Author Topic: Afton Canyon - October 8th, 2019 (Union Pacific Steam Locomotive)  (Read 317 times)

JFanaselle

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Some of you guys know how much I love trains. :) Well, the Union Pacific Railroad recently completed a full restoration of an old steam locomotive, known as number 4014, and it is touring the nation. It is a 1940s era "Big Boy" class 4-8-8-4, and it is currently the largest and heaviest operating steam locomotive in the world. Much more info can be found here, if you're interested: https://www.up.com/heritage/steam/4014/

Next Tuesday (October 8th), the train is departing Las Vegas and making it's way into California, running the complete length of the UP Cima Subdivision. It'll depart Vegas at 8:00 am and will make its first stop at the Cima Road railroad crossing around 10:30 am. It will depart Cima around 11:15 am and arrive at the Kelso depot around noon. It will only be on display at Kelso for about 15 minutes before departing and running out through Afton Canyon, ultimately arriving at the Yermo yard at around 3:45 pm. There will be much fanfare around the train in So Cal from Wednesday the 9th through Monday the 11th, including a couple of trips up and down the Cajon Pass and a couple of public display days at the West Colton UP yard. But, I expect all of that to be super crowded, and I really want to see this thing in a more natural setting.

So, I've taken Tuesday October 8th off from work, and I plan to go witness its trek across the desert. I was originally planning to "chase" the train from Cima all the way down to Afton Canyon, but based on the train's schedule and anticipated speed, I don't think I'd make it into the canyon in time from the Kelso Depot, and the photos in the canyon are what I desire most. The only way I could pull off being at both the Depot and at the canyon would be to access the UP right-of-way road that parallels the railroad tracks. Technically this is considered trespassing on railroad property, and I expect there to be security and/or railroad police officers present (there will probably be a crowd of anywhere from 50-100 people gathered at the depot, too). So I just don't see any way that I could get into the canyon faster than the train will, even with a 15 min or so head start.

So I think I'm just going to skip Cima and the Kelso Depot, and go to Afton Canyon. I'll definitely cross at least the first water crossing, and maybe even the second one. My goal is to get a shot of it coming over one of the trestle bridges, and I think my best opportunity for this will be the second (middle) bridge, which is the one right next to the eastern-most water crossing. Ideally, I'd like to throw the drone up and get some video of it, too, but we'll see if I can pull that off.

I just wanted to throw this out there in case anyone else would like to tag along. I'll probably depart early and stop for gas and breakfast in the Barstow area, and maybe even spend an hour or two exploring around the area before the train comes through. The wife will likely be with me, but we're still figuring that out with her work schedule and our obligations with our son (school, baseball, etc.). There's also still a slight chance that I'd head to the depot first, if I can figure out a way to get from the depot to the canyon fast enough. I'm open to suggestions. :)

knightrider

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Re: Afton Canyon - October 8th, 2019 (Union Pacific Steam Locomotive)
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2019, 03:16:10 PM »
I am in for this, maybe head up monday night and camp out.  I can fly the drone :D
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Re: Afton Canyon - October 8th, 2019 (Union Pacific Steam Locomotive)
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2019, 05:05:38 PM »
God I wish I could join you.  I, like you, love me some trains and the Big Boy is one of my favorites.  Do you know, is it going to be flying solo with some cargo or riding bitch behind some diesels?  I look forward to seeing your pictures.
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JFanaselle

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Re: Afton Canyon - October 8th, 2019 (Union Pacific Steam Locomotive)
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2019, 09:21:30 AM »
I am in for this, maybe head up monday night and camp out.  I can fly the drone :D

Sweet! I wish I could go out the night before and camp, but it looks like we'll have to take Gavin to school on Tuesday morning. I'm thinking we'll be on the road by about 7:00 or 7:30. Unfortunately we'll have a little traffic to deal with getting through Riverside and San Bernardino, but we should still be up in the canyon well before noon. The more research I'm doing online, the more I'm realizing just how crowded the route is going to be. The last time a steamer came through Afton Canyon, there were at least a dozen people gathered at most of the decent spots. So it's a good idea to get there as early as possible and stake out a great location away from the masses. Ideally, I'd like to get out there this weekend and do a little pre-run, but I don't think I can pull it off, so getting there early enough on the 8th is the next best option.

God I wish I could join you.  I, like you, love me some trains and the Big Boy is one of my favorites.  Do you know, is it going to be flying solo with some cargo or riding bitch behind some diesels?  I look forward to seeing your pictures.

It's doing the work. The excursion train consists of the Big Boy and its original tender out front, plus two additional UP yellow tenders. Then a diesel "helper" (which as I understand, is mostly just helping with braking and is there just in case something breaks on the steamer), and about a dozen of UP's passenger cars. Take a look at this video of the whole setup rolling through Wisconsin a couple of months ago:

« Last Edit: October 02, 2019, 09:24:06 AM by JFanaselle »

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Re: Afton Canyon - October 8th, 2019 (Union Pacific Steam Locomotive)
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2019, 09:55:29 PM »
Not sure if you know about it or not but the way we have gone on the winter Mojave Rd leads us along the railway which is probably 10 or so miles before we turn off along the tracks. Off of Afton after the water crossings. There is a whole wide desert with nobody out there you can setup camp and probably parallel that train if you really wanted to in many places. Give me a call if you need directions to it if you are interested.
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JFanaselle

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Re: Afton Canyon - October 8th, 2019 (Union Pacific Steam Locomotive)
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2019, 03:38:11 PM »
The wife and I will be on the road about 8:00 am from Murrieta. We're going to stop for fuel and breakfast in the Barstow area, and should be in the canyon between 11:00 to 11:30. The train is departing Kelso depot at 12:15 and is scheduled to take 3.5 hours to get to Yermo. The last leg (from just west of Afton all the way to Yermo) is the slowest speed section of the entire subdivision, so I'm guessing the train will come through the canyon sometime between 1:30 and 2:30. This will give us plenty of time to explore and find a great spot to post up. With a high pressure system forming over the Great Basin and a Santa Ana wind event moving into So Cal starting tonight, the winds may unfortunately end up being too high to fly the drone. I guess we'll have to see when we get there. I'll be hanging out on the ham on 146.535, which is the unofficial 2 meter SCCX frequency. :)

Not sure if you know about it or not but the way we have gone on the winter Mojave Rd leads us along the railway which is probably 10 or so miles before we turn off along the tracks. Off of Afton after the water crossings. There is a whole wide desert with nobody out there you can setup camp and probably parallel that train if you really wanted to in many places. Give me a call if you need directions to it if you are interested.

Yeah I'm quite familiar with the open desert between the canyon and the depot. The trouble is, the only way I'd be able to "chase" the train fast enough from that region back into the canyon (in order to get ahead of it and get the shots I want) would be to use the Union Pacific road that runs next to the tracks, and they'll be out there in full force to stop trespassers. In most of the videos I've seen of it's trek through Utan and Nevada so far, there have been UP and railroad police vehicles ahead and behind the train, flushing folks off of the private property. I'll get out there into the open desert before the train comes through and see if I think it's possible, but I think we're probably going to be better off just staying in the canyon.

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Re: Afton Canyon - October 8th, 2019 (Union Pacific Steam Locomotive)
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2019, 08:09:27 AM »
This is awesome Joe...be safe, enjoy the outdoors, and please post some pics when you are able.  :)
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Re: Afton Canyon - October 8th, 2019 (Union Pacific Steam Locomotive)
« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2019, 11:28:16 AM »
I don't even give a sh** about trains, but that video looked prety cool.
There's something about a steam engine 8)
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JFanaselle

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Re: Afton Canyon - October 8th, 2019 (Union Pacific Steam Locomotive)
« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2019, 03:14:20 PM »
Well, you guys missed a once in a lifetime opportunity! First, I've got to give huge props to knightrider for not only keeping us company along the trip, but also saving my @$$ when my truck completely died in the canyon!

So, we arrived at the canyon around 11:30, just as we'd planned. There was only a small group of folks gathered at the campground, but we figured it would end up getting more crowded. We crossed the water and traveled all the way through the canyon to the other side, ending up at the last trestle bridge. There were a few folks spread throughout the canyon, with at least one person posted up at most of the good visual spots, so we figured our best bet was to shoot what we could as the train entered the canyon and crossed the first bridge, then do our best to chase it through the canyon and see what else we could shoot (with the understanding that we would be perfectly ok if we only managed to get those first shots).

We posted up on top of a little hill just north of the bridge, along with a group of old train fans from Apple Valley. They were a really fun group of old guys, most of them in their 70s or 80s, and we enjoyed chatting with them. We had a great view of both the open desert to our north, and the entrance to the canyon to our south. A freight train passed through the canyon northbound (toward Kelso) and just as it got out of our view out in the open desert, it came to a stop and waited for the Big Boy to come by. While we waited here and chatted with the guys, a group of 5 small airplanes came by and circled the canyon just to the south of us, then took turns landing down in the sandy river bottom and parking. They all got out and claimed their spots to view the train as it came by.

Soon after, we spotted the headlight as the train approached us and everyone got ready. There was a cloud of dust from a group of dual sport motorcycles that were "chasing" it through the desert, riding ahead of it and next to it as it moved. The train honked and put off a few good puffs of smoke for us as they approached a road crossing just to our north. The sound of that steam whistle echoing through the canyon was so amazing!

We snapped some photos as it passed by, and said bye to the group as we ran down the hill to our waiting vehicles. We started to haul butt through the canyon to catch the train, but something was wrong with my vehicle and I couldn't accelerate beyond about 30 mph. It's almost like I was in limp mode or something, but I didn't have any dash lights or anything. As the train continued to blast through the canyon, I realized I wasn't going to be able to catch it, and I pulled over to snap a few last shots of it ahead of me. I shut my rig down and restarted it, which seemed to fix whatever the issue was with the acceleration. So I proceeded to move back toward the water crossing, and after just another few hundred feet, the entire vehicle completely died on me. The engine died, and all of the electrical shut down. I had no gauges, no ignition beep - couldn't even unlock the doors. I used my handheld to radio Jordan, who had managed to get quite a bit ahead of me after my issues. He came back to my location and said "you picked a hell of a time to break down. The train is stopped right up there between the two bridges." Unbelievable!

We dug some tools out of each of our rigs, and within just a few minutes, Jordan had diagnosed a blown fuse within the positive battery terminal. The terminal seemed to have come loose and may have grounded out against the hood or something while we were hauling butt and hitting big bumps. We disconnected my accessory circuit (which runs to my second battery and my aux fuse box) and temporarily jumped the fuse with a wire, and the rig started right back up. Within 15 mins, we were back on the road and eager to see if the train was still stopped.

That's when the magic happened! We came up over the hill and it was still sitting there. Because we were still on the other side of the water crossing, there was barely anyone there. The majority of the folks who we'd seen back in the canyon had actually come in the other way through Basin Road, and they'd all turned around and gone back after the train came through. We could see a huge crowd of 200 or 300 people up on top of the hill just past the campground, but none of those folks wanted to come through the water over to where we were, so they were just stuck watching from there. So we pulled up and parked right next to the train, along with only about 15 other people. The crew was absolutely amazing! They allowed us to get real close and personal with it, and they even let us climb up into the cab to check everything out. What an amazing opportunity to be up inside this thing while it was still running and ready to roll. The firebox was burning at full blast, and it was well over 120 degrees inside the cab.

We spent about 20 mins there with the train until they were ready to depart, and I climbed up a little hill on the other side of the tracks to get the money shot as it rolled away. The sun at my back, the canyon walls as a backdrop, and not a single car or spectator visible in the photo (they were on the other side, blocked by the train).

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JFanaselle

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Re: Afton Canyon - October 8th, 2019 (Union Pacific Steam Locomotive)
« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2019, 03:16:24 PM »
Some more photos:

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« Last Edit: October 09, 2019, 03:21:50 PM by JFanaselle »

JFanaselle

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Re: Afton Canyon - October 8th, 2019 (Union Pacific Steam Locomotive)
« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2019, 03:20:49 PM »
And a few more:

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FrankB

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Re: Afton Canyon - October 8th, 2019 (Union Pacific Steam Locomotive)
« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2019, 11:35:30 PM »
Very cool.  Glad to hear everything worked out.  Great pics too.

CAWoody

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Re: Afton Canyon - October 8th, 2019 (Union Pacific Steam Locomotive)
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2019, 06:20:30 AM »
That looks like it was a lot of fun following that beast.  Seeing it in operation must have been quite the experience.
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Re: Afton Canyon - October 8th, 2019 (Union Pacific Steam Locomotive)
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2019, 07:07:02 AM »
Lightning in a bottle. Great photos Joe, thank you.

Good things happening for great people.  :)
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Re: Afton Canyon - October 8th, 2019 (Union Pacific Steam Locomotive)
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2019, 07:20:39 AM »
Great pics Joe, very jealous  , that is a lot of Valves to take care of
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