Saturday, November 10, 2007

Cajon smokeout!

Friday, October 26 - The wildfires hadn't really affected me until today. I left Tehachapi before sunrise and drove east and south through Mojave and Palmdale toward Cajon Pass. The sun rose as I drove through Palmdale, and about every 15 miles the sky seemed to take on another layer of smoke and haze.

My first train on Cajon -- an eastbound on Main 1 east of Sullivan's Curve.
This would be my second visit to Cajon Pass -- and my first since 1989. I was still in high school the last time I was there! I had been to the areas around Silverwood and Summit during my '89 visit, so I wanted to check out some new locations this time around, especially Sullivan's Curve. Construction of the new BNSF main was under way, but most of the crews seemed to be taking the day off -- with the exception of a ballast train unloading near Silverwood.

A BNSF westbound on Main 1 passes a UP train stopped at Canyon.

Fortunately, a strong breeze blew off some of the smoke early in the day. From mid-morning to mid-afternoon, the air quality didn't bother me too much. It got bad again in the late afternoon, though, and I was pretty well done shooting before 5 pm.

Southbound UP freight approaching Canyon. I had seen this same train at Bealville (north of Tehachapi) on Thursday.

side-by-side: An eastbound Z-train on BNSF Main 1 passes a work train unloading ballast on the new main. To the left, BNSF Main 2 (soon to be re-designated Main 3?) plunges down the pass on a steeper grade. The Silverwood connection (connection with UP's former SP Palmdale cutoff) can be seen to the right.

Four deuces! A quartet of SD40-2s powers a ballast train working on the new BNSF main at Silverwood.
With Interstate 15 little more than a stone's throw from the tracks, it was hard to enjoy much peace and quiet between trains. Then again, it was kind of nice to find a few gas stations and other amenities (even a motel! I guess I'll know where to stay next time...) conveniently located near the tracks at Cajon Jct.

eastbound stack train at Sullivan's Curve on Main 1
It was cool to come back to Cajon for my first visit since 1989. Even with all the smoke, and I-15 traffic whizzing by all day long, Cajon is still an impressive stage for big-time railroading. And the train traffic just keeps getting busier. I'd like to go back in a few years to see the new main in service.
I stuck around Summit until dusk, and then headed for San Bernardino. I had booked a room in Ontario for the night, and I'd be flying back to Texas from the Ontario Airport the next morning. My trip was almost over. Coming next: a California wrap-up, including a look at my vacation dining experiences, my rental car, and the flight home. Stay tuned...
nr: John Steinbeck - East of Eden
np: Doug Sahm - "Beautiful Texas Sunshine"

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