Tour of the Lone Wolf and Santa Fe Railroad
Start in the upper left corner at the San Bernardino yard. Let's follow the Piggyback Hot Shot from here to the east.
As we pull out of the yard we pass the passenger station used by both Amtrak and Metrolink. Next we pass dozens of cars and SUV's being unloaded from enclosed auto carriers to be distributed to car dealers.
We continue through downtown San Bernardino and come to the West Side Intermodal Yard where a loader works around the clock in one of the busiest yards of it's kind in the country. Here, trailers and containers are loaded onto special Hot Shot trains like ours. Once they leave here they won't stop until they reach Chicago. Special "fuel foiler" cars were developed specifically for this route. They were the first of their kind which were designed for direct competition with the trucking industry. They are represented by Athearn's impact articulated flat cars. Complete trains were made up of ten of these ten car units. Now however they are mixed in with the now vast array of COFC/TOFC types.
Heading north we go through the industrial part of the West Side and North End. The West Side has many older buildings like the Los Cuartos Inn, set close together in an urban setting.
The North End has newer modern businesses which are more spread out.
Around them lie suburban housing like this one with a nice pool in the backyard. The further north we travel the newer the buildings and housings become until we reach the construction site where the newest houses are being built where orange groves used to be.
Yes there are still some orange groves in California but they they are loosing ground everyday. Sunkist still operates a profitable packing house here and ships out carloads daily when in season. Colorful orange or yellow refrigerated boxcars (refers) from Pacific Fast Freight and the regions railroads are all here.
Next the rails wind up Lone Wolf canyon towards the Lone Wolf Pass. As we head up the grade the orange groves give way to chaparral. The route follows a dry riverbed. However when it rains, flash flooding can occur.
Since it is fall in the foothills there is a house that is decorated for Halloween.
We pull into the foothill siding and wait for the pushers to hook up to the rear. The foothill area is the home of the last two industries in the valley, Cargill Flower Mill, and Foothill Steel Distributors. An old SD9 is leased to Cargill so they can hustle around the long strings of wheat hoppers. That old locomotive isn't going anywhere fast, but it doesn't have too. It just has to push around covered hoppers at a maximum speed of about 5 miles per hour.
A pair of SD40s comes down the main line and flies by us. After they pass us they stop and the brakeman jumps out and throws the switch to the siding. The engineer slowly creeps up behind us and latches on, hooks up the air and calls us on the radio. They are ready to go and warn us of bad weather ahead. Bad weather? It's a nice sunny day down here in the valley.
We cross over the riverbed on a high trestle and continue to gain altitude. Once over the trestles we can see the Mormon Rocks. These rock formations jut up out of the ground at 30 to 45 degree angles which are oh so evident by the layers of sediment which can clearly be seen due to lack of vegetation. Geologically they are giant signs saying we are crossing the San Andrea's Earthquake Fault. Now the pass steepens to it ruling grade. (The maximum grade on the route.)
Further up the pass is a cattle ranch with an abandoned spur. Live cattle haven't ridden on trains for decades. A highway and the railroad parallel and the creek from here on up to Lone Wolf Ski Resort.
As we continue to climb we actually change climates from a desert to a forest climate. The tumble weeds have turned into pine trees and there are many more plants growing everywhere. The river next to the right of way is now raging with flash flood waters from the storm ahead. At the bend in the road ahead we can see that a school bus full of kids has gone off of the road and has ended up in the river. The paramedics and ambulance are on the scene to help the survivors. It is raining on us now and we turn on the wipers which mix the rain and the dust into a muddy mess on the windshields.
We wind our way up the pass toward Lone Wolf Mountain. The weight of the train and the slippery rails slow our climb down to a crawl. Finally we reach the national forest and it is snowing. There are pine trees covered with snow from the storm and it is piling up on the cab.
The town of Lone Wolf is at the summit with a general store and cafe right next to the tracks. It has been here since the gold rush and the helper crew eats here daily.
...to be continued....
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