Tag Archives: metrolink

It’s a big, big boy

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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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Music on Mondays (4-14-14) – Taking it easy

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Since I will be a vendor at the Cat House on the Kings fundraiser the weekend of May 3, I pretty much decided that I won’t be going to Los Angeles for National Train Day (May 10) this year. I’ll miss it because ATSF 3751, a steam engine built in 1927, is always there since it is housed just a mile south of Union Station.

ATSF 3751 at Los Angeles at National Train Day in May 2012

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Fortunately, ATSF 3751 always shows up a month earlier at San Bernardino Railroad Days. That’s where I went yesterday, taking the
San Diego Trolley from La Mesa to the historic Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego,
then Amtrak from San Diego to the historic Union Station in Los Angeles,
then Metrolink from Los Angeles to the historic Santa Fe Depot in San Bernardino.

Santa Fe Depot, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Union Station in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Santa Fe Depot in San Bernardino, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I left the driving to them, which allowed me to take it easy. Ah that peaceful, easy feeling as the train left here yesterday morning. Sadly, none of the trains went by the Hotel California.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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National Train Day, May 11, 2013

It’s mine! All mine!

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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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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner in Del Mar, California

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner northbound from downtown San Diego to Camp Pendleton

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

When Jim and I went to Los Angeles on Sunday, May 11, for National Train Day, our purpose was to ride the trains everywhere we wanted to go. Down the hill from us we caught the San Diego Trolley:

Westbound at the 70th Street Station
5:50 a.m. on National Train Day

The Trolley took us to the historic Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego. There we caught Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to points north, ultimately to the even more historic Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

The three videos below show some of the more interesting areas the trains go through. In the first one, we’re heading into Miramar Marine Corps Air Base. There are some neat landscapes but usually the front of the train is not accessible (I had a cool engineer!), the side views are horrible because of the steep canyons, and walking the tracks on the Marine Corps base is not something one wants to do. So the first video is a real rarity.

Train through Miramar Marine Corps Air Base in San Diego County

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This second video is another one that I’ve always wanted to get as the train goes through the marsh that is the eastern side of Torrey Pines State Park. The video shows us cruising down the track at 92 mph, the top speed I caught us going. At the end of the video we have slowed down to 55 mph to go around the curve under the historic Del Mar bridge, currently undergoing much-needed renovation and seismic retrofitting.

Train tracks through Torrey Pines State Park in San Diego County

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This last video is the final place in San Diego County that I’ve tried so many times to get to. It’s the rail yard for Metrolink and Coaster, where the trains are stored during hours of non-operation. Unfortunately, it’s on the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base and inaccessible to mere mortals like me. We also meet a southbound Amtrak Pacific Surfliner.

Metrolink rail yard north of Oceanside, California

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, at over 125,000 acres, is what separates San Diego from the Los Angeles metropolitan area. In other words, it’s probably the only thing that keeps L.A. from annexing San Diego — that we wouldn’t like!

Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Following are three pictures of Camp Pendleton, all taken from a speeding (85 mph) train with a Canon 550D and a Tamron 28-300mm lens at 300mm.

Camp Pendleton in San Diego County

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Camp Pendleton in San Diego County

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Camp Pendleton in San Diego County

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,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Out & About San Diego #8 — San Diego: A train rider’s paradise

Out & About San Diego

#8
San Diego: A train rider’s paradise

San Diego is not a hotbed of rail activity, making train watching a hit or miss adventure. However, if you are looking to ride the rails, there’s no better place than San Diego.

Amtrak will get you from downtown San Diego to Los Angeles with a few stops along the way.

The Coaster will get you from downtown San Diego to Oceanside. From there you can take Metrolink to Los Angeles or the Sprinter east to Escondido.

Then there is the San Diego Trolley, or light rail system that has been going strong for 31 years. In August 2011, the Trolley, run by the Metropolitan Transit System, added a vintage PCC streetcar that was built in 1949:

San Diego Trolley vintage streetcar

During World War II, streetcar service increased dramatically in cities throughout North America. As soon as the war ended, though, streetcar service began to decline in favor of rubber-wheeled busses which were more maneuverable and required less maintenance. San Diego was the first major city to switch over completely from streetcars to busses, with the last streetcar running in April 1949.

PCC #529 originally operated in San Francisco. It was bought by San Diego Vintage Trolley (a non-profit subsidiary of the Metropolitan Transit System) from a collector in South Lake Tahoe, California. Although it was in poor condition, dozens of volunteers spent more than 10,000 hours over six years restoring it to operating condition, and it made its first run on the downtown loop on August 18, 2011.

San Diego Trolley vintage streetcar

San Diego Vintage Trolley has five more streetcars purchased at the same time and which will be renovated for use in San Diego. Two were also used in San Francisco, while the other three were used in New Jersey and southeast Pennsylvania.

Take a ride on PCC #529 on the downtown Silver Line loop with stops at the Gaslamp Quarter, Petco Park, Seaport Village, the harbor, East Village, San Diego Convention Center, America Plaza, the Civic Center, and San Diego City College.

San Diego Trolley Vintage Streetcar Silver Line service

San Diego Trolley vintage streetcar

The Silver Line Vintage Trolley takes about 25 minutes to travel the full loop, and travel is in a clockwise direction only, just in case you need to make it somewhere. The fare is just $2, $1 for seniors and disabled. Children five and under ride free. You must have exact change. Although the PCC #529 can accomodate wheelchairs, only one wheelchair can be handled at a time.

The Silver Line operates on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. First departure on Tuesdays and Thursdays is from the 12th & Imperial Transit Center at 9:52 a.m. Last run departs at 1:52 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays, first run departs from the 12th & Imperial Transit Center at 10:52 am with the last run departing at 3:22 p.m.

San Diego Trolley vintage streetcar

If you are interested in helping preserve the history of the San Diego streetcar system or helping with restoration, join the San Diego Electric Railway Association (SDERA). SDERA operates the National City Depot at 922 W. 23rd Street in National City. The historic Santa Fe railroad station has a museum, railroad cars, a large model railroad, and a gift shop. The National City Depot is open Thursday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Monthly meetings of SDERA are held at the National City Depot on the second Saturday of the month at 7:30 p.m.

San Diego Electric Railway Association

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat