Tag Archives: steam engines

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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Southern California, a train lover’s paradise

Railroads & Trains logo

Southern California is a train lover’s paradise, especially if one loves riding trains and not just watching them pass by.

For riding pleasure, we have the San Diego Trolley with its ubiquitous red cars. The Trolley system has 53 stations, 54 miles of tracks, and three routes (Orange Line, Red Line, Blue Line). It will take one down to the Mexican border, out east to Santee, to downtown San Diego, and all around downtown. Its average of 122,400 riders on week days makes it the nation’s fourth most-ridden light rail system.

San Diego Trolley at the historic Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego

Santa Fe Depot in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There also is a historic streetcar that runs circular routes downtown on the Silver Line. Looks like this:

San Diego Trolley vintage streetcar

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There is the Coaster, which travels between downtown San Diego’s historic Santa Fe Depot and Oceanside, 38 miles north.

Coaster at the San Diego County Fair

Once you get to Oceanside, you can hitch a ride on Metrolink all the way to the historic Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.


Union Station in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Or you can choose to ride Amtrak from downtown San Diego all the way to downtown Los Angeles, one of the most beautiful routes on the entire Amtrak system.

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner in Del Mar, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Once in Oceanside, you can take the Sprinter east to Escondido, about twenty miles and just a few miles from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.


Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If your preference is for freight trains, BNSF serves the San Diego area.

BNSF locomotive in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

BNSF doesn’t make it easy to watch their trains, though. Their tracks are in heavy industrial areas and usually behind high walls and fences.

To watch freight trains, I highly suggest taking a day trip to Los Angeles or Palm Springs and watching the Union Pacific trains build America.

Union Pacific Railroad, Building America

Union Pacific Railroad

Union Pacific 6190, a former Southern Pacific engine

Lonely boxcar in the desert faa framed

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

You can often catch the historic ATSF 3751 steam engine making its way around California since it’s based in Los Angeles.

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

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Every few years, the Union Pacific’s own historic steam engine, #844, cruises through Southern California pulling historic passenger cars.

Union Pacific 844 steam engine in Southern California, November 2011

Union Pacific 844 steam engine in Southern California, November 2011

Union Pacific 844 steam engine in Southern California, November 2011

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If you’re in Los Angeles, where traffic is a horrible mess at all hours of the day, park the car somewhere and take Metrolink or Metro Rail. The trains are fast and clean, and the stations, especially those of the newer Metro Rail, are public works of art in and of themselves.

Metro Rail of Los Angeles

Red Line on the Metro subway in Los Angeles

Red Line on the Metro subway in Los Angeles

Red Line on the Metro subway in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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