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Thursday, June 20, 2013

13-06-20 PHOTOS: Raton Pass

Well for anyone who read the URL's involved with my last photo set and was all excited about seeing cool mountain scenery were bound to be disappointed by the offering of flat prairie and semaphore signals. Well hopefully the seventh part of my third annual Cross Country Amtrak trip this time involving the Southwest Chief will prove more popular as we start off from the town of Raton, NM and travel up to the high point of the Santa Fe railroad at the Raton Pass on the border of Colorado and New Mexico.

You can find all the photos here about half way down the page.

Here we see the extended "smoke stop" capable platform as our train departs the Raton, NM station. Far in the background is Black Mesa and up in the foreground is a small number plated dwarf signals that serves as a pseudo-repeater for RATON interlocking located just out of right around a sharp curve. The curve also lets one get a view of downtown Raton which is so jumping you can see why everyone bailed out of Las Vegas.

The short stretch of two signaled tracks ends at EAST RATON interlocking at the foot of the climb up to the third and final 7000 foot summit of the trip. In the foreground is a combination Approach and Start Permanent Speed Restriction sign. The App PSR signs are tilted and the PSR signs are level. Also note the I-25 access road bridge is painted in jovial southwest colors which is pretty par for the course for NM DoT, what a great state. Finally i want to point out that the following section of the route was actually modernized about 10 years ago with brand new interlocking logic, signs, searchlight signals etc...only to have BNSF pull the rug out with their plans to abandon the line.

Moving up the hill we hit another rare signaled siding at KEOTA which also displays the effects of a forest fire that went through here a few years ago. At least this fire didn't seem to be one of the mega kind that burn everything down to charred stumps.

Here we see the entrance and exit of the 2700 foot Raton tunnel at the summit of the Santa Fe railroad. The NM.CO border is just at the northern end of the tunnel and marked with a small obelisk. Interstate 25 also uses the pass, but crosses at a slightly higher elevation and does not require a tunnel. The east/north portal of the tunnel can be considered the literal and figurative climax of the trip which again is strange for this is NOT the continental divide. 

Here is a video of my train entering and exiting the Raton tunnel and continuing on through WOOTTON interlocking

Both sides of the tunnel were marked by the Santa Fe railroad with large signs to inform the celebrities on the Super Chief that they were passing over the high point of the Santa Fe at 7588 feet above sea level. Below is the sign at the east portal. The west portal sign still had thee Santa Fe cross attached. Moving the train to the alternate Amarillo route will not only deprive several communities of a critical rail service, but also throw away a significant amount of cultural heritage. Back before the jet age this was the way for anyone who didn't want a prematurely shortened acting or music career to travel between New York and LA.

Some moW crews were out doing a little work on the line. I believe that Amtrak is currently responsible for any MoW costs between Lamy, NM and Trinidad, CO. Like I said before this part of the line was given some capitol investment by BNSF before they decided to pull the plug so maintenance isn't a huge problem as Amtrak's two trains a day don't cause much wear and tear. 

The two engines for my train, P42DC's #167 and #118 rounding the 90 degree curve east of the tunnel on the long downgrade with I-25 in the background. They are passing another ATSF info sign, but I didn't catch what was on it.

View of the curve and the sign and I-25 and a mesa out the back.

S-Curve with I-25 and the mesa.

GALLINAS interlocking is the first set of two main track crossovers that my train passed since DALLIES interlocking way back in the morning about 8-10 hours ago. Note the accommodations for signal maintainers during periods of extreme snow. This is the sort of upgrade and renovation process that has been lost with the new throw away culture that just replaces everything with new hardware.

What can I say, speeds over the pass were not exactly "blistering".

Pairs of double track right hand mounted automatic CTC searchlight mast signals used in place of ATSF style cantilevers. Signal placement was more important when locomotives were either steam engines or diesels running long hood forward by default. 

 ATSF cantilevers did make an occasional appearance. Like the others this one has also been fitted with the EZ-Stairs.

Moon over my mesa. 

For all of you people bitching about a lack of "trains" you can stop complaining now. Here we see ES44AC #6366 and SD70MAC #998? sitting at the head of a coal train west of Trinidad, CO. The Raton pass route was routed this way in the first place due to deports of coal in the area and this mine, unlike the ones near French, NM, is still operational. One side benefit is that BNSF is willing to maintain the tracks between here and La Junta, CO.

More evidence of curtailed MoW investment east of JANSEN interlocking.

The recently refurbished Trinidad Amtrak station. Until just a few years ago this was basically a wooden bus shelter that literally put the shack in Amshack. Investments such as these indicate Ammtrak and the state of Colorado's commitment to Southwest Chief service via the Raton Pass route.

Past the alarmingly vacant Trinidad Yard we reach TRINIDAD interlocking which is the eastern end of CTC and Two Main Track territory and the western end of TWC-ABS and ATS territory. Don't get your hopes up, despite the presence of ATS track speed is only 80mph.

East end of the HOEHNES siding with automatic searchlight signals.

Do you remember that massive wildfire that was threatening the Colorado Springs area earlier this year? Well you could see it from the train for hours on the planes approaching La Junta.

Here is a video syncopated by the sweet jointed rail still in service on the line. When BNSF has dropped new rail it has been of the CW variety, but this only tends to be found on the inside of curves due to the low level of traffic which has extended the lifespan of the classic rail which is still good for 80mph. Also seen is this video is more smoke from the wildfire.

Light began to become an issue as we approached La Junta around 8pm, however as the line curved into a compass East-West alignment I began to get the fire smoke in each shot.

Train 4 at La Junta with the new crew getting a briefing from the old one. In the background are a pair of two track TWC-ABS automatic signals.

The La Junta station. In order to make full use of the light and get all the photos I needed I opted for one of the later dinner slots this night.

La Junta platform showing the historic ATSF Building #19 and the suck truck for the toilets. 

Well that's it for part 7. Next time we'll wake up to find ourselves in Kansas City, Missouri.

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