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BNSF's Needles Sub Map and Railfan Info
BNSF's Needles Sub Map and Railfan Info
Needles, CA to Amboy, CA

Elevation Data taken from Delorme's Topo Map 3.0

Follow this link for a high resolution topographical map of the eastern portion of the Needles Sub.  1463 x 634  (160K)

           Needles Sub Superlatives

West end: Amboy, CA - MP 660.0; East end: Needles, CA - MP 578.0; Total route miles: 82.0  Double track main for the entire route. Main 1 is the north track.
Max track speeds vary from 90 mph for Amtrak to 70 mph for freight.
Major stations: Needles, Goffs, Cadiz; Yards: Needles; Crew Change Points: Needles
Junctions: Cadiz (Arizona and California Cadiz Sub) MP 649.0
Highest point: 2,599 ft @ Goffs, CA. Lowest Point: 488 ft @ Needles, CA
Radio Frequencies: AAR 55, 160.935, DS-12, Needles to Hector;  AAR 55, 160.935, DS-113 (Mojave Dispatcher) Hector to E. Barstow; AAR 32, 160.590, DS-113 (Mojave Dispatcher) E. Barstow to Barstow)
Amtrak Stops: Needles - Southwest Chief #3 (west) 1:22am; #4 (east) 1:18am
Train Frequency: 60-70 daily; Train Types: Intermodal, Manifest, Auto, Passenger


        The eastern half of the Needles Sub highlights the two extremes of this sub. The highest point and the lowest point. For all the hype that Ash Hill seems to get, Goff's Hill is the highest and since the climb starts in Needles, the lowest point, the change in altitude is very impressive. The grade is less than Ash Hill's, which is why it isn't as challenging for the RR, and why there isn't as much fanfare about this side of the sub. However, if you are going to say you have explored the Needles Sub, then you must venture past Amboy and catch the action out here. You won't be disappointed!

        Access:  The Needles Sub is very accessible from several different roads. Rte 66 will keep you trackside from Amboy to Java. The tracks wander off between Cadiz and Fenner though you can see the line from the road, and MoW roads will get you along side the tracks. At Java, you must merge into I-40, which will take you the rest of the way into Needles. This is the hardest portion of the entire sub to explore in my opinion, the first 15 or so miles out of Needles.

Timetable Info Needles Sub - Needles, CA to Amboy, CA; italicized stations have more info below
Mile Post
Elevation in Feet
Speed Limit / MPH
50 / 40
West Needles
 45 / 40
 55 / 50
65 / 55
65 / 55
 70 / 70
 E+W Goffs
609.2 - 611.6
 90 / 70
  90 / 70
 90 / 70
 90 / 70
E+W Cadiz
647.2 - 649.0
 90 / 70
90 / 70
E+W Amboy
660.0 - 661.8
90 / 70

Selected stations I'm highlighting. If you need additional info, please e-mail me.

        Needles - MP 578.0  Needles, CA is the eastern  terminal of the Needles Sub.  It becomes the Seligman Sub east of here. Crews change here, and if I'm not mistaken the RR switches between the  Pacific and Mountain time zones here. At the crew change there is a nice station and the RR workers seem friendly and tolerant of fans near the change point, which is located on the south side of the yard. morning or afternoon will work here, you'll just have to switch directions to shoot from as the sun moves across the sky. To find the terminal, leave I-40 at exit # 143, and follow S. Broadway to the north. Tracks and terminal are about a mile ahead on your right. There are a few grade crossings near the station and places to get a few angles of trains coming and going from the crew change.
        Leaving town heading east proves to be a bit difficult as the trains immediately leave any really accessible roads. I'm sure dirt roads exist, but I have never looked for them. I usually get on I-40 and head for Java, Klinefelter, and Ibis instead. A bit of exploring may turn up some nice shots around Needles, so try it out, maybe I will too my next time through.

        Ibis  MP 592.3  The west end of Ibis is located at the intersection of US 95 as it heads north to Las Vegas. The tracks east of this grade crossing split and follow separate grades for a few miles designed to give westbound trains an easier climb as they ascend the grade coming out of the wash they have followed up from Java. The sweeping curve and spectacular mountains in the background provide a wonderful backdrop of the westbounders climbing the grade.
        To get here from I-40, exit the interstate at exit #133 (US 95) and head north. You will almost immediately reach the tracks as the swing north near an area known as Klinefelter. Catching the action here is also very good and is a great spot for eastbound trains in the afternoon, when they would otherwise be obscured by the harsh afternoon sun. Continuing north on 95, you'll catch glimpses of the tracks as they make the split before arriving in Ibis. Dirt roads give access all along this area, though I have not tried to follow any of them.

        Goffs  MP 610.0  Getting to Goffs is pretty easy. From Ibis, at the 95 intersection, you need to turn west (only possibility) on the road that is immediately south of the crossing and follow it to Goffs, located at the next grade crossing. The name of this road is (drum roll please) Goffs Rd. Along the way you'll pass Bannock and Homer, which are just cactus spots in the desert. If you aren't watching the MP markers, you'll miss both locations. There isn't much of anything here to stand out, though nice shots can be made all the way between Goffs and Ibis. The terrain is somewhat flat, though on a very steady incline up Goffs Hill. Many dry washes cross beneath the tracks along the way, and the shallow bridge will allow you to include a bit of variety in your pictures.
        At Goffs you'll find a siding, along with the 2 mains, and a few old buildings...and that's about it. Goffs claim to fame today is that is the highest point on the Needles sub topping out at a whopping 2,599 feet. The climb on both sides of Goffs allows you to pace trains without attempting to set any new land speed records. Trains will make a good clip though, as the grade rarely affects anything but the really heavy trains.
        If you are coming from the west, try exit 107 off I-40 and turn left (east). The exit is at Fenner and you are roughly 11 miles from Goffs at this point. As a note, turning west at exit 107 will lead you along the tracks toward Cadiz, the next stop on our tour.

        Cadiz  MP 684.0  Cadiz is a junction point between the BNSF and the Arizona and California (A&C). The action along the BNSF is obviously plentiful, and the A&C will provide (if your lucky) a few needed distractions. The BNSF's Cadiz local operates in the afternoon and generally meets the A&C then. Getting to Cadiz is fairly easy, you simply follow Rte 66 and turn left on Cadiz Rd. The road is located approximately 27 miles west of Exit 107 off I-40 at Fenner, or 13 miles from the time you cross the tracks at Amboy. A short 4 mile ride will bring you trackside. A large water tower can be seen from the turn as can the trees planted by the railroad that line the tracks and help protect against blowing sand.
        Because of the interchange with the A&C there are several tracks here that form a sort of makeshift yard. Signals on the east end warn of approaching eastbound trains as do the detectors on either side of the area. The trees will provide a much needed shady spot in the scorching summer heat too, a premium out in these parts during that time of year.

        Amboy  MP 660.0  Amboy is a wide spot in the road, much less the railroad. What is interesting is that the town gets its water from the railroad like it has many, many years. Amboy has a small diner, though I have never stopped to eat there. Maybe I'll try that someday soon. Certainly can't be too bad if it has survived since the 20's and the lines are never long, I guarantee.  I've caught the water train once, which comes in on the Cadiz Local, and other than that this is just another spot on the railroad. Follow Rte 66 to get to Amboy.  It is roughly 27 miles east of Ludlow and 25 west of Fenner (exit 107 off I-40) You're there when you cross the tracks, the only at grade crossing along Rte 66 since you left Needles or just east of Ludlow.

Needles West (including Ash Hill, Ludlow, Daggett, and Barstow)

Click for pictures from the Needles Sub

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