Search This Blog

Thursday, June 16, 2016

16-06-16a PHOTOS: The Big River Pass

At Deming, NM I decided to take an hour off for lunch and was able to just make it back as the eastbound Sunset Limited began the descent down into El Paso, TX. This involved crossing the unimaginatively named "Big River" before making an extended smoke stop, the first since Tuscon. While last year I struggled to get good photos with the private car in the way, this year there were no such impediments and I was able to document the entire El Paso terminal area, coming and going.

You can catch all the photos in this set here.

Lunch was slightly delayed so I was only able to make it back for the east end of the brand new Union Pacific Santa Teresa Yard, which was built on hundreds of acres of desert just west of El Pasto. The new yard coincided with the double track capacity expansion project on the Sunset Route to ease the flow of goods from the Port of LA to the interior of the country. The new yard contains not one, but TWO 7 track fast fuel pads to efficiently gas up trains as they cross the country.

Hanging out on a yard track were UP AC4400 #5714 and ES44AC #5298 couple to a pair of cars.

Entering the yard from the east was a westbound train powered by UP ES44AC #7370, SD70ACe #8376 and an unidentified former Southern Pacific C40-8W I just wasn't able to get in frame. Note the low cost LED signal lamps using a limited number of LEDs for that classy grainy look.

A pair of UP AC4400's, #6765 and #5795, in the super rare "Kissing Lincolns" configuration.  

How much power does one train need? Well this Union pacific jobber needed six units, ES44AC #8068, SD70ACe #8497, SD70M #4295 and #5231, SD40N #1735 and not-quite so leet GP40-2 #1377. #5231 was actually the last engine delivered of UP's monster 1453 unit order of SP70M's in 2000.

Starting down the grade into El Paso. You can see the escarpment created by the erosion from the Big River.

S-curves and rock cuts on the way down.

At the Lizard crossover we were held to allow our opposite, Amtrak Train 1, the westbound Sunset Limited, to pass. It was being powered by P42DC's #192 and #186. I was also surprised to see heritage baggage car #1241 following right behind as I had assumed they had all been retired by now. This will likely be my last shot of a heritage baggage car in service.

The train appeared to have some extra cars and I was told second hand that it had former Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman on board, a fact I could not confirm.

If you are interested, here is what Train 1's passing looked like in real time.

I think Donald Trump had been here, because someone had erected a big beautiful border wall. Incidentally, this whole trip was made possible because of the 1853 Gadsen Purchase I had mentioned in my previous post, that moved the border south to make way for a transcontinental railroad alignment.

Crossing the Big River, this time on the track 1 bridge. Last year my train used the track 2 bridge.

After pulling into the El Past station I noticed that a pair of UP ES44AC's, #7366 and #7908, were waiting to highball westbound with an intermodal train. Unfortunately it appeared that Tower 196, something I had not been able to photograph well last year, had been recently demolished along with the old fast fuel pad :-(

Amtrak's historic El Paso station is a popular smoke stop and also sees a lot of traffic.

 Amtrak P42DC engine #77 staring down a Diverging Clear signal at CIVIC CENTER interlocking as the station work was completed.

The former Southern Pacific main line is carried through downtown El Paso via this three-track trench alignment.

Union Pacific AC4400 #6518 and SD70ACe #8862 wait to proceed eastbound in the old El Paso yard with a train of autoracks. With the new Santa Teresa yard west of town, the old yard, in sight of downtown El Paso, is noticeably empty

The El Paso locomotive service facility is still humming, despite the change in yard operations. Sitting outside the bard today are UP SD40N #1852, SD70M #5082 and GP40-2 #1338. Surprisingly UP does not actually have an engine #1337, much to the chagrin of nerds everywhere.

The old fuel pad required engines to be swapped out for servicing. A time consuming and inefficient operation. BTW, note the 9000 series standard cab C40-8 far in the background.

At ALFALFA we passed UP AC4400 #7097 and brand new ET44AC #2655 waiting to depart the yard.

Once known as the Alfalfa Intermodal Facility at El Paso, today the yard is the hub of the city's industrial freight operations as the container traffic is now handled at Santa Teresa. Tank cars are well represented due to the large number of nearby refineries and chemical plants.

Well that's it for this segment. Next week things will slow down a bit as we take off across the ranch lands of west Texas. For anyone who thinks the trick is wrapping up, not to worry. El Paso is actually closer to Orange, California than Orange, Texas!

No comments:

Post a Comment