Tag Archives: trains

Did You Know?—Deep Space Network, Goldstone Antennas, and InSight

Did you know?

I was fascinated yesterday when the InSight successfully landed on Mars. Facebook memes immediately began cropping up. This is my favorite:

Mars landing meme

When I joined the Boy Scouts in 1966 after my wise old grandmother had adopted me, I became fascinated by the stars, the clouds, the sky. Space Boy Scouts Space Exploration merit badgeexploration. The Boy Scouts’ newest merit badge was the Space Exploration merit badge, created in 1965.

I was on it.

To help me along, Gene Roddenberry created “Star Trek, debuting on television on Thursday, September 8, 1966. On Thursday nights, my wise old grandmother forced me to study or practice my violin.

School nights.

Blah.

TV Guide "Star Trek" coverFriday afternoon, though, were daytime repeats of the previous week’s shows, and TV Guide indicated that “Star Trek” would be televised at 3:30.

I was on it.

School let out at 3:00.

I was home by 3:15,
grabbed a loaf of bread,
a butter knife,
a jar of peanut butter,
a jar of jam,
and sat myself in front of the television from 3:30 to 4:30
to watch “Star Trek.”

I was mesmerized.

The rest, as they say, is history.

I have been a “Star Trek” fan my whole life.

A Trekkie.

A Trekker.

Mesmerized by space exploration television shows and movies. Books. Museums. Exhibits. Just cannot get enough of them.

St. Gertrude Catholic Church in Kingsville TexasWhen Apollo 11 landed on the moon, a landing to be televised live, I was the saddest kid in the world because the landing would be at 12:17 p.m. on Sunday. I would be in church with my wise old grandmother. I’m not sure what I did to convince her that the moon landing was more important than church on that day, but we did not go to church. I watched the moon landing, and collected Corpus Christi, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston newspapers the next day with their bold headlines and pictures. Sadly, the newspapers got left behind in April 1993 when I escaped Texas and settled in San Diego.

Corpus Christi Caller moon landing paper

When I was in Barstow, California, on July 30 & 31, 2018, the historic Harvey House railroad depot, renovated and re-purposed, had a Goldstone Deep Space Network Visitor Center and a permanent exhibit about the Deep Space Network and the Goldstone Antennas.

I was on it.

Trains at the historic Barstow rail yard took a back seat for an hour.

Deep Space Network

Goldstone Antennas

NASA’s Deep Space Network is a worldwide network of spacecraft communication facilities specificially for United States spacecraft. Russia, China, India, Japan, and the European Space Agency have similar networks. NASA’s is located in Barstow, California; Madrid, Spain; and Canberra, Australia.

Deep Space Network Visitor Center in Barstow, California

Deep Space Network Visitor Center in Barstow, California

Deep Space Network Visitor Center in Barstow, California

Deep Space Network Visitor Center in Barstow, California

Each facility is located in bowl-shaped terrain surrounded by mountains to help shield against radio frequency interference. The facilities provide nearly 120-degree separation, which allows for constant observation of spacecraft as the Earth rotates, thereby making DSN the largest and most sensitive scientific telecommunications system in the world. The Deep Space Operations Center is at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Deep Space Network Visitor Center in Barstow, California

Deep Space is defined as more than two million kilometers from the Earth’s surface, so missions to the Moon do not qualify to use the network. Missions to Mars, however, do.

The antennas are located on government property northeast of Barstow, near Fort Irwin. According to staff at the Visitor Center, they are not visible from any roads since they are in a bowl surrounded by mountains.

Deep Space Network locations

And now, we return you to trains and the historic Barstow rail yard.

Barstow rail yard

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

Santa Fe 1460

Santa Fe 1460–Beep, beep

Railroads & Trains logo

My father and his three siblings, as well as their father, all worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad at some point in their lives. My dad and granddad made railroad work a career.

Although I have been interested in railroads since I was six, I don’t know much about the actual working equipment—steam locomotives and diesel engines, maintenance of way equipement, cabooses, etc., and their history. However, whenever I see static displays at museums, depots, and rail yards, I presume it is more than just your common equipment, so I take pictures.

Today, I posted this picture on a Santa Fe Railroad group on Facebook:

Santa Fe 1460

Knowledgeable people commenting on Facebook did not know what it was. Their lack of knowledge piqued my interest very quickly. Eventually, courtesy of Google, I discovered that it was built as a one-of-a-kind engine in 1970. It currently is preserved as a static display at the historic Harvey House depot in Barstow, California.

Technically, Santa Fe 1460 is a rebuild, but a very unusual one. Originally built in July 1943 at the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania, Santa Fe Railway selected it a test subject to determine if remanufacturing its aging locomotives would be a viable, and less expensive, option over buying new locomotives. Conversion proved too costly, resulting in Santa Fe 1460 being the only locomotive that was modified.

I found conflicting information about the end of 1460’s working years. One source said that it was retired in March 2009 and stored in working condition in Topeka, Kansas. In May 2009, it was donated to the Western America Railroad Museum in Barstow, California, which is where I found it on July 31, 2018.

However, another source, a railfan blogger, said that 1460 was retired in 2012.

Yet a third source, which has a few billion pictures of railroad locomotives, as well as the date and location where the picture was taken, shows Santa Fe 1460 in Cleburne, Texas, on December 16, 1997. The shops in Cleburne are where the remanufacturing took place. On July 6, 1990, it was in Kansas City, Kansas. The last picture of it in the Kansas City area was taken on September 1, 1999. The next picture, dated July 21, 2009, shows it at the Western America Railroad Museum in Barstow.

I’m going to discount the blogger since his information has no references or other sources.

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

One of them might be unique

Railroads & Trains logo

Whenever I go out I’m always on the lookout for trains. When I was over in Palm Springs on August 21 with the Pacific Photographic Society, our bus came home via the Salton Sea. I have a few billion pictures of the Salton Sea but across from where our bus stopped, I saw this:

CSX 7679

Union Pacific enginesYou might say, “Meh. A train engine.” and that would be true in a sense. However, to train fanatics like me, it’s interesting. It was the fifth engine on that freight train, trailing four Union Pacific engines. What makes this interesting is that Union Pacific is the largest railroad in the nation, operating 32,000 miles of track, and this was deep into Union Pacific territory. Here is a map of the Union Pacific rail network:

Union Pacific Railroad network

CSX Transportation is the nation’s second largest railroad, operating 21,000 miles of track. Here is a map of its rail network:

CSX Transportation

Notice that it is a pretty good distance from the CSX tracks on the East Coast to Palm Springs, California, on the West Coast.

Although not unheard of, it is somewhat unusual for an engine from one railroad to be found on the tracks of another railroad. If such occurs, it often means that the competitor’s engine has been borrowed short-term or perhaps leased for a extended period.

There are various web sites where we train nuts can track the movement of train engines, and when I went there, I found that CSX 7679 had been built in May 1991 by General Electric. It is GE model C40-8W. You didn’t know train engines had model numbers and years, did you?

The first picture that shows up anywhere is from January 1, 1995, when it was in Huntington, West Virginia. It was seen in Fort Worth, Texas, on February 3, 2006, and then, six months later, back on the East Coast, in Selkirk, New York. It stayed on CSX tracks through June 1, 2017, when it was seen in Hamilton, Ohio. Thence, it disappeared until showing up in Norden, California (a southern suburb of Palm Springs) on February 12, 2018. My picture also was taken in Norden, but on August 21, 2018, pretty much indicating that CSX 7679 is on a long-term lease to the Union Pacific.

Next time you’re waiting for a train, check out those engines. One of them might be unique.

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

Out & About — Sunrise, sunset

Out & About

While on my long road trip in late July, I was taking pictures of sunrises and sunsets, posting them to Facebook while never knowing for sure if any one would be my last sunrise or sunset.

Now that I’m home, doing better because I’m finding things to do (including trying to get back to blogging daily and visiting the blogs of all my blogging friends), I can sort through the many pictures I took and share them.

Following are the sunrises and sunsets, their locations, and dates.

Sunrise in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
July 24, 2018
The bridge in the first picture is the London Bridge which was bought by Robert McCulloch of McCulloch Oil for $2.46 million and shipped from London to Lake Havasu City where it was reassembled and opened on October 10, 1971.
Sunrise over London Bridge in Lake Havasu City AZ
Sunrise in Lake Havasu City, Arizona

Mid-morning at Pirate’s Cove Resort in Needles, California.
July 24, 2018
Sunrise at Pirate's Cove Resort in Needles CA

Sunset over the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
July 24, 2018
Sunset near Kingman, Arizona

Sunset in Brigham City, Utah.
July 25, 2018
Sunset in Brigham City, Utah

Sunset on Highway 50 (the loneliest road in America)
between Ely, Nevada, and Sacramento, California.
July 26, 2018
I call the first one “Clouds on Fire.”
Sunset west of Ely, Nevada
Sunrise near Ely, Nevada

Sunrise in Yosemite National Park.
July 29, 2018
The haze is smoke from the Ferguson Fire which started a few days earlier.
Sunrise in Yosemite National Park on July 29, 2018
Sunrise in Yosemite National Park

Sunrise in Panamint Springs, California,
gateway to Death Valley National Park.
July 30, 2018
Sunrise in Panamint Springs, California

These last pictures all were taken on July 31, 2018, in Barstow, California, so I included the time the picture was taken. You’ll understand why I have so many sunset pictures from one night in Barstow once you look at them.

Sunset in Barstow, California.
July 31, 2018, 7:31 p.m.
Sunset in Barstow, California

Sunset from the historic Harvey House in Barstow, California.
July 31, 2018, 7:35 p.m.
(Google or Wikipedia “Harvey House”)
Sunset in Barstow, California

Sunset in Barstow, California.
July 31, 2018, 7:44 p.m.
Sunset in Barstow, California

Sunset in Barstow, California.
July 31, 2018, 7:48 p.m.
Sunset in Barstow, California

Sunset in Barstow, California,
looking east over the historic railroad yard.
July 30, 2018, 7:53 p.m.
Sunset over the railroad yard in Barstow, California

Sunset in Barstow, California,
looking east over the historic railroad yard.
July 31, 2018, 8:01 p.m.
Sunset in Barstow, California

Which one is your favorite?

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.

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

Videos—One fewer item on the Bucket List

In February 2010 I bought a Canon Rebel T2i DSLR. My whole reason in buying it to replace my Canon Rebel XSi was because the T2i had video. Sadly, though, I was never satisfied with the videos because the autofocus pretty much didn’t work. A Google search indicates that I wasn’t the only one in the world who was dissatisfied.

In late 2015 I replaced the T2i with a T6s because the autofocus was supposed to be vastly improved. Nope. The delay in focusing just wasn’t acceptable.

The shakiness of the videos didn’t make me happy either. Some of the shakiness was the camera’s fault because it weighs 26 ounces. Add a lens that weighs  19 ounces, or one that weighs 69 ounces, and taking videos is not a one-hand event. Even two-hand support gets tiresome, and more shaky,  if the video is longer than about ten seconds.

So this past June I considered buying a dedicated video camera. After a couple of months of research, I settled on the Canon Vixia HF R800. It retails for $299.99. I figured if it didn’t do what I wanted it to do, I could sell it on eBay. Well, it does what I want it to do (and what I wanted my DSLR to do).

The Vixia weighs a whopping 8 ounces. Could 8 ounces do what 95 ounces could not?

The autofocusing is awesome. It has a 32x optical zoom and an 1140x digital zoom. I wasn’t hopeful about the digital zoom because I was familiar with digital zooms on Point & Shoot cameras. Well, the zoom is extraordinarily easy to use and focusing is pretty much instantaneous.

After experimenting by taking videos of the birds, rabbits, and squirrels eating together in my back yard….

….it was time to test it out on the big boys—TRAINS! I wasn’t disappointed.

I took the Vixia to the famous Colton Crossing in Colton, an eastern suburb of Los Angeles. Ever since I discovered the Colton Crossing, I have wanted to get a picture of a Union Pacific train using the Colton Crossing upper tracks—the Flyover—to “fly over” a BNSF train on the lower tracks. Here’s my video of exactly that:

Bucket List has one fewer item on it.

Now I have to learn how to keep my fingers out of the field of view when in wide angle mode. I think I can handle that.

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

Out & About—How come Santa didn’t bring me a drone?

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Brick is not widely used in Southern California but the Del Mar depot, built in 1910 by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, is a beautiful brick depot located on Coast Boulevard between 15th and 17th streets.

Former Del Mar railroad depot in use from 1910 to 1995.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That depot had been in continuous use from 1910 to 1995. For many of those years it was the only passenger stop between Oceanside and San Diego, a distance of 39 miles. At the time of its closing, it was one of Amtrak’s busiest stations, mainly due to the Del Mar Fairgrounds being nearby. The Fairgrounds host hundreds of events throughout the year, including the San Diego County Fair, the 5th largest fair in the United States.

In the late 1980s, the city of Solana Beach, located two miles north of Del Mar, set about to build a regional transit center. The San Diego Association of Governments voted to close the Del Mar depot due to limited parking, the lack of handicapped access, and the poor logistics of providing for trains, buses, cars, and people. The Del Mar City Council rejected expanding the depot but hoped to keep it in operation as an Amtrak-only station; Amtrak nixed that idea and moved its Del Mar operations to Solana Beach.

Across from the Del Mar depot is one of Southern California’s prime surfing spots, so this area area is highly congested as surfers arrive by foot, bicycle, motorcycle, car, bus, and taxi. No longer do they arrive by train.

The depot now is private property so there is no access to it. I did find a walkway going above it where I got seven pictures to create the panorama show above. The picture below is looking down the tracks where you can see the depot on the right. That’s as close as you’re going to get to a trackside picture without a drone. Hmmmmmmmm. Drone. How come Santa didn’t bring me a drone?

Tracks at the former Del Mar railroad depot, in upper right.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat