Caliente / Bealville, CA Map and
Last Visit: 3-17-2001
Mileage to major cities and other points of interest.
Los Angeles, CA (LAX) 129 miles (S); Bakersfield, CA 27 miles
(W); Barstow, CA 110 miles (E);
Las Vegas, NV 260 miles (E).
Who: BNSF and Union Pacific. What you'll find: Caliente is not very big, so there are no amenities to be found. The closest gas and snacks are 9 miles away in Keene. (and that's only a very small market) Closest lodging will be found in Tehachapi around 20 miles away. (of course under the stars is always nice.) What to expect: A whole lot of trains, of many different flags, with awesome scenery, rolling hills and deep valleys. Paved roads provide access to all highlighted areas. Some dirt roads will get you further, but these are generally private farm and/or RR service roads. When to go: Anytime of year will provide a different look. Spring is green, and Autumn rather brown. Summer months are ok too. Winter will sometimes provide very cold weather and possibly snow, so beware. Weekends tend not to have the long work windows that the weekdays have, so train frequency will be maximized. Bring something to read, when its quiet on the hill, it is quiet! How to get there: California Highway 58 is the only real way in. Head east from Bakersfield and west from Mojave. Exit Bealville road and your there, down about 4 miles at the bottom of the hill.
Site A: You'll find yourself track side and at the bottom of the horseshoe here. The downhill trains look great and the uphill pause here so frequently you can't help but get that perfect shot. Around the corner from the road ( follow the tracks west ) is a large shade tree that is really nice, and usually occupied, but hey, lots of room for everybody.
Site B: In the morning on westward (downhill trains), this area will provide some nice shots. The sun lights up the trains and the mountains so the backdrop is really neat. Afternoon will provide trains coming up from the valley and is rather nice too. Turn immediately after passing under the bridges as you near Caliente.
Site C: This area is just below Tunnel 1, and provides some of the best views of the trains coming uphill from the valley. The horseshoe is in plain site and the trains often pull in right behind the one that is passing you. Downhill (west) trains can sneak up on you here so be ready. Morning light for westbound trains and afternoon sun for east. To access turn left onto Caliente - Bodfish road immediately after going under the rail bridge, and use the dirt roads on your left. They are pretty steep, but I have made them in cars.
Site D: Tunnel 2, and you can do a few things here. First, take a short dirt road and park directly on top of the tunnel, this provides a great view, both east and west. The trains will thunder underneath and you'll feel the ground shake. The area due east of the tunnel begins a long siding where meets often occur, it is also the back end of Allard Horseshoe which you can hike the service road to get to. ( 1 mile or so. ) The other aspect of this site would be to wait at the tunnel entrance, directly off the paved road, and get some great pictures that way. The eastbound trains will be moving very slowly as they are in the heart of the long climb. Most will barely be making 3 mph! Westbound trains will exit the tunnel and be around the corner quickly, so be ready.
Site E: Allard Horseshoe is our next stop. You'll have to access this area by hiking in. This is not very difficult, and can be accomplished by parking at the entrance to Tunnel 2. A short hike along the service road, beside the tracks, will get you to various spots on the curve. Because the trains turn 180 degrees, lighting is rarely a concern. You can always get the sun behind you, although on foot it could be hard to get to the spot on the curve you'll need to be. The shoe is double tracked and where the tracks disappear to the east is Bealville. ( This is the grade crossing you crossed driving in here. ) Trains often wait here for downhill drags to clear the steep curves of Cliff. You'll be able to wait here at Allard and get some great shots of trains passing each other. Also the service road you hiked in on, goes up and down making it possible to change your elevation, relevant to the trains, for some great head on shots.
Bealville, CA is one of only 2 public grade crossings between Tehachapi
and Caliente, (The other being downhill at Caliente.) Bealville is
nice for morning and afternoon shots. Looking west at an eastbound
train, you'll see the train just coming out of the Allard horseshoe, although
you can't actually see the shoe from this area. Trains are generally
slow, and most seem to stop for opposing traffic. ( Downhill trains
almost never stop for the uphill ones. ) Bealville also allows for
views of Tunnels 3 and 5. Tunnel 4 and 6 were both daylighted following
the 1952 earthquake, I think? Tunnel 5 is the longest in Tehachapi,
at 1175'. Trains exiting on the eastward side of the tunnel often
have so much built up smoke in the tunnel that it breaks out in large clouds
a few seconds after the engines pull out. You have probably seen pictures
like this from Tehachapi. This is where they are being taken at.
The dirt road leading east from the crossing at Bealville leads up to the tunnels. More often than not there is a gate that is closed and locked. In fact only once out of 6-7 trips has it been open. As a result, I have not gotten to the top of Cliff for pictures. It seems to me that this area may be well into private property, but if not and someone else has info on this area, please write me with the details. I've seen many pictures from up on the mountain here, but again, I don't trespass on private property.
Taking the above mentioned road east from Bealville, will lead to this
area. It is only a 1/4 mile or so from the crossing, and sits next to tunnel
3. As with Site D, you can park near the tunnel and get on top or beside
it, but will only get shots looking west. The east portal is a few hundred
feet away, so you must decide on which portal you'll concentrate on.
The possibilities are endless though and with the high volume of trains,
you'll be able to experiment and find you're favorite angle.
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