Tuesday, May 22, 2018, I spent muich of the day railfanning BNSF's Cajon Pass, and taking many photos of railroad action. When you're railfanning Cajon Pass, you're rarely lacking for trains, as the pass sees an average of 70-90 trains a day! You know you're in for a treat when you see a triple-tracked main line.
The photos are a highlight of today's railroad action... Enjoy!
The next seven photos were taken at mile post 69.4, which is Keenbrook on the timetable. I turned off old Route 66 - known as Cajon Blvd. - on to Keenbrook Road, crossed Cajon Creek, which was actually still running, and proceeded to head east about a half-mile on railroad access roads until I was able to find a small hill to climb to take the photos. I prefer a hill where I can look down on the action, and I also love sweeping curves with long vistas. This is a great morning photo location, due to the angle of the sun, but it didn't make much difference on this Tuesday in late May, as the weather was mostly overcast.
Keep in mind when you're railfanning Cajon Pass that anytime you leave the pavement, you must have four wheel drive, or you'll most likely find yourself stuck. Also, bring plenty of water!
Photo: BNSF #7700, which is a GE ES44DC, leads a mixed train up the 2.2% grade on the west end of Keenbrook. At 2.2%, the Cajon Subdivision has one of the steepest mainline railroad grades in the United States. Not to mention that this rail line is BUSY, as it receives 70 to 90 trains every day, and it triple tracked. Big-time railroading!
The key to successfully railfanning Cajon is to GET OFF THE FREEWAY and use old Route 66, locally known as Cajon Blvd. As you drive on Route 66, you'll spot many photo locations and access roads, and you'll travel at a very leisurely pace. Be forewarned, as this byway gets lots of commuter traffic during "drive times" by folks who prefer to avoid the often-congested I-15/215 freeway.
Photo: A going-away shot of the train, led by #7700, as it struggles up the 2.2% grade at the speed of about 15 mph. The slow speed that eastbound trains travel makes photo taking easy.
Photo: A very friendly meeting of east and west at Keenbrook, as BNSF #4682, a GE C44-9W leads a double stack train past a westbound merchandise train.
Photo: Here comes UP #8333, an EMD SD70AC, as she leads a grain train west.
Photo: Grain vs. containers meet at west Keenbrook, as BNSF #3268, and EMD SD75M, leads a double stack train stack east. The creek is Cajon Creek, which was actually running on the late May afternoon. In order to get to this location, you must ford the creek, and a four wheel drive vehicle is highly recommended.
Photo: When you leave the pavement and travel on dirt access roads, I highly recommend you have a capable vehicle, with four wheel drive. Nasty things happen... This is my 1997 Ford F-250 truck, very well equipped for railroad access roads, and just about any four wheel drive trail. Note the antenna on the roof, which complements a Yaesu 2-meter ham transceiver, which also receives railroad radio frequencies. Yes, I'm a "ham" radio operator, call sign WS6L. Railfanning and ham radio make a great combination. Also, carry plenty of water!
Photo: Westbound Union Pacific train, with D.P.U. in the foreground, and eastbound BNSF train at Keenbrook. With the amount of traffic on this busy railroad, meets happen frequently.
Photo: BNSF #3906, a GE #ET44C4 leads a double stack train east at Keenbrook, my last Keenbrook photo posted on this album.
Later in the day, in the early afternoon, I decided to move a few miles east, in order to change photo locations, and to get a different view of the nearly-constant mainline railroad action.
I decided to shoot photos near Blue Cut, where I took photos yesterday, but in a very different location. From Keenbrook, I headed a few miles east on old Route 66 - Cajon Blvd. - and turned off on Swarthout Canyon Road. I followed the road to the Union Pacific tracks, and turned west on the U.P. access road. U.P.'s Palmdale Cutoff affords an outstanding "bird's eye view" of BNSF's tracks, since it's towers over BN's tracks by a hundred feet or so. I drove about a half mile west on the access road, and I believe I achieved railfan "nirvana," as the next nine photos show.
Photo: BNSF #5683, a GE AC4400CW, leads a container train east around a sweeping curve at MP 65. I'm perched on the U.P. access road, near the UP main line, which gives a great view of the BNSF main line a hundred fee below me.
Photo: Westbound action at Blue Cut, as BN #8200, a EMD SD75M leads a piggy back train west, toward San Bernardino, and ultimately, to the Port of Los Angeles.
Photo: Surprise! Surprise! I'm able to catch west bound U.P. #2619, another GE DT44AH, as she leads a merchandise train west on U.P.'s Palmdale Cutoff, which is "home rails" for Union Pacific.
Photo: It's late in the afternoon, and the late afternoon sun is treating me well, as it lights up the face of BNSF #5456, as she leads a double stack train east at Blue Cut.
Photo: "IN MY FACE" as I photo U.P. #6549, a GE AC44CW, as she leads a rail train west on U.P.'s home rails at mile post 475.1 on the Palmdale Cutoff.
Photo: UP #7843, another GE ES44AC, leads a double stack container train east, up the steep 2.2% grade.
Photo: Another sweeping view of UP $7843 and friends, showing the rugged and beautiful scenery. At this location, can see eastbound trains approaching for about 10 minutes before they arrive at your photo location, so you have plenty of time to adjust your camera and set up your shot.
Unfortunately, as of this writing in late May, 2018, suburban sprawl is beginning to encroach on the photogenic San Bernardino mountains, and even the Cajon Subdivision.
Photo: U.P. #8329, another of the many SD70ACE that Union Pacific owns, finds itself as the lone DPU on an eastbound container train.
Photo: Last but not least... as the sun begins to set behind the mountains, U.P. #7688 rounds the bend, as she leads a west double stack train to San Bernardino, and ultimately the Port of Los Angeles.
I spent around eight hours photographing all the railroad action, and looking back on the photos I took, I photo'd exactly 26 trains in eight hours, and missed a few more due to traveling and other issues. Lots of trains, with lots of photos, which made for a very productive day at Cajon!
When you combine great high desert scenery, and almost non-stop railroad action, you'll realize Cajon Pass is one of the best places in the world to railfan.
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