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Thursday, June 22, 2017

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  Well this year my train was on time and all of the Rio Grande signals had been replaced by Darth Vaders.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.

17-06-21 VIDEOS: Capitol Corridor and Donner Pass

So as this was my third trip over the California Zephyr route, I was looking to do something a little different.  An obvious answer was to include video as the last time I had made the run in 2014 I had not yet purchased my GoPro camera that can record video out the back while leaving my hands free to operate a still camera.  Because much of the Zephyr route is either slow or rather unexciting, I chose to video the parts of the trip that stood to be the opposite.  California's Capitol Corridor is an 80mph sprint between Martinez and Sacramento with the Zephyr running express with only a single stop in Davis.  Also, the Donner Pass route between Switch 9 and Truckee might be slow, but the scenery is spectacular with tunnels and bridges and classic signals and even a horseshoe curve!  So sit back, block out some time and enjoy what make up some of the best parts of the Zephyr experience.

We start on the Capitol Corridor at the city of Martinez.  I didn't bother starting the video at  Emmeryville because the first 30 or so miles of the Corridor has a 30-40mph speed restriction due to curves and other line geography.  Pulling out of the Martinez station the eastbound Train 6 will climb up to cross the famous Suisun Bay Bridge, then turn to the east where it will pretty much enjoy a straight shot to Davis with an 80mph speed limit.  Note the new Fairfield/Vacaville station being built about halfway through the video.

After departing Davis, CA with its classic searchlight signals still in place, the Zephyr makes the short hop over to Sacramentowhere, after crossing the I Street Swing Bridge, it enters the new station platform complex that was built to eliminate an S-curve and heavy freight trains having to rumble through the passenger tracks.

Next the Zephyr tackles the world famous Donner Pass.  This section of track was built by imported Chinese labour back in the 1860's and still ranks as one of the world's highest rail lines with the summit topping out around 7400 feet. The video starts at the start of what used to be a CTC island at SHED 9 interlocking and continued up and over the summit and through the 3 mile long Tunnel 41, completed in 1925.  Ultimately the new "Track 2" alignment through the tunnel would replace the 1860 route and the famous "Chinese Wall" at the summit when Union Pacific shut down Track 1 in the 1990's. The video Cuts at SHED 47 where I had to perform a battery change.

The final video picks back up from SHED 47 and documents the horseshoe curve used to descend the train from the pass down to the town and station stop of Truckee, CA.  The Southern Pacific searchlight signals here were replaced in 2014, but the old bridges have remained in place due to the remoteness of the terrain.

Well that's it for this video special.  Next week I'll post the still photos from the Donner Pass portion of the run.  If you want to see the Capitol Corridor stills check out the previous post.

17-06-21 PHOTOS: Capitol Improvements

Third time's a charm eh?  Yes, this is indeed by third trip on Amtrak's Train 6, the California Zephyr, and any of who follow my work might wonder why I might need three complete back-of-train surveys of the same route.  Well first of all, on any specific trip I might miss something or I might take a soft photo.  I've also upgraded my camera equipment over the years and likewise, California / Union Pacific have applied some upgrades to the California Corridor as well, so ultimately my work is never really finished ;-)

This set covers my trip from the initial terminal of Emmeryville, CA to the state capitol, Sacramento.  Speeds are 30-40mph on the initial twisty section along the Bay, but once across the Suisun bridge, speeds increase to 80mph for almost the entire rest of the trip.   You can compare it with my 2014 trip and my 2012 trip.  You can find the full set of photos here.

Passing the Richmond BART yard, I spied a trainset ended with 'A' cars.  These original 1968 vintage cars are relatively rare as only 60 were built, (30 trainsets) compared with 500+ 'B' and 'C' cars.  Today the newer 'C' cars are preferred to lead trains at non-peak times as they can be coupled into longer sets more easily.  Unlike the 'C' cars, the 'A' card do provide a reasonable railfan view.  Just FYI, when making a BART connection with Amtrak, the Richmond Station provides a direct transfer.  Emmeryville is some 2 miles from the Ashby BART station.

Since my last ride in 2014, the number of trackside tent cities have increased dramatically.  This is one major downside to living in an area without bitterly cold winters.

One improvement since 2014 was the addition of a new interlocking (GIANT) that provides an interlocked connection with whatever BNSF line serves the port of Oakland.

Freight train passing on track 2 as Train 6 skirts the San Francisco bay.

Running behind the freight was southbound Amtrak Train 11, the Coast Starlight.  Power was a typical P42DC+P32-8WH lashup with Amtrak #72 and #510.

Near the Carquinez Strait bridge complex we pass through an old school sugar refinery.  These remain common in most port cities to this day.

In this view you can see the old and new Carquinez Bridges.

Passing what I believe was Amtrak Capitol Corridor Train #531 with Superliner cab car #8314.