Tag Archives: union pacific

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.

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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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Alone but not lonely

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My dad was in the Air Force from 1950 to 1954, receiving an honorable discharge in December. After his discharge he worked for Missouri Pacific in Texas until his death by self-inflicted gunshot in 1961. Mom moved us to Brigham City UT after his death, which is where her side of the family was from.

Granddad also worked on Missouri Pacific, and the two of them often let me ride on the trains with them, either in the engine or the caboose (my choice!), between Kingsville TX and Bishop TX, a round trip distance of 10 miles. It was just a switch engine switching cars on tracks in rail yards in the two cities, and between them, so track speeds were not high.

The fascination with T&T (Tracks & Trains) had infected me, and northern Utah was a hot bed of activity for the Union Pacific Railroad. I was a fan.the-box-car-children

When I was in first grade in 1961 in Brigham City I read a book published in 1924 titled “The Box-Car Children.” I sooooooo wanted to be a Box-Car Child, and I did everything I could to make it happen, hanging out on the UP line between Brigham City and Ogden. I often walked the tracks down to Ogden and hopped a box car ride back, a round trip of 50 miles. Mom never knew because she was always too drunk. The life of a child with no love or discipline. The life of a box-car child.

The picture below, although taken in San Diego, very much reminded me of a time and a place 56 years ago, a time when one could walk the tracks, stand on the tracks, wait for the trains, no one else around, alone but not lonely…….

Tracks at sunset

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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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.

Metrolink

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.

Sprinter

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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Coaster commuter train, San Diego, California

Grab a beer, sit back, and watch the trains go by

Railroads & Trains logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

A lot of train videos are collecting dust in my computer folders, so for true train aficionados, grab a beer, sit back, and watch the trains go by.

The first video is one I have wanted to get for at least 15 years, since the first time I went to Palm Springs. It’s of a simple Union Pacific freight train going by the Palm Springs Amtrak station. If the station looks a little deserted and abandoned, losing itself under drifting sand, it’s because it is used very little. Only one train stops there each day, the Sunset Limited traveling between Los Angeles and New Orleans.

This video is 2:33 and only true train fan(atic)s will appreciate it, so feel free to skip it if it’s not your thing. For railfans, it has 3 leading engines, 84 freight cars, and 1 tail engine.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This second video is more interesting. It’s the Coaster commuter train making its way north from downtown San Diego to Oceanside, going through one of the canyons in Miramar. I found a vantage point that makes it look like someone’s model railroad. Watch the video and then I’ll explain more about how this video happened.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Coaster video was taken around noon yesterday. By the time I found that vantage point, morning commuter rush hour was over, so passing trains were about every 1¼ hours. If you look at the video, you can see that the engine is at the front of the train, pulling it. I wanted a video of the engine pulling the train in classic train fashion.

Well, this is a great example of not believing everything you see. In actuality, the engine is pushing the Coaster. When I was watching the video, I really didn’t like the pushing engine so in Corel Video Studio Pro X6, I used just one click of the mouse button to reverse the train. Instead of going left to right, south to north, the coaster was actually traveling from right to left, north to south!

Unfortunately, when I reversed the video, the sound was reversed, too. There was a lot of traffic behind me, as well as some traffic horns, all of which really sounded weird when reversed. George Lucas I’m not….

Thus I went looking for some free music to add to the video. Jim, being a pianist and a classical music fan(atic), suggested “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jolity” from “The Planets,” composed by Gustav Holst. I found a section that I thought would go well, but it was only one minute long. The original video was 1:29. If I used Gustav Holst’s music, it would be by some orchestra somewhere.

That meant that the YouTube copyright police would be on my tail. So I used Video Studio again to modify music that I already owned to create something that would be mine. I increased the bass to give it more of a train chug-chug-chug feel, and changed the key from G to A. Now it’s my creation, and that satisfies the copyright police.

What’s really interesting about this is that the only two things that Video Studio reversed were the movement of the train and the audio. The tree at the left of the view at the beginning is actually at the left of the view. The track is actually the correct configuration; it wasn’t reversed. How did Video Studio do that with just one mouse click? In today’s world, the eyes just don’t know anymore, still picture or video……………

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos