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Thursday, June 22, 2017

17-06-22b PHOTOS: Colorado Carcass

I'm calling this a "transcontinental" Amtrak trip, but as I said before, the destination was Denver and I had taken the California Zephyr twice before.  Past Grand Junction, CO, the line had already been re-signaled prior to 2014, so I could sit back and relax a bit with my mom in the sleeping accommodation instead of standing at my perch by the rear facing window.  However between the junction with the old Tenessee Pass route at Dotsero and Bond my coverage could use a bit of a refresh and furthermore I wanted to check out two islands of searchlight signaling between Bond and the Steven Moffat Tunnel.

Not to keep you in suspense, the searchlights were all gone and after Bond I didn't have much to do besides enjoy a nice steak dinner in the dining car as we descended towards Denver. You can view the full set of photos here.

Like the west end of the yard seen in the last set, the east end of the yard was full of stored power.  However instead of UP GP15-1's, this time it was HLCX and GATX SD40-2's.


The line soon passes the High Line Canal diversion, that diverts Colorado River water for agricultural uses around Grand Junction.


Our power, Amtrak P42DC's #124 and #172 as seen from the dining car around a bend in the river.


Colorado River gouge as seen approaching Glenwood Springs.


This Union Pacific fixed blade plough was one of the few pieces of equipment in te Gleenwood Springs Yard.


The old DRG&W searchlight signal bridge had been replaced by this new structure :-(


My perch from the rear of the Zephyr.


Beyond Glenwood Springs, the route switches onto the Moffat Tunnel route, following the Little Colorado River into the Rockies.


To the west of the railroad bridge, a new concrete road bridge replaced an old timber span that allows for recreational access to the valley.


The river cuts through time and exposes the red rock strata below.


17-06-22a PHOTOS: Pole Line Sweep

So normally I would be super excited because the California Zephyr route between Green River, UT and Grand Junction, CO has probably some of the best scenery on the entire Amtrak LD network.  However, this is my third time reporting on this route and unlike rail infrastructure, rock strata doesn't change much on human time scales.  Furthermore, there was barely any rail traffic on this run so I am pretty much going to have to lean on the scenery photos.  On the plus side the photos look better than before due to my new camera lens.

If you are wondering about the name of the set, all the way back in 2012 new signal hardware had been erected to replace the classic Denver, Rio Grand and Western kit and their associated pole line.  The new signals had not yet been activated in 2014 and to my surprise they were still waiting to go into service in 2017!  Therefore I had one last chance to document a pole line CTC route in service.  You can check out the full set of photos here.

Like I said this segment starts at Green River, UT.  Most of the line between Helper, UT and Green River had already been re-signaled so I used the opportunity to get some breakfast.


Like I said, the replacement signals had been standing in place for over 5 years.  This example makes use of recycled US&S N-3 signal units, something else that went bay the wayside.


 A westbound BNSF train was sitting on the FLOY siding, waiting to us for pass.  Here we see C44-10W #7304 and on the rear was brand new ET44C4 #3913.



 At Brendel UP ES44AC #8074, AC4400 #7927 and SD70ACe #8468 were on hand with a string of MoPac hopper cars at the Uranium tailings cleanup site.




 The ELBA siding was being used to store a trail of coal hoppers.


At this point we start getting into the Ruby Canyon complex of the Colorado River.  There are no roads into this canyon so the only ways to see it are by watercraft or by train.




17-06-22 PHOTOS: Mormon Morning

Today is Two D of my most recent long haul Amtrak trip and I am walking up after a good night's sleep in the Dry State of Utah.  Back in 2014, I my train was running a few hours late so I scored some great sunny photos with a lot of classic DRG&W infrastructure.  Well this year my train was on time and all of the Rio Grande signals had been replaced by Darth Vaders.  I was also a bit sleepy because Caffeine was unavailable for some reason 🙄

Anyway, due to the time of day and other factors this set is pretty brief.  You can find the full set here.

I actually got to the back of the train at about the same point as before.  A Y ended pocket track siding named GILLULY.  While the searchlight signals were gone, each interlocking featured a MoPac style triangular dwarf stack arrangement for the pocket track.  Additional clear signals indicated a train was approaching on Track #2,



The siding was just short of a switchback complex called the Gilluly Loop.  Here you can see a descending coal train about 100 feet above.


Power was provided by AC4400's #6038 and #6829.


On the rear was a long ES44AC,  #7409.


Wow, I didn't know the west had water!


 The KYUNE siding featured another center pocket track.  Here is a closeup of the dwarf signal and Y switch.


The interlocking limits had been moved on to the east side of a short pair of tunnels, replacing what had been automatic repeater signals.


A short time later a second pair of tunnels cut off a bend in the river.


Check out those red banded cliffs!



Entering the town of helper, the train is greeted(?) by a signal bridge for westbound movements.


The Amtrak and Union Pacific stations at Helper.  Yes, the town was a helper base for the DRG&W railroad. 



 A long string of GE and EMD units were sitting in an otherwise empty Helper yard.  Units included brand new ET44AH #2590 followed by ES44AH #2532 and SD70ACe's #8599 and #8901.


Well I said it would be short and it was!  Tune in next week as we set out across the deserts of eastern Utah and western Colorado.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

17-06-21b PHOTOS: Nevada West

So you should know the drill by now.  This is my third trip eastbound on the California Zephyr and I'm trying to cover all the remaining gaps I missed in my 2012 and 2014 surveys.  In this post I will be covering the former Southern Pacific Nevada Sub that runs eastward out of Reno.  Since 2015 all of the old Searchlights were removed from the western end of the subdivision, however the eastern end was re-signaled by the SP in the 1990's and UP decided to keep it in place when adding the necessary PTC components.  As luck would have it, two previous dinner-periods each disrupted full surveys of this portion of the route so I was actually able to add something useful to my existing record.

There isn't much train wise in this set as we pretty much ran across the desert without meeting any opposing traffic.  Train traffic these days tends to move in waves and I guess that late afternoon is not one of these wave periods.  You can view the entire set here.

Let's start out with something for those power systems nerds.  In the town of Argo, NV, the Path 65 HVDC line crosses the UP Nevada Sub.  The line carried hydro power from the Pacific Northwest to Southern California via a 1 Gigavolt pole-to-pole HVDC system.


In my previous posts I mentioned the drought reversing wet winter the Sierra Nevada region had experienced.  Here are some pop-up oasises that popped up along the tracks in what is ordinarily a salt pan.




Traffic still crosses the Nevada Sub at highway speed at the US 95 grade crossing where a an accident a number of years ago left three Amtrak passengers and crew dead and the train on fire.



In the Southern Pacific re-signaled zone, PTC antennas had been added, but little else had changed.  Incidently, the chosen PTC solution was sold on the basis of not having to touch each and every signal location, unlike a cab signal based system because wireless.  Looks like the system was being oversold.






The large town of Lovelock does not feature a controlled siding, but does have a number of industrial tracks .



A UP MoW truck was hanging out just past the downtown trackage that had a 40mph PSR on it.


Back on the open road and passing through empty desert scrubland.  Note the old Nevada Sub alignment still visible to the right.


17-06-21a PHOTOS: Over the Top

This was my third trip on Amtrak's California Zephyr crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains, however it took a road trip to the summit of the Donner Pass back in 2016 to make me appreciate just what an amazing feat of engineering this route is.  Built in the 1860's, this route basically ascends from sea level to a maximum elevation of approximately 7100 feet.  To this day it still ranks on the short list of highest railroad main lines in the world.

Photo wise the third time was not going to be a charm as the re-signaling project that was underway in 2014 had now been largely completed, wiping out most of the Southern Pacific vintage searchlight signals.  However, due to my previous photo surveys, I could take a little time off to enjoy the scenery and clean up any of the stuff I missed on prior journeys.  For example I had always wound up eating lunch when the train was passing through the large Roseville yard area.

Anyway, you can find the full set of photos right here.  Enjoy!

 Approaching Elvas Jct a westbound manifest train was being headed up by new ET44AH #2668 and veteran SD70M #5123.


 Here is a string of empty center beam cars passing under the re-used 3-track signal bride at Elvas Jct while a few bits of MoW equipment hang out on the third main track..


The End of Train was crossing the truss bridge over the American River.


The Sacrimento Light Rail Blue Line was built along the Southern Pacific right of way northwest of the city.  Here a train of CAF SRV-1 cars head inbound towards the city.


Older Siemens SD-100 cars hanging out next to the shoppe complex.


Approaching the Roseville shoppes our train passes a deadline of stored UP GE power including AC4400 #6220. Note the radiator grilles are all covered over with sheet metal.




Parked out behind the former Southern Pacific shoppes at Roseville were SD70ACe #8387, ET44AH #2730 and GP60 #1090.


On shoppe track #7 was UP SD70M #3900.


On an adjacent storage track was a lineup of "icebreaker" GP38-2 locomotives including UP #574.  These are equipped with pop-up metal framed to knock ice out of tunnels and special high visibility windows.


Next to those was still active UP AC4400 #5405.


Last time we had to take track #2 through the yard resulting in a costly backup move to serve the single station platform.  However I got some nice closeups of the former Southern Pacific rotary plows and ice equipment.  This time track #1 was free and this was the best shot I could manage.