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BNSF's Seligman Sub; Needles to Yampai Map and Railfan Info  

BNSF's Seligman Sub Map and Railfan Info
Needles, CA to Yampai Summit, AZ
Created: 5-18-2002

Elevation Data taken from Delorme's Topo Map 3.0

Follow this link for a high resolution topographical map of this section of the Seligman Sub.  1164 x 821  (249K)

           Seligman Sub Superlatives

West end: Needles, CA  MP 578.0; East end: Yampai Summit, AZ  MP 452.2; Total miles: 125.8  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, Kingman
Yards: Needles, Kingman (small)
Highest point: 5,607 ft @ Yampai Summit. Lowest Point: 456 ft @ Topock, AZ.
Radio Frequencies:  AAR 55, 160.935, DS-12 / Needles to Topock; AAR 36, 160.650, DS-11 / Topock to Seligman;
PBX: AAR 09, 160.245 / Peach Springs; AAR 15, 160.335 / Kingman
Amtrak stops:  Needles - Southwest Chief #3 (west) 1:22am; #4 (east) 1:18am;  Kingman - Southwest Chief #3 (west) 12:27am; #4 (east) 2:21am
Train Frequency: 60-70 daily; Train Types: Intermodal, Manifest, Auto, Passenger


        This is the desert section of the Seligman sub. Sidebar: While some may argue that the section between Flagstaff and Winslow would also qualify as desert, I don't agree. True it is very dry on the east slope of the San Francisco Mts., but the landscape is not as "deserty" and I can't really bring myself to consider it desert. Others may disagree... oh well. Desert or not toward Winslow, it is certainly not like what you'll find in this section of the Seligman Sub. This section fits all the classic stereotypes of what a desert is. Extreme heat, cactus, yucca, and the like all over the place, and not a drop of water to be found outside of the Colorado River.

        With that having been said, as you gain altitude east of Kingman, you'll find that the area will turn rather nice. The desert gives way to high semi-arid plateau with trees and brush replacing cactus across the landscape. Snow will fall in the areas from Crozier east, and the mountains can get bitterly cold at night, even in summer.

        Access:  Between Needles and Kingman access is limited to sandy desert paths and rocky washes. I've not done much here yet, but if you are adventurous you can probably find much to enjoy. Access from Kingman on is very good. Good ole Rte 66 will be your friend, and with a few minor exceptions, will parallel the tracks mile after mile.

        Lodging:  Hotels can be found in Needles and Kingman. Just about everywhere else will be a camping experience. Within reason you shouldn't have a problem getting a room at a reasonable price in either location. I've stayed in both towns and have done so for less than $40 each night. Both feature multiple hotel / motels with trackside views. Traffic is strong at night, so if you want to sleep, look for lodging away from the tracks.

        Food and supplies:  Lets address supplies first. Since Needles and Kingman are this area's largest cities, they naturally have the best supply shops. Kingman has a Walmart and more trail and camping type stores than Needles, so my suggestion is to shop there. If not Kingman, then Flagstaff might be the next bet, but it is a good 2+ hours away.  Food:  Both sit-down and fast food can be found easily in Needles or Kingman. Outside of these locations you'll need your brown bag. There is a small convenience store in Peach Springs, but Seligman will be the next bet heading east. Gas: Plenty in Kingman, Needles. The trip is only 80 miles-ish from Kingman to Seligman, so unless you do a lot of running back and for along Rte 66, a full tank should easily get you where you want to go.

        Seasons: Winters are cold and can get very nasty up in the mountains. Be prepared for snow, ice and bitter, howling wind. The days will be shorter, but will glow, with some of the best blue sky you'll ever find.  Spring is awesome, especially if the winters brought some moisture to the hills. The flowers will be in full bloom and the green vegetation will enhance any photo. Summer is when you need to take note. Between Kingman and Needles you can expect to find the mercury above the century mark, every day, all day. 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 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.


Timetable Info Seligman Sub - Needles, CA to Yampai, AZ; italicized stations have more info below
Mile Post
Elevation in Feet
Speed Limit / MPH
40 / 30
East Needles
 90 / 55
Topock, AZ
 50 / 45
 90 / 70
 90 / 70
 90 / 70
 90 / 70
 McConnico (Trk 1)
 80 / 70
Harris (Trk 2)
80 / 70
 45 / 40
90 / 70
90 / 70
 90 / 70
80 / 70
80 / 60
Cherokee / Truxton / Crozier Cyn
70 / 60
Peach Springs
 70 / 45
Shipley (Trk 1)
60 / 45
60 / 45
50 / 45

BNSF also uses control points as stations, those not listed above are, CP 5535; 5517; 5288; 5269; 5115; 5094; 4858. Milepost are figured by moving one decimal point to the left, IE - CP 5535 is at MP 553.5

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

        Needles - MP 578.0  Needles, CA is the western terminal of the Seligman Sub. It becomes the Needles Sub west of here. (go figure :>) Crews change here, and if I'm not mistaken the RR switches to Mountain time too. When you enter Arizona, remember that AZ does not do the time switch thing with the rest of the country and are always on daylight time. This means that for half the year (during daylight savings time) they are effectively part of the Pacific Time Zone, while the other half of the year (standard time) they are part of the Mountain Time Zone. This can get confusing when listening to the scanner, so be aware that the RR does follow the time shift and their time reflects the "norm" even while in Arizona. Now back to Needles. RR workers seem friendly and tolerant of fans near the change point, which is located on the south side of the yard. Afternoon is the best time here. To find the terminal exit I-40 at exit 143 and follow S. Broadway around to the north. Tracks and terminal are about a mile ahead. 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.

       Topock - MP 565.1  Topock is the site of the BNSF crossing of the Colorado river. This takes place over a rather impressive bridge that parallels I-40, just to the south. Exit I-40 at exit #153 in California, or exit #1 in Arizona. #1 will get you more immediately next to the bridge, with parking in a large lot at the base of the bridge. From #153, you'll have to follow the road down and take a right on National Trails Hwy. This will loop back to the bridge, but if I remember correctly, a little hiking is necessary.
      In my opinion, shooting in the afternoon from the Arizona side is the best. Trains are plentiful and you'll be able to frame them on the bridge in a variety of ways. The advantages of the Cali side are you can get on a hill overlooking the area and see trains approaching easier, but you are usually looking into the sun most of the time, so the quality can be lacking. I have seen some great shots from this side though and a visit is well worth it.

       Kingman - MP 516.4  Kingman, AZ is a location with plenty of possibilities. The most visited area has to be Kingman canyon, just west of the city. The double main splits here and a paved road runs most of the way between the two tracks providing some of the best access you'll encounter along the entire sub. Rte 66 also plies the cliff just to the north providing a great vantage point to watch the trains traverse the canyon.
        To get into Kingman Cyn, leave I-40 at exit 48, which is Andy Devine Rd., and head east (toward town.)  After getting past the intersection, the first light is Beale St. which basically heads off in front of you. You will want to bear right, and stay on Andy Devine Rd. The tracks will approach from your right. The next right is Rte 66 which will lead along the canyon's north side and afford views from above the line as is goes through. Continuing on 66 past the canyon will take you down to McConnico and Griffith, with access to I-40 near the end of the road.
     Passing Rte 66 instead of turning will bring you to the Amtrak station on your right, which is currently boarded up. It is nothing more than a platform stop right now. Turn on the road immediately before the station, which I think is 4th Street. A right hand turn will take you immediately over the tracks then ahead through some homes before looping into the canyon. You'll enter the canyon by passing under Main 2 as it crosses a bridge. Now you're in, go exploring as this road gives you nice access along the mains. Be aware, there is no exit at the other end, so you'll have to backtrack to get out. The canyon is around 3 miles long. There are 2 large bridges, currently marked with the Santa Fe logo, over some dry washes which are awesome. Also, it is likely that by being in the middle of this narrow canyon, in-between the mains, combined with the high traffic levels, that you'll be there for the meet of two trains. There is no comparing the feel of two trains surrounding you echoing off the canyon walls. An entire day can be had inside the canyon, so be ready.

       Berry - MP 509.8  As you head east after leaving Kingman on Rte 66, you'll find the tracks are immediately to the right (south) of you and you can see them climb out of the valley and up the mountain out in the distance. They run very straight here, and the railroad has two named stations along this stretch. Walapai and Berry. Since they are almost identical I'll highlight just one. Berry features fast running trains and an impressive backdrop of mountains for westbound trains. There are several dry washes, with attending small bridges, crossing the main and these add a little variety to this very straight piece of track. Often times you'll be able to see the next train arriving into the valley at the top of the bluff, while watching one rush past you. I've seen as many as 4 trains working down into Kingman at once, literally licking the previous ones heals. The mountains will help make this stretch impressive for your camera.

        Hackberry - MP 489.0  Another great and well photographed location, though I have seen few pictures online. The mountains, washes, and vegetation combine to make this a beautiful landscape in which to concentrate your time and energy. There are a couple of larger bridges across some of the dry washes and a grade crossing or two. Hackberry is located right off of Rte 66 and you'll have no problem finding decent access to most of the locations.

        Cherokee / Truxton / Crozier Cyn  MP 477.3  One of the best locations along the route is Crozier Cyn. While somewhat difficult to access, it is worth some time if you can manage. At the east end, during my last trip in late 2004, the road beside the tracks leading into the canyon was in decent shape, though areas of it will most certainly require a 4x4 to access.  Some more adventurous types were clearly using the wash to drive along. Not a problem unless there are storms brewing. Definitely don't get caught in a wash if it is storming, they flood extremely fast. You may need to be prepared to do a little hiking to access the deeper parts of the canyon.
        The west opening of the canyon can easily be seen as you approach on Rte 66 from Kingman. There is a small location to pull off at the top of the hill overlooking the tracks as they exit, and a larger area across the road to park in. This area gets the most attention because of the ease of accessing the tracks. Areas inside the canyon require a little more work. (read on)
        To get to the east opening, you'll need to continue on Rte 66 over the hill after passing the west opening. About a mile after cresting the rise, begin looking to your right and find a gate with an obvious road leading toward the tracks. The road milepost is approx 90.7. This is a US forest road and is completely legal to be on. At last visit, the sign only asks that you close the gate behind you and has a list of don'ts, all of which are reasonable requests (no litter, hunting, etc). Follow the road down to a Y,  just as you are approaching the tracks. Follow this to the left and over the rise to another gate. Go through and turn right, under the tracks and across the wash. Be very careful here as it is easy to get stuck in the sandy bottom (or watery pond depending on the most recent storm) and by no means go in if it has flowing water in it. You're asking for it if you do. Luckily this is the desert and chances are you'll find it dry and passable. After going under the RR bridge and through the wash, head west along the tracks, (the wash will be between you and the tracks) and go until the road gives out on you. Depending on the conditions you can go quite a distance into the canyon. It will completely give out on you a few miles in. I counted around 9-10 occurrences where I had to cross the wash (all dry at the time) so be prepared for that. To gain more distance into the canyon may require you walking a little, but it is worth it. Explore, climb, and play the angles. I haven't given anywhere near enough time to this area. I suspect you could spend a week inside the canyon and not duplicate a shot very much.

        Peach Springs MP 465.8  At Peach Springs you'll find that Rte 66 leaves the tracks and heads over the mountain. Rte 66 doesn't rejoin the main until about 7-8 miles west of Seligman, AZ.  The tracks however head into another pass through the mountains. Luckily for railfans a nice dirt road follows the tracks back to a mine providing great access along the way, nearly 7 miles. This area is known as Nelson. This dirt road is known as IR (Indian Route) 19. Be aware you are on a reservation and there is a rule about paying a fee to photograph on tribal land. I have never ever, in well over 2 dozen trips, even been approached by someone asking if I had the pass. I would play dumb if asked, and suggest you do the same. It is cheap though, I think in the 5 buck range, and can be picked up in Peach Springs, if what I have  read is accurate. Bottom line is I wouldn't worry about it too much. On to Nelson.

Nelson  MP 460.2  Nelson is a nice area because of the excellent access and fairly decent scenery. Trains wind through the canyon and often are right beside you on the road. Most trains will do 35 to 50 mph through the canyon, as it is fairly wide with gentle turns and moderate grades.
        As you make your way further into the valley, you'll see the tracks slide away from the road a little and you'll rise a small hill providing a good overview of the tracks. There is a separation in the grade for the 2 mains with Main 2 (eastbound line) rising along the slope of the canyon and across a small wooden bridge. Main 1, (westbound line) curves along the bottom of the canyon and also crosses a small bridge. The tracks come together a little west of this location and from atop the hill, makes for some nice meets, which happen with some frequency.
        Soon after this separation a little farther east you'll reach the lime plant. What is nice here is the 3 sidings that often have ore cars in them, and if your lucky the local from Kingman doing some switching. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to the times to see the local, though I will say I've only ever seen them in the afternoon.
        The plant / mine gives this area a touch of industrial spice, with the backdrop of western plains / mountains. The area is only accessible from the north side of the tracks and the sun can sometimes hinder the effort. Also of note. The mine area is on private property, but signs will let you know of the roads that are off limits to the public. (Basically everything except IR-19, stay on the shoulder areas of the main road and you'll be fine.) This is also a working plant, so be on the lookout for large trucks and semis on these roads.
        Lastly, there are some tunnels about a mile east of the plant and to the best of my knowledge are the only tunnels between Cajon and well, Chicago. I think a road exists, but haven't tried it yet. Maybe I can get to it soon as I would really like to get a shot of the tunnels.

        Yampai  MP 452.2  Yampai Summit is our next stop. After leaving the tracks at Nelson, continue east along IR 19, about 2 miles past the plant until you intersect Rte 66. Turn east (right) and you'll travel approx 6.3 miles to the turn-off that leads to the summit. You'll pass the Grand Canyon Caverns campgrounds along the way and after climbing out of the valley the caverns are in, start looking to your right for your next turn, a dirt road named Hyde Park Rd. This turn used to be one of the trickiest places to find along the Sub. Now it is well marked and is located immediately at the MP 117 sign.
        The road is well traveled and is generally in good shape, except right after a storm, when it might be a bit soggy. If you miss the turn while traveling east on Rte 66 you'll notice that after cresting the hill you'll find yourself in a very broad, wide valley, with high plateaus on the far side immediately in front of you. Don't worry, the turn is less than 2 miles behind you. In fact if you look immediately to the right and up along the plateau, you can see the track coming off the eastern slope of Yampai Summit. You haven't missed by much. Once on the correct path, you'll drive for a couple of miles until you reach the tracks. If you travel much over 3 miles along this dirt road without seeing the grade crossing, then you've gotten off the beaten path.
        At this point, I'll assume you have found the grade crossing and are wondering what's next. My favorite spot is to the east. Cross the tracks and turn left. Often times the road is under a big puddle of water, so walking may be the best option. Luckily it is only a few hundred feet to a great location. What you get is a great shot of afternoon westbound trains climbing toward the summit and working their a** off to do it. A great S curve adds to the tale and pictures are really spectacular with the sky and mountains as a backdrop. This area is often ignored because it is hard to find, but is well worth catching a few westbounds crawling up out of the valley below.
        Beyond this spot the location is rather dull. I have traveled the road between here and Pica, well down in the valley below, but I do not suggest it. It is very rough and there are points I didn't believe I would make it. There are some nice spots along the way, so if you wish to explore, I would do it in a truck with decent clearance. A 4X4 would be a big advantage. Have fun exploring, but be forewarned :o)

Go East on the Seligman Sub
or jump to:
Yampai Summit to Bellemont (including Seligman, Crookton, Eagle Nest, and Williams Jct.)
Bellemont to Winslow (including the Arizona Divide @ Riordan, Flagstaff and Canyon Diablo)

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