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BNSF's Needles Sub Map and Railfan Info
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BNSF's Needles Sub Map and Railfan Info
Amboy, CA to Barstow, CA
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Elevation Data taken from Delorme's Topo Map 3.0

Follow this link for a high resolution topographical map of this section of the Needles Sub.  1389 X 579  (153K)

           Needles Sub Superlatives

West end: Barstow, CA - MP 745.9; East end: Amboy, CA - MP 660.0; Total route miles: 85.9  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; Yards: Needles; Crew Change Points: Needles, Barstow
Junctions: Daggett (UPRR Cima Sub) MP 739.6
Highest point: 2187 @ Lavic; Lowest Point: 620 @ Amboy
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 - Southwest Chief #3 (west) 3:54am; #4 (east) 10:54pm
Train Frequency: 60-70 daily; Train Types: Intermodal, Manifest, Auto, Passenger

Overview

        The western half of the Needles Sub contains some of the most famous locations. Particularly the area around Ash Hill. The long climb from Amboy to the crest of Ash Hill requires significant horsepower and muscle from the BNSF engine fleet. Helpers can be seen, though almost always in a DPU format. As you near Barstow, the traffic seems to stack up a bit more, and westbound trains often a found waiting to get into the yard at Barstow, sometimes backing up past Newberry Springs. The UP joins the fray at Daggett and provides some color along the Needles Sub, albeit for just a few miles.

        Access:  Much of this half of the Needles sub can be accessed from Rte 66. Between Amboy and Ludlow you can follow very closely, with the tracks only leaving the immediate proximity of the road around Ash Hill. I -40 will take you from Ludlow to Newberry and you'll remain in constant sight of the tracks along this portion. Side roads get you trackside here, so read below for more detail.

        Lodging:  Ludlow and Barstow both have lodging, with Barstow providing greater variety. Rates should accommodate most tastes. 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. I suspect this is an option most anywhere along the sub. (Off RR property of course.)

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Timetable Info Needles Sub - Amboy, CA to Barstow, CA; italicized stations have more info below
Stations
Mile Post
Elevation in Feet
Speed Limit / MPH
Pass/Freight
E+W Amboy
660.0 - 661.8
 620
90 / 70
*Detector*
665.0
 --
*Detector*
Bagdad
669.3
 795
90 / 70
 Siberia
676.6
 1281
 55 / 50
Klondike (Trk 1)
682.0
 1665
55 / 50
E+W Ash Hill
686.3 - 688.2
 1961
55 / 50
*Detector*
690.7
--
*Detector*
Ludlow
693.4
 1784
 70 / 65
Lavic (Trk 2)
702.7
 2187
 79 / 70
E+W Pisgah
705.2 - 707.3
 2185
90 / 70
*Detector*
711.1
 --
*Detector*
Hector
712.8
 1868
 90 / 70
E+W Newberry
725.7 - 727.2
 1853
 90 / 70
Minneola
731.2
 1916
 90 / 70
*Detector*
733.3
 --
*Detector*
Cool Water (Trk 1)
735.9
 1985
 90 / 70
Daggett
737.3
 2016
79 / 70
West Daggett
739.6
 2032
79 / 70
Nebo
741.6
 2048
79 / 70
East Barstow
743.6
 2135
79 / 70
Barstow
745.9
2140
50 / 50

        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.

        Siberia  MP 676.3  Siberia is at the eastern end of a grade separation installed in the 20's by the ATSF. Designed to ease the grade of trains going to and coming from Ash Hill. Siberia might be most famous for an old building there with just a couple of the walls left standing. Many people like to shoot the trains through one of the broken out windows. So far I haven't tried this shot, to be honest it doesn't really appeal to me. What its interesting is watching the trains as the grade splits. The roadside gives you a great look as the tracks split, and Main 1 heads off for Klondike.

        Klondike  MP 682.0  Klondike is part of the original grade, way back before the double tracking of the transcon was performed. To make the climb easier the tracks make a quick sharp curve almost a full 180° against the original heading. Then the route turns again in a more sweeping, yet still tight curve, back to its original heading. See this link. Yellow dashed line is Rte 66, and light blue lines represent access roads along Klondike. I have tried all of the paths and all seem passable, though they can be very sandy especially across the bottom of the washes. There are other paths too, so just go explore and you'll probably find another good spot. Accessing the trains along this "Z" shaped switch back is not too difficult and there are some really nice image possibilities to be found.

        Ash Hill  MP 687.0  Ash Hill remains a great spot to watch the action. East and westbound trains are reaching the pinnacle of this grueling climb and there pullouts for helpers to be cut in and out. An old wye is still there but seems to get almost no use.  The tracks along Ash Hill are just a bit off Rte 66, and almost all of the sandy paths along 66 will lead trackside. Look for the sweeping curve on the west side of the hill. The mountain backdrop is wonderful here.

        Ludlow  MP 693.4  Watching trains in Ludlow is especially nice. This is because of a wonderful perch on the western edge of town. From this spot you can watch westbound trains slide into the valley off Ash Hill and view eastbound trains approaching for miles from the area around Pisgah. Ludlow is also a great watering hole. There are a couple of gas stations to get snacks and if you really want to stick around, a motel or two.

        Getting to the hillside on the western edge of town is fairly easy. Simply get to Ludlow, exit 50 off I-40, and turn west through town. Looking at the tracks to the west, you can see the steep climb they make to a crest of a small hill. This hill can be reached through a couple of dirt roads that lead up to the tracks. You'll be able to find your way with little trouble. Just follow your railfan instincts and you'll get to this hill with little problem.

        Pisgah  MP 706.0  Is an interesting spot. The tracks passes beneath I-40, shifting to the north side of the freeway as you travel west. There is also an additional track here, a siding for all intents, that often has stuff sitting in it (powerless baretable trains are a normal find.)  In January of 2003, I saw a MoW train with 2 BN caboose in the consist. To bad it was dark. Sure would have made a nice picture.  Getting here is easy, exit I-40 at #32 (This exit will also take you to Hector, which is just a few miles north of the off ramp.) Turn south and then immediately east. Pisgah is a few miles ahead. Also, a grade crossing here will take you on to Ludlow if you are traveling east.

        Hector  MP 712.8  Having only driven past Hector on the interstate I can't really tell you very much about the location. I include it in the guide here, because the location is one of the few spots between Ludlow and Newberry Springs were the tracks are accessible by something other than driving along the MoW roads.  Get off I-40 at exit 32 and head due north. The tracks are just a couple of miles ahead of you.

        Daggett  MP 737.3  At Daggett you'll find the junction with the Union Pacific's Cima Sub. The tracks here are busy, with the 60+ trains of the BNSF mixed into 20+ from the UP. As near to non-stop action that you'll find. The location is easy to reach and close to Barstow. Get off I-40 at exit #7 and turn north. The tracks are just a half mile ahead. See this link for more detail on this stop.

        East Barstow  MP 743.6  You'll find the Amtrak station here, and staging tracks for the yard. A large bridge over the tracks makes a fine location to watch inbound and outbound trains, as well as the occasional UP run through coming or going from Daggett and UPís Cima Sub.  The bridge is 1st street and you can park down at the Amtrak station and easily hike up the bridge. Barriers along the sidewalks provide safety along this busy road. There is also a perch on the far eastern end of the yard, just as the tracks swing out of the yard. This is easily reached  by following the road in front of the station, after turning off 1st street onto Riverside Drive. The road rises steeply near the tracks, and locations to pull over for views of the yard are easily found.

        Barstow  MP 745.9  Home to a very large classification yard and crew change point for the BNSF. The heart of the yard is visible from a hill about midway through Barstow just off W. Main St. Turn north at Ave A. It is a few hundred feet until you run out of pavement, but by then you are there. You'll be able to see the main section of the yard and the engine service buildings near the middle of the yard. Trains arriving from Tehachapi can also be seen at the far end of the yard. About the only drawback is you can't see the east end of the yard because of the mountain you are standing on. But never fear, the railfan gods have provided a spot for that too. (see the east Barstow section, just above)

Needles East (including Needles, Ibis, Goffs, and Cadiz)

Click for pictures from the Needles Sub


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