In 1895, the Southern Pacific began operation of the Sunset Limited, making it the oldest continually operated named train in the United States. It's path, from New Orleans to Los Angeles via the Gasden OPurchase, became informally known as the Sunset Route. Last year I attempted to photograph this route, but unfortunately Dan Aykroyd's private car busted my attempt. This year my view was unobstructed and you can view the full set of photos here.
In 2015 Amtrak was running the eastbound Sunset Limited 2 hours ahead of its usual schedule to accomidate Union Pacific track work. This year it was back on the normal 10pm departure which meant that I got two hours of additional sunlight in the morning and two less in the evening. I woke up as the train was stopped at the Maricopa, AZ station (which is the closest Amtrak gets to Phoenix) where, for some reason, former CBQ California Zephyr observation car #375 is on display. WRONG ROUTE MORONS!
Here we see passengers hanging out on the Tuscon station platform for an extended smoke break. The train was a good 20 or so minutes early into Tuscon so the break was a bit longer than normal. SP 2-6-0 Mogul #1673 was on display, but was unfortunately stuck behind several layers of terrorist grade fence.
My perch for this part of this trip was Amtrak Superliner I sleeping car #32016, which was destined for Chicago on the Texas Eagle.
Here we see the Tuscon Amtrak Station platform with the baggage ramps and refueling truck. It appears that in the resent past the station used an island platform configuration with a passenger/baggage tunnel, however the tracks were re-aligned and passengers no longer use the ramp.
Here UP AC4400 #6630 and SD70M #4233 are flat switching doublestack well cars at the west end of Tuscon Yard.
Over at the engine pit UP SD70M #4126 was coupled to ES44AC #7977.
Stack train lashup at Tuscon Yard with UP ES44AC #8266, SD70ACe #8437 and second ES44AC #7930.
UP SD70ACe #8534 was attached to the rear on DPU duty.
Flat switching yard power lead by remote controlable UP GP39-2 #1211, SD40N #1699 and AC4400 #7286.
Surviving Southern Pacific cantilever signal at 36TH ST interlocking at the east end of the Tuscon yard.
Don't let the headlight food you. UP SD70ACe #8482 is actually a DPU pushing on the rear of a merchandise train.
The Sunset Limited offers some unique scenery like saguaro cacti which, contrary to popular belief, are only located in the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona and northern Mexico. This example is located in the hills south of Saguaro National Park. Pro tip, don't hug cacti. They can defend themselves somehow.
Prickly pear cacti are also common in this area, with some of the patches growing quite large.
The famous Cienega Creek viaduct where track 1 flies over track 2. Between Vail, AZ and Benson, AZ the two main tracks split and take different routes through the Rincon Mountains. The current track 2 was the original alignment, while track 1 was a later, low grade alignment.
Southern Pacific style signal with an old railroad water tower in the background.
UP AC4400 #6173 and SD70ACe #8982 wait patiently for the Sunset to pass ahead of them and their doublestack intermodal train at the CHAMISO crossovers near Mescal, AZ.
If you think the Benson, AZ AmShack is the most "minimalist" station on the Amtrak network...you'd actually be wrong ;-)
Meanwhile, the old Southern Pacific station goes to waste.
New and old bridges over the Ponerene Canal.
UP SD70M #5110 in the leading pair of engines powering a westbound intermodal train near Sibyl, AZ. Oh, that is the tail end of an NS unit you see there.
Since 2010, UP has double-tracked most of the Sunset Route between LA and El Paso, which had previously operated as a single track with passing sidings outside of hilly areas. Here we can see the new second track complete with 50mph high speed turnouts that came with it.
One of several salt flats the line traverses. The new track as concrete ties while the older track has wood. This makes it easy to see where the second track was added since 2010.
New concrete and salvaged wooden ties near Karro, AZ. Yes, that mile marker has four digits and it is counting up from San Francisco via the Coast Sub.
The Sunset Route is much less mountainous than the other transcontinental lines, but there are still a few like these examples near the NM-AZ border.
Alkali flats. Exactly what it says on the interlocking.
Some derailment action at Lordsburg. Side lift cranes help to re-rail some tank cars while UP ES44AC #7705 looks on.
Brand new UP SD70AH road freight unit #9002 flat switching in the Lordsburg yard.
UP ES44AC #7770 and friends for some reason had uncoupled from their train of autoracks near Lisbon, NM.
It was an all EMD consist powering this unit dry materials train near Borrow Pit, NM. Two UP SD70ACes were on point while SD70ACe #8309 and an unidentified SD70M road the rear.
More EMD power with UP SD70ACe #8545 laying over at Deming, NM.
Southwestern Railroad GP40 #9946 pulling a single tank car with an authentic Quonset hut in the background, Deming, NM.
A pair of Southwestern Railroad SD40-2's, #3910 and #3776, also in Deming, NM.
Remember that Benson, AZ Amshack station? Well Deming, NM actually has it beat because it utilizes an active level crossing as its platform! (In addition to having a pretty bare bones passenger shelter.)
I'll close out this set with a pair of UP SD70M's (#4301 and #4903) in Deming yard.
See you next time as we descend through The Pass in the the valley of the Big River.