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Tehachapi, Winterail and the Sierra Railroad Railfan Train 3/2004

by Chris Guenzler

3/12/2004 I drove to Richard's house in Long Beach before we headed to Mojave. A major accident on Interstate 5 make us take a detour through East Los Angeles to avoid a five mile traffic back up. We stopped in Saugus at Carl's Junior before we headed to Motel 6 in Mojave for the night.

3/13/2004 Up early we left right after a BNSF westbound and headed up CA Highway 58 to Sand Canyon Road where we saw our first train of the morning coming out of Monolith.

We drove through the town of Tehachapi before heading west on CA 58 to the Keene exit where we followed the road to the Tehachapi Loop. This was Richard's first visit to this great railroading marvel.

After a few hours we headed west to Bealville where we saw an eastbound BNSF train.

From there we headed down to Caliente where we heard a UP eastbound approaching. We headed down to Tunnel 2 for a UP and BNSF Train.

For more pictures of this great morning trip click here

We headed into Bakersfield finding the Department of Transportation T-200 being serviced.

We drove up CA Highway 99 to Delano for gas. Heading north we found a welded rail track gang south of Traver which meant trains would be backed up. The first siding north of Madera had the first of the waiting freights.

At Berenda we found these two UP freights with one holding the mainline and the second about to exit the siding. Richard and I then made our way to Stockton where we checked into the Best Western off Waterloo Road. After I went to the KFC/A&W for dinner, we headed over to the nicely restored ACE ex Southern Pacific Stockton Station.

There we waited for ACE Train 02 to arrive to pick up Steve Donaldson and Gordon Follet.

Steve is the well known author of Railroads of Orange County Vol 1 and 2 while Gordon is an active Orange County Railroad Historical Society just like Richard and I. From there we stopped at the Howard Johnson in downtown Stockton before heading to the Friday Night Party where I presented my Tribute to Amtrak 1971-2003. We stayed until 9:30 PM with all the shows excellent. I really enjoyed Mel Patrick presentation of "Light Impressions". We dropped off Steve and Gordon at their hotel before we went to ours for the night.

Winterail 2004 3/13/2004

Following a good night's sleep and a breakfast at Perkos Cafe, we headed to the Scottish Rite Temple for Winterail 2004 Swap Meet and Show. I purchased a Central Montana and Pend Orielle Valley Railroad Timetable for my future rare mileage trips in the future and a gift for Angel, the most wonderful substitute teacher. After finding Ken Ruben and calling the Internet radio show Let's Talk Trains, I joined the line to enter the theater and once I got our seats for the afternoon I found an Official Guide from 1 969 and public timetables from the Spokane Portland and Seattle, Burlington Route and Great Northern railroads before the show started.

The afternoon shows this year were the Portland & Western Railroad by Daniel Sheets, Matthew Robbins and Dan Haneckow, The Life & Times of Harre Demoro by John Harder, Al Rose's Yosemite Valley Railroad by Jack Burgess and A Tale of Two Cites by John Kirchner. This year's Winterail Shorts were UP's Santa Cruz Branch by Phillip Smith and Two of a Kind by Evan Werkema, Flatlands and Foothills by Fred James followed by Depots of Los Angeles by Joseph Lesser. We skipped the Three Favorites electing to go dinner at Black Angus. Good times were had by Richard, Steve, Gordon and I with all of us well fed. The evening's programs were Treasure Island: Cuba by Gary Hunter, Get Cold by Debra Baer, California's Hidden Valley - Salinas Valley by Elrond Lawrence and A Life Wasted Chasing Trains by John West. All shows were excellent and we all had a great time. Richard and I returned to the Best Western for the night.

The Sierra Railroad Railfan Trip 3/14/2004

On a slightly foggy Sunday morning, Richard and I drove the 45 minutes to Oakdale. I ventured into the Sierra Railroad Station to pick up the tickets before going outside to photograph our train.

On the point was was Sierra Railroad GP-9 46 not the Baldwin S-12 42 that was supposed to pull our special train. It turned out that last night some low life had stolen the horn from the Baldwin. This stupid and selfish act caused disappointment to all of us who had came here to ride behind her. The railroad was offering lifetime cab rides to anyone who could return the horn. This offer was good on any of their properties. After the 46 had been on the train for a while, it cut off to bring the S-12 minus its horn as a second unit for the trip. The plan was to cut off the 46 at runbys so only the S-12 would be in the pictures. Unfortunately the 42 would not start so the 46 returned to the train.

While all that was going on, the passengers waited and talked amongst themselves One topic was a flashing lunar signal at North Mott. No one present could tell the meaning of that one. I learned in an email that, "The flashing light at Mott is to alert trains that the next signal is better than approach. The signal is around the corner and is not visible from the crossing at Mott. So if you do not have a flashing lunar you hold at Mott, rather than take the crossing". Thank you North Coast Conductor!

I always enjoy trips where there are people I know and those I have not seen for a while. They boarded the Yosemite Falls first followed by the El Capitan. Richard and I took our seats at table 8 A&B. In seats C, D, E and F were all people I knew fairly well. What are the chances that out of 70 people aboard a train I would know everyone sitting at a table of four and across the aisle at a table for two. I was amazed that had happened. Our Box Lunch of a Tri Tip Sandwich with chips, salad, water and a Sierra Railroad chocolate bar wrapped over a Hershey Bar were at each person's seat.

At 8:37 AM the train started moving with a happy load of passengers. We passed the shop where the Baldwin was sitting quietly minus it's horn. We rolled along the Sierra yard with a few hulks of old locomotives including the other two Sierra Baldwins, a BN GP-9, an ex Spirit of Washington Dinner Train power car and the still operational ex BN B-30-7A's. We headed east out of Oakdale passing the homes in this bedroom community. A few minutes later we were out in the open ranch lands, then turned southeast arriving at our first photo runby just short of Milepost 7 before Paulsell. Here all the passengers went to their photo locations with me choosing the side of a hill.

The train backed down the rails to about a mile away before it came forward providing a wonderful photo opportunity. After a wonderful Photo Runby, we all reboarded the train with me enjoying my lunch which was excellent. We continued after turning east at Paulsell where we headed to the "S" curve along a bend in Dry Creek where we stopped for our next double Photo Runby on a hill over looking the "S".

I moved for the second runby.

After another great Photo Runby we continued east past the first of the covered turkey farms. Why do turkey farms have roofs? The reason is that if there was no roof and it rains, the turkeys would raise their necks and drink until they would drown.

We came to a stop at a dirt road crossing over an unnamed creek, where we did our third Photo Runby of the day. As we waited for the train, a fleet of vintage cars drove by on Warnersville Road. This was really something to see.

The train passed more turkey farms and continued east to Warnersville. I would now be riding new mileage as well as from Jamestown end to Chinese. We proceeded to Rose Point where we held our next Photo Runby of the day.

This was the back up move and engine came forward.

The train was not the only thing of interest here. One of the photographers ran across the field to a high power line tower then climbed about two-thirds of the way to the top. This act amazed everyone on the trip. We continued the rest of the way to Cooperstown where we passed the wye and loading ramp to just beyond the road crossing. Here someone jumped off the train and ran southeast down the road for a picture. We backed up to near the loading ramp where we detrained for the last runbys of the trip.

Almost everyone climbed up onto the loading ramp for the first runby.

After the train had passed, everyone crossed to the sunny side for the last runby with our climbing friend up in a tree for this one.

Once everyone was back onboard, we were pushed to Warnersville where the power ran around the train so the engine "long hood forward" would pull us back to Oakdale. We could have all detrained here but everyone at our table was having such a great time so no one wanted to. Great conversation sometimes takes precedence over photographing trains. We talked and laughed all the way back to Oakdale where we arrived at 1:49 PM ending an excellent Sierra Railroad Railfan Train Trip.

After saying goodbyes to everyone, we drove to Chowchilla where we gassed up and I took over driving Richard's car for the first time south down CA 99. I drove until a major accident caused a traffic jam where Richard and I switched places north of Delano. This was my first time in my life I drove a five speed. We drove to the top of the Grapevine before stopping for a break at Vista Del Lago. Richard then drove us to his house where I drove home to Santa Ana ending another great Winterail weekend in my life.