with the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory UT in 1869 by the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads, focus shifted to a southern transcontinental route, either from Los Angeles or San Diego to points east. SP was first to market and pretty much dominated Southern California railroad interests until 1883 when the Colton Crossing was built.

Colton Crossing is a railway crossing in Colton CA and the site of one of the most intense frog wars in railroad construction history. A frog is where two railroad lines cross each other, and a frog war often occurred when those two railroad lines belonged to different railroads. In the case of Colton Crossing, the two lines belonged to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (AT&SF), trying to gain a foothold in Southern California, and the California Southern Railroad, a subsidiary of the SP.

California Southern’s construction crew was ready to install the frog tracks when an SP locomotive arrived pulling a single freight car, and stopped. The SP engineer drove the train back and forth slowly at the crossing point in order to prevent the California Southern crew from installing the crossing. SP had hired Virgil Earp to guard its tracks in Colton, and he rode in the cab of the SP locomotive.

Colton Crossing mapThe citizens of Colton supported SP, but SP had bypassed nearby San Bernardino, leaving its residents upset. Railroads at that time could make or break a community. San Bernardino hoped that the California Southern line would put their city back on the map.

Ultimately, California Southern obtained a court order on August 11, 1883, in its favor but it still took California Governor Robert Waterman’s involvement in ordering the county sheriff to enforce the court order.

On the morning of September 13, events reached a head in a confrontation known as the “Battle of the Crossing.” Citizens from Colton and San Bernardino gathered on either side of the tracks with the SP locomotive between them. Men on both sides carried picks and shovels, as well as revolvers and shotguns. Virgil Earp stood in the gangway between the locomotive cab and tender facing the San Bernardino citizens, revolver in hand. It was believed that the freight car, a gondola, held SP men with rifles and other weapons, crouching below the walls of the car so as not to be seen.

The Colton Crossing in today’s world is very busy with trains from Union Pacific (east-west), BNSF (north-south), Amtrak (Southwest Chief on BNSF tracks and Sunset Limited on UP tracks), and Metrolink (BNSF tracks). In the 2000’s, Colton Crossing got so busy that Union Pacific decided to build a flyover, a bridge over BNSF’s tracks, to alleviate delays for both railroads.

Colton Crossing and the West Colton railroad yard, within a mile of each other, are great places to watch railroad action, and that’s what I did on February 5. Here are some videos of the action I saw just in the three hours I was hanging out.

BNSF southbound on the lower tracks
There are two “helper” engines on the rear,
one of which is a Norfolk Southern engine.

Union Pacific westbound on the upper flyover tracks

Metrolink southbound on the lower tracks

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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Out & About—The Tehachapi Loop

Out & About The World

When I go out exploring each day, I have a specific goal in mind. When I went out on Sunday, February 5, one of my goals was to visit the Tehachapi Loop, a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, and California Historic Landmark #508 .

At the Tehachapi Loop, if the train is at least 4,000 feet long, it will pass over/under itself, as in my video below. Keep your eye on the video at 4:13; I want his job.

The Tehachapi Loop is a .73-mile loop owned by the Union Pacific Railroad. The BNSF has what are called “trackage rights” to use the Loop. The difference in elevation between the lower and upper tracks in 77 feet.

The railroad line through the Loop connects Bakersfield to Mojave and, in addition to the cool Loop, has 12 tunnels and tracks with lots of twists and turns.

Railroad tunnel on the Tehachapi Line in California

Construction on the Tehachapi Loop began in 1874 and was completed in 1876 by three thousand Chinese laborers under the direction of Southern Pacific engineer William Hood and Chief of Construction J.B. Harris. It is one of the seven wonders of the railroad world.

The Tehachapi Line itself is one of the busiest single-track mainlines in the world. An average of 36 trains each day use the Tehachapi Loop, and they tend to be long trains, up to two miles long. During my two hours at the Loop, I saw six freight trains. The shortest was about 3,500 feet long and the longest was probably up there in the 2-mile-long range. The train in my video is the second-longest one I saw on February 5, 2017.

With frequent trains and beautiful scenery, the Loop is a prime hotspot for railroad fans.

The last picture here is of the first train I saw. I had not found a location to set up yet so it was just luck that I got this picture.

BNSF on the Tehachapi Loop

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San Diego Historical Landmarks—#10: Torrey Pines Area, part 2

San Diego Historical Landmarks

If you missed Torrey Pines Area, part 1, here it is.

Let us start at the far north of the Torrey Pines Area as defined by this map:

Torrey Pines Area

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That blue just below Carmel Valley Road is Los Peñasquitos Lagoon. It’s a great place to go train watching since Amtrak, Coaster, and BNSF freight use the single track through the marsh.

Amtrak under the Del Mar Bridge at Torrey Pines State Beach near San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Those trees you see on the hill behind the bridge are torrey pines in the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

The torrey pine (Pinus torreyana) is the rarest pine species in the United States. It grows only in a small area here in San Diego and on Santa Rosa Island, one of the islands in Channel Island National Park off the coast of Southern California.

Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana)

Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana)

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I went to the Reserve at 7:00 one morning and did everything within my power not to just sit out there and watch the trains go by. Long-time readers probably realize how difficult it was for me to ignore the trains. Nonetheless, here’s a walk through a couple of the trails in the Reserve:

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The first time I visited the Reserve was back in May 1993. As I remember it, there was very little sunshine to be found on the trails since it was a fairly dense forest of torrey pines. Sadly, the pines slowly are losing their fight for existence due to drought, insect attacks, and pollution from nearby developments and roadways.

There are two named beaches below the 400-foot cliffs of the Reserve: Torrey Pines State Beach and Blacks Beach. Blacks Beach is one of the world’s largest and best naturist beaches. It is difficult to get to because one has to navigate trails down the 400-foot sandstone cliffs, and each time you go, the trails are different due to erosion from human traffic and rainfall during the winter weeks.

My knees don’t like me going up and down cliffs anymore, so these pictures are from a trip a couple of years ago:

Blacks Beach

Stairs to Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

IMG_7122 framed

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Torrey Pines Golf Course is San Diego’s best and most beautiful course, and it’s a municipal course! It is where Tiger Woods won his last major championship, the U.S. Open, back in 2008.

Torrey Pines Golf Course

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Overlooking the golf course is The Lodge at Torrey Pines, a AAA Five Diamond hotel:

The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California

The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California

The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The University of California at San Diego (UCSD) is in the Torrey Pines Area. UCSD was established in November 1960, and in just 54 years has risen to prominence among universities worldwide, with U.S. News & World Report recently ranking it as the 18th Top World University.

The campus has many unique buildings and public art, and is worth spending a day just walking around gawking at everything. The library, shown in the first picture, is named after Theodore Geisel, better known as “Dr. Seuss.” Geisel was a La Jolla resident when he died, and many of his works are in the Geisel Collection in the library.

Geisel Library at the University of California San Diego

UCSD Sun God

University of California San DiegoUniversity of California San Diego

Computer Science & Engineering Building at University of California San Diego

House at the University of California San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Across the street from the campus is the historic Torrey Pines Glider Port. I have been known to sit there for hours at a time and just watch the hang gliders.

Torrey Pines Gliderport, San Diego

Torrey Pines Gliderport, San Diego

Torrey Pines Glider Port

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

On the beach below the Glider Port is the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, founded in 1903, and one of the world’s foremost oceanographic institutions. The Institution is now a part of the University of California San Diego, and also includes the Birch Aquarium. Take an afternoon to visit the Aquarium because the view of the beach and ocean is unparalleled, and the aquariums and fish are pretty nice, too!

Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego

Scripps Institute of Oceanography, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

At the very south of the Torrey Pines Area is the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:

Salk Institute, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Salk Institute was founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine. It often is ranked as the premier biological & biomedicine institute in the world.

Constant praise is heaped upon the architecture, but I find it to be absolutely atrocious. Bare concrete everywhere; just depressing and oogie.

Salk Institute in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There you have it. An absolutely gorgeous and historic area, so if ever you are in San Diego, take a day out of your schedule and go visit the Torrey Pines Area in La Jolla. You won’t regret it.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

For the introductory blog post
to San Diego’s historical landmarks,
click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.

For previous posts in the
San Diego Historical Landmarks series,
go here.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift?
Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage?
Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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National Train Day, May 11, 2013

It’s mine! All mine!

Railroads & Trains logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I took 841 pictures on National Train Day (May 11, 2013).

Since I’m trying to stay off of my broken ankle, I have time to catalog them instead of walking around Southern California taking even more pictures.

Following are some pictures taken from inside a Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train traveling north from downtown San Diego to downtown Los Angeles.

It’s mine! All mine!National Train Day, May 11, 2013

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Onofre nuclear power plant.
Shut down in January 2012 and announced a couple
of days ago that it is being put out to pasture permanently.National Train Day, May 11, 2013

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

We’re going to catch him!National Train Day, May 11, 2013

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Wave hello!National Train Day, May 11, 2013

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

BNSF freight muscleNational Train Day, May 11, 2013

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

National Train Day, May 11, 2013

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

National Train Day, May 11, 2013

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Amtrak passenger muscleNational Train Day, May 11, 2013

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

National Train Day, May 11, 2013

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I’ve been working on the railroad….National Train Day, May 11, 2013

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

National Train Day, May 11, 2013

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Where’s our leader?National Train Day, May 11, 2013

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

National Train Day, May 11, 2013

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Remember driving down a long stretch of freeway and suddenly there’s a crook in the road? You look around and find absolutely no reason for them to put a crook in the road. Railroads do it too!

National Train Day, May 11, 2013

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Wave hello to the nice Metrolink commuters!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner in San Diego

Track warrants and the Hobart Railyard

Railroads & Trains logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My ride on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner from San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot to Union Station in Los Angeles ranks as the best train ride I’ve ever been on, made specifically memorable by the engineer, who just happened to leave the door open to the cab and didn’t mind talking with me during the trip.

One of the interesting items I learned about were track warrants. Track warrants are issued to grant a train’s use of the main track between two points, and sometimes at specific times. The main track warrant used on my trip was a Form B. The engineer, Tim, gave me one:

Form B

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

A Form B is used most often when there is track maintenance going on. It would be a good idea if a fast-moving train didn’t run over any maintenance workers or their equipment, so the train engineer asks permission to move on the main line.

Since the engineer left the cab compartment door open, I stood for the whole 2h45m trip watching us roll on down the track. (I felt like I was a student back at Texas A&M University where students stand for the whole football game.) I was able to see what was coming up and get some really good videos, better than I’ve ever gotten before. The engineer also graciously told me what was coming up, where to point the camera for good pictures, etc.

One of the most exciting areas was the BNSF Hobart Railyard in Commerce, California.

Commerce map

View Larger Map

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Hobart covers 245 acres and is the largest intermodal freight rail yard in the nation. Intermodal freight transport involves the transportation of freight in a container or vehicle, using multiple modes of transportation (rail, ship, and truck) without any handling of the freight itself when changing transportation modes. It reduces cargo handling and improves security, reduces damage and loss, and allows freight to be transported faster. So when you see a long train of containers, as in the picture below, those containers have, or will be, additionally transported by ship or truck.

Intermodal container train

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

More than 1.5 million containers move through the Hobart Railyard each year. On my trip I got two videos of us going through the Hobart Railyard, one with our northbound Amtrak Pacific Surfliner meeting a southbound Pacific Surfliner, and another with three intermodal trains, lots of containers, and several idling engines in the Hobart Railyard.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

As many times as I have made the San Diego/Los Angeles trip by rail, I never knew how fast the train goes. In some areas it is approved for 90 mph. The fastest I saw the speedometer get to was 92 mph. Here we are at 87 mph:

Amtrak speedometer

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos