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A Trip on the Yuma Valley Railroad 3/17/2001

by Chris Guenzler

I kept on buying the Tourist Railroad and Museum Guides each year and I kept seeing the Yuma Valley Railroad listed on the pages. Yuma is only four hours from Santa Ana so I suggested to Jeff that we should go over and ride it. Jeff picked me up early and we went via San Diego.

We made our first stop in Plaster City where we found a Southern California Railroad GP-40 2000 sitting out in the perfect morning light.

We made our way on Interstate 8 pulling off short of Winterhaven to catch the UP 6174 entering California on the trip west. We drove across the Colorado River into Arizona seeing two train related things, a Southern Pacific steam engine and our train that we would be taking. We drove over to the Yuma Valley Train finding an information booth which gave us a noon time departure.

We shot pictures of our train and we walked up the hill behind us for an overview of the area. With over two hours until train time, Jeff and I decided to visit the Yuma Crossing State Historical Park.

This allowed for a picture of the Southern Pacific 4-6-0 2521 built in 1907 on display there.

Also on display there was a wooden SP coach. We toured the rest of the museum which I would recommend to anyone passing through Yuma. You really can learn a lot of Yuma's history with a visit to the park. We then drove to an Arby's for an early lunch before returning to the Yuma Valley Railroad parking lot to wait to buy our tickets for a trip along the levees of the Colorado River.

The Yuma Valley Railroad Trip 3/17/2001

The work to contain the waters of the Colorado River started with the levees being built in 1907-1908. In 1914 the Southern Pacific under the banner of the Yuma Valley Railroad constructed a line to Milepost 23.95 at the border town of San Luis. The line was cut back to MP 18.08 in 1952. In 1980 the SP abandoned the line and it was taken over by local interests that started weekend passenger service over the line October through May during the cooler times of the year.

Our train consisted of the ex United States Marine Corps 1975 built GE center cab 152405, a 1923 Pullman Chair Car formerly a US Army Ambulance Car, an ex Metro North Commuter Car and a platform observation car. Jeff and I purchased our tickets before we sat in the ex Metro North car and waited for departure. At noon they blew the horn and we slowly started west. At the main drag into town grade crossing just west of the loading area, we were flagged across with us stopping traffic with funny looks from the passengers in the cars waiting for us to clear. We started our running right on the levee that once protected the surrounding area from flooding before Hoover Dam was built. We passed the homes along the route and a new park before we escaped the city and headed out into the farmlands along the Colorado River.

Below the levee are farmlands which stretch over to the river with Pilot Knob over in California. Over on the Union Pacific mainline a freight is heading west into California. We ran slowly but it was an enjoyable pace as we swayed back and forth over the jointed rail. We turned south moving next to the river with Algondones, California then it was Mexico across the river with Vincente Guerrero {Algondones} Mexico coming into view.

We passed the Morales Dam as we had farmlands to our east. It was interesting watching the Border Patrol Agents driving below the tracks along the river. We were having a nice time as the train rocked back and forth along the levee.

We entered the Cocopah Indian Reservation as we curved off the levee and ran through the farmland.

Off to the west you could see the Mexican end of the Sand Dunes which stretches all the way to near Niland along the Salton Sea in California.

Our train made a turn to the east before running south where the condition of the right a way changed. We ran by the location of the former siding where ties are still in the ground and we went through a former switch as the tracks jogged. We passed through Somerton as we made a large "S" curve before running straight and back up onto the levee. Here there was a siding that went back north where the railroad stores the train and equipment.

We made our way back with entertainment provided by the Border Patrol and closer to Yuma a couple of Union Pacific Freights over in California. We returned to Yuma and as we returned to the parking area another Union Pacific freight blew out of town west

The Trip Home

Would we see him again? We drove back on Interstate 8 then took a local road north along an old Holton Interurban Route. We cut over to CA 86 returning to the tracks at Niland. As we approached Ferrum I looked back and saw a headlight a mile behind us.

We pulled off to catch the UP 7551 West blowing by us. We stopped at Carl's Junior for dinner before heading home after an enjoyable trip on the Yuma Valley Railroad.