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David A. Wright

Railroad Photography

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But I’d be a fool to deny the fact that sometimes, things just aren’t going to work out like you plan.  I’ve learned it pays to be flexible.  An hour down the road, and an hour later in the day can be the world of difference. Two shots of Cajon Pass and you can see the difference once the fog clears!  (shots were not taken in the same footprints left before, but I was both times looking towards the top of the pass!)




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David, it's been reported that State Highway 138 (the winding bugger that it is) is to be rebuilt up to the summit and Summit Valley Road.  Anything that ISN"T "National Forest" is going to be developed housing!!!  I'd like to do one more quick trip to Cajon before the craziness takes place!...and in the meantime, yea I have my doubts about the developments, WATER being the primary concern!

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Now oddly enough, as we’ve discussed elsewhere in this website about where you dare travel “staying on established trails and roads”.  I’ve dared traveled something equaled to a cow path!  But the shots provided were worth the trouble.  Below are shots of Rattlesnake Canyon, just south of Kahlotus Washington, and the Trinidad Loop, between Wenatchee and Quincy Washington.




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Here are a couple family pics of the remains of the Okefenokee logging line from the 1980's to early 2000's from my sister ACDC's collection.  The first is the engine on Billy's Island and the second is a railroad beam I believe is on a now closed off area of the same island.  

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Great Pics!

I ran a project for the Alaska Railroad in 2013 and the contractor I worked for sent me to Barstow, CA for my initial training then on to Kansas City, MO.

Those mountains with reminded me of why you want Positive Train Control when your dealing with grades.

The rail steel used by A.K.R.R. is 107 pounds per foot.

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On 1/1/2017 at 6:16 AM, Toysx2 said:

Along the section of right of way east of Tucson that was re-directed and is no longer a part of the mainline, 2 1/2 miles of locomotives have been stashed. I estimate that there are at least 200 of the machines parked there. Unfortunately, roving guards do not allow close access for photos.....This is a view from Google Earth that shows one end of the string.


Just asked my engineer buddy about it, armed guards :( guess it was 4-5 years ago they did it. 

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It’s phenomenal that Whitman county in Washington State once entertained FOUR Class One Railroads, Great Northern came out of Spokane, after working it’s way thru Rosalia, would end up going thru Thorton, and Steptoe to end up at Colfax.  Northern Pacific came out of Spokane, again thru Rosalia, but went thru Oakesdale and Garfield on the way down to Palouse and Pullman, with two lines branching into Idaho.  The Milwaukee Road mainline pierced thru Whitman County making it’s way from Othello and Marengo thru Revere, Ewan, Pine City, Malden, working it’s way to Rosalia (sure would have been great being a kid and a rail fan in Rosalia back in the 60’s!) Tekoa, and into Idaho.  But I think Union Pacific had the biggest representation in Whitman County definitely area wise if not also number of communities.   They had bought out the OWR&N, and with their cobweb of tracks, dozens of communities and their farmers had an avenue to get their crops to the coast.  The picture is Union Pacific crossing the Palouse River at Hooper Washington in Whitman County.  I’m thinking long and hard about a new item on my bucket list, maybe even for another area in this website, and that’s photographing all the communities abandoned by the railroads. Definitely would be more than a one day project!



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Well David, I'm thinking this post has seen it's best days...but thank you for the opportunity.  I want to show off one more location favorite of mine, and that's the lower Columbia River Gorge between Oregon and Washington.  It's a treasure trove of opportunity, however the winters are known to be pretty brutal and you definitely want to dress appropriately if venturing to do any photos that time of year.  The shot below however is from warmer days at Moody Oregon.  Ironically the train shown is on what is called the Oregon Trunk...heading south for Bend and Klamath Falls Oregon. The line in front of Interstate 84 is the quite busier Union Pacific mainline from Portland heading east for Hinkle and beyond.   The BNSF mainline is across the river in Washington State.  So again, with the wide open spaces, the panoramic rolling hills, it's top five list of locations so far for this guy!


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First, some abandoned railroad grades.


The mining town of Candelaria, Nevada, was served by railroad.  That location was one of the primary objectives of the railroad when the line was incorporated in 1881.  The topography around Candelaria was too rugged to bring the mainline through camp, so a branch of six or seven miles was built to reach it.


Sighting eastward up the line from a point near Candelaria Junction, which was where the branch took off from the mainline.


At the Candelaria end of the line, looking westward.


The pit of the “Armstrong” turntable, where locomotives were turned by hand on a wooden platform to return westbound.  Turntables were in place at major points along the railroad.


The Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad was one of three railroads to build to or through Rhyolite, Nevada during the mining boom that hit southern Nevada and eastern California during the first decade of the 20th century.

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Morning camp atop the Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad, a few miles west of Rhyolite, Nevada.  Lew Shorb, who is a member here, and I camped atop the railroad grade on the first night of our two night/three day tour of the “Nevada Triangle” of Death Valley National Park in April, 2000.  My rig at the time was the brown 1996 Chevrolet S-10 4x4 pickup in the foreground.



The town of Bodie was served by a railroad also.  Though plans were made and some construction accomplished to connect with the Carson & Colorado Railroad, it never happened.  The line was a narrow gauge, built in 1881 and scrapped in 1917.  It served to bring lumber and cordwood from extensive forests south of Mono Lake, to Bodie.  The line was 32 miles long and the climb into the Bodie Hills from the Mono Basin necessitated switchbacks and trestles.


The offices of the Bodie Railway & Lumber Company atop the hill east of Bodie.  The line terminated at a yard next to this building.  Jim S., who is featured in my Cerro Gordo video, is pointing at the building.  The photo was taken in 1991.


Another view of the Bodie Railway & Lumber Company office.


A friend, Marty W., standing near some left over ties along the grade in the northernmost portion of the Mono Basin.  Photo taken in 1989.


A photo of me and my dog, taken by Marty W. with my camera, looking southeast across the Mono Basin from up in the Bodie Hills, at the site of the abutment where there was once a long trestle.  Taken in 1989.


Marty W. holding onto what is likely a telegraph pole that we found along the line in the Bodie Hills.  Photo taken in October, 1990.


Ties were still found along the grade leading up into the Bodie Hills in October, 1990.


A historic photo of one of the locomotives at work in the Mono Basin.  From my collection.



The Bullfrog-Goldfield was one of the three railroads to serve the Rhyolite boom towns.  It ran south from Goldfield, Nevada, to Beatty, then ran south to Gold Center, where it turned west then north to terminate at Rhyolite.  The line was built and operated by the Tonopah Railroad, but was then orphaned, decimated and taken over and operated by alternately the Las Vegas & Tonopah and the Tonopah & Tidewater railroads.  Since the LV&T and the B-G ran basically side by side much of the way north from Beatty, portions of each were abandoned in favor of the other until the LV&T was abandoned during WW1 and operated by the T&T until final abandonment.


My son (right) and nephew standing atop the Bullfrog-Goldfield Railroad grade north of Springdale, Nevada.  December, 1987.


The boys about 25 miles farther north along the line.  December, 1987.



Southern Pacific narrow gauge locomotive #18 (recently restored to operating condition and on display at Independence, California) steaming northbound across the Owens River near Aberdeen.  Unknown date, likely early 1950s.


The same trestle, in September, 2002.


Another view of the same trestle a month later.  The trestle was removed by the Laws Railroad Museum a few months later.



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The Death Valley Railroad Brill motorcar (shown earlier on this thread), with me at the controls, in July, 1996.  The car was sitting on a siding at Laws Railroad Museum.  This was previous to its full restoration starting a year or so later.

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The Brill on the same date.  Compare with the photo earlier in this thread, when it was rolled out to the public for the first time after its complete, body off frame restoration, in July, 2004.

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Historical DVRR_No5 – The Brill in operation over the Death Valley Railroad.

Now for some operating railroads.



A westbound Union Pacific, a few miles southwest of Lovelock, Nevada.  I took this photo on the fly, while I was driving along Interstate 80, in October, 2003.


Meeting the same train at a crossing on US95 south, about 15 minutes later.


An eastbound Union Pacific freight, waiting in Winnemucca, Nevada.  This set of tracks is the ex-Western Pacific Railroad route, which heads west across the Black Rock Desert, to Portola and down the Feather River to Oroville, California.


This photo still gives me chills every time I see it.  This was taken in Winnemucca, over the mainline that runs over Donner Pass to Sacramento, California.  I was photographing trains while waiting for a westbound Amtrak on September 11th, 2008, which was several hours late.  My wife was heading to the Sacramento area to visit family.  The engineer was really blowing the horn as he approached.  Though there was a whistle crossing further along behind me, I was thinking he was blowing it because the engineer might be thinking I was videotaping him and giving me a show.  I was furiously taking photos as the train was fast coming at me, not realizing how close to the rails I actually was.  Then the blast of air, ballast and dirt literally knocked me off my feet.  It was then I realized he was doing at least 75-80 miles per hour, he was warning me that I was too close.  When I looked, one of my feet was laying on a tie inches from the rail.  Taking photos of this train approaching nearly proved to be my personal 9/11.  This photo was the last clear image I got.  Because the next was as the locomotive was passing by and it was just a blur.



The East Ely Depot of the Nevada Northern Railroad.  The railroad served the huge copper industry in Ely, running north over 100 miles to Cobre on the Southern Pacific Railroad, for over 80 years.  Technically abandoned, the line from Ely west to the huge open pit copper mines is used to run excursion trains for railfans on a regular basis.


The yards of the Nevada Northern at East Ely, looking easterly.


A short train is being put together for the day’s run at East Ely.  The view is westerly.


Same point of view, a bit wider shot.


Another view looking westerly across the yard.




The Virginia & Truckee was once the “Queen of the Comstock”, the line running from Reno south to Carson City, then west and north up to the top of the mountain at fabulous Virginia City.  The line to Virginia City was abandoned and scrapped during the Depression, but has been slowly being resurrected as a tourist line between Virginia City and Carson City over the past 30 years and is very popular with railfans.  This is the line as it enters Virginia City.  At the right is the roundhouse.  The mainline enters the south end of town and terminates.  The railroad originally ran across the lower side of town to its depot near the north end of town.  Tunnel #1, which runs under historical St. Mary’s Church, seen in the background, is collapsed and it would be a logistical and costly nightmare to run the line further over its original route.






After being several hours late, on September 11, 2008, the Amtrak finally arrived in Winnemucca.  My wife was traveling to the Sacramento area to visit family.  Nice art deco coach on the rear.


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I actually spoke prematurely...as I was working on another project, I came across some other avenues that should be shared.  As we struggle through another fine winter (sarcasm alert!) with my younger legs I had ventured out in my foolishness knowing that railroads are 24/7/365.  CN 5032 is plowing through White River Junction Vermont...snow is axle deep!  NECR 9536 is ready to take off from White River Junction and Mother Nature just turned on the white stuff big time!  In calmer conditions, Amtrak 259 is departing West Rutland Vermont heading back to White Hall New York and beyond.  BN 676746 with three more engines following moving right along eastbound at Bluestem WA heading for Spokane.  The last shot is of another snowstorm...and I am stranded in Sheridan Wyoming!  Eastbound BNSF 9281-8256-9809 pulling into the yard....conditions were so brutal, the interstates had closed down...and as I listened to the scanner later in the day, conditions had worsened on the tracks as well.  Switches frozen, crews going dead on hours of service...made for an interesting evening. 






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Another area and project of railroad photography...night time goodies!  We used to have a "Transpo fair" in Bellows Falls Vermont.  It actually included a truck show as well as train...and being town wide, you had all sorts of activities taking place.  The day's end would commence with fireworks.  It's a shame the festivities came to an end from a collective amount of concerns. 






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Possibly a little more mundane, I've dabbled with night photography, just utilizing the light available.  UP 94 had brought in a customer appreciation special passenger train to Spokane WA.  BN sister units 2180 & 2181 await further service at Spokane WA as well.  NECR 9520 finally gets a proceed signal at North Walpole NH. Green Mountain 1848 sits and waits to do interchange at Bellows Falls Vermont.






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Good old Amtrak. Rode the superliner from Los Angeles to Buffalo NY then switched to CN Rail to Toronto Canada. Nothing like sleeping in WW2 sleeper cars with frozen pipes lol. Return trip was slightly better except in Chicago, the Amtrak diner car water tank dumped everything. Lots of people got sick after that happened. Then to top it off, getting close to being home the lead unit blew up. 11 hours behind schedule finally got home with a UP engine leading. Would love to do a cross country trip again, some amazing scenery along the way.

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So the scary part about railroading is derailments.  When a train isn’t on the rails, it’s a guaranteed ugly situation.  Having worked on both sides of operations, on the ground and on the train, I can testify that the industry has definitely changed  through the years.  This mess had occurred on the Milwaukee Road mainline west of Othello Washington.  Torrential rain had caused a mudslide in a cut through the hillside.  The engines derailed slogging through feet of mud and rock, but with the momentum of the train, everything went accordion style until they reached the next fill, when the power spilled down the hillside.  The train even buckled in the middle causing a second mess several hundred feet back in the train.  The Gang Foreman knew I was into photography, so when I got the call that Saturday to help with the derailment,  the last words from his mouth were “Bring Your Camera!!”  I was able to spend quite a while shooting the damage, and work that was getting underway before I was asked to “join the fun”.  We basically built a “shoe-fly” track around the derailed units so that they could get cranes in to upright the power.  As of the mess in the middle, as you see, most everything was plowed to the side so that they could lay new track and get the trains running again asap.















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On 1/16/2017 at 2:40 PM, MB64 said:

 Return trip was slightly better except in Chicago, the Amtrak diner car water tank dumped everything. Lots of people got sick after that happened. Then to top it off, getting close to being home the lead unit blew up. 11 hours behind schedule finally got home with a UP engine leading. Would love to do a cross country trip again, some amazing scenery along the way.

Amtrak has been trying to revive the AL and FL passenger routes.  If they want to be successful, (which I would love if development doesn't speed up at all), they might want to clean up their act. 

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A friend of mine is nearing the end of his railroad career. Started with SP, UP afer the merger. He's been all over the map as far as positions, for more than a decade now he's a mobile mechanic, working on track maintenance equipment. In the last 40 years he's been on plenty of pile-ups, including the infamous semi truck vs. Amtrak a few years ago.

By the way, just love your RR photos!

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