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BNSF's Needles Sub Map and Railfan Info

BNSF's Needles Sub Map and Railfan Info
Last Update: 1-20-2003
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Elevation Data taken from Delorme's Topo Map 3.0

           Needles Sub Superlatives

West end: Barstow, CA - MP 745.9; East end: Needles, CA - MP 578.0; Total route miles: 167.9  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: Barstow, Ash Hill, Cadiz, and Needles;  Yards: Needles, Barstow
Crew Change Points: Needles, Barstow
Junctions: Daggett (UPRR Cima Sub) MP 739.6; Cadiz (Arizona and Californina, 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 36, 160.650, DS-11,  Seligman to Topock; AAR 55,  160.935, Topock to Needles
Amtrak Stops: Barstow, Needles
Train Frequency: 60-70 daily; Train Types: Intermodal, Manifest, Auto, Passenger


        Do want heat? I mean real HEAT!! Do you want a lot of trains? I mean lots and lots!!  Do you want steep grades and volcanic backdrops? Do you want long, heavy trains? Do you have a hunkering for speed? If you answered yes to any of the above, then you've found your Mecca.

        Welcome to the Needles Sub, where the BNSF puts on one of the greatest mainline train shows on the continent!  As mainline subs go the Needles sub is somewhat short, but contains a power packed mile after mile of freight train action. Intermodals will dominate the scene, but there are plenty of other trains to see. Autos, manifest, passenger, and a few sporadic coal drags will keep you on the edge of your toes.  With roads that literally parallel a substantial majority of the sub's route, you'll find the trek extremely easy, and with a view for miles around, you'll rarely be surprised by that hot Z barreling around a corner. So bring your water, and check the freon in the ole AC, cause this is going to be one hot ride!!

        Access:  The Needles Sub is very accessible from several different roads. Rte 66 will anchor the main access way to the tracks, with I-40 filling in the gaps. I believe it is possible to view the entire sub from public roads, even when it leaves the immediate vicinity of the road.

        Lodging:  Lodging is a bit more tricky. There are many hotels in Needles and Barstow, on either end of the sub, but the middle is a bit more sparse. To the best of my knowledge, Ludlow is the only location with anything available. That would be one or two motels of the non-national chain variety. I have been in one of the rooms there, and it wasn't bad. Luckily, with only 170 miles of route, you are never more than 50 miles or so from the three cities mentioned, so you shouldn't have too much trouble getting someplace to shack up for the night. You can always try the camping thing too. I don't know of any restricted areas, and have seen campers set up off side roads in the middle of the desert out here. I suspect this is an option most anywhere along the sub. (Off RR property of course.)

        Food and supplies:  Same as lodging on this one. Barstow, Ludlow, and Needles. Ludlow is really only good for gas...VERY EXPENSIVE gas. Don't buy here unless you have too. It has been hovering around the $2.00 mark for the last couple of years. It may have gone down a bit, but every time I am there it has been much higher than Needles or Barstow. Barstow has most everything you'll need, as does Needles. Remember to bring plenty of water, it is very hot in the've heard this all before. See my Desert Railfan Guide for additional tips and suggestions.

        Seasons: Winters (Nov-March) are mild. It can get chilly, but if the sun is out, you'll only need a light jacket by midday. The days will be shorter, but the mild temps will make railfanning better.  Spring (April-May) is awesome. Longer days coupled with milder temps will be a dream. The desert should be in full bloom, so the flora and fauna should be at its best. Summer (June-Sept) is HOT, HOT, HOT. Expect temps to soar above 100 starting in June, and not letting up until late Sept. 120+ is not uncommon by mid-July until late August. The air is just plain hot. Be aware of your situation and plan accordingly. Lots of water will keep you from getting into trouble. The heat is a killer, so be prepared. I can't emphasize this enough. As for the terrain, well everything turns crispy and the colors go brown. The benefit of summer is the longer days. You'll not miss nearly as many trains as you might in the winter. Autumn (Oct-Nov) will bring a much needed break from the summer heat, but summer's toll will be the same. Brown will dominate your viewfinder and dry will be the name of the game. For additional info on Needles Sub weather try this link.


I have divided the Needles Sub into 2 sections, East and West, with additional info and more detailed maps. Follow the link to these additional sections.

Needles East (including Needles, Ibis, Goffs, and Cadiz)
Needles West (including Amboy, Ash Hill, Ludlow, Daggett, and Barstow)

Click for pictures from the Needles Sub

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