Old 08-16-2009, 09:07 AM   #1
jdirelan87
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Default Shortlines on the old ATSF through the Southwest

All (Be forewarned, this is gonna be a long one),


I'm getting stationed in San Diego. If all goes as planned, the transit from Pittsburgh to SD will be by way of a two week railfanning blow out vacation. While I have some shots in the Midwest plan, I'm planning on spending the bulk of time following the Joint Line down from Denver, over Raton Pass and then the mainline all the way to Cajon Pass. While no doubt there is more than enough shots to take up my time on the old ATSF, I'm big into shortlines and would like to get as many as possible.

Here is my plan at this point. Would be great if somebody could tell me if this is realistic and/or what operations are like on any of these roads. Another BIG BIG help would be quality of the roads in these places. I'm looking at buying a Mustang for the drive out.... obviously not the best clearance.

1. Santa Fe Southern - looks like this is a high sun only operation, so I figured I would shoot the westbound Southwest Chief somewhere near Raton Pass, go to Lamy and chase back to Santa Fe if worth it, finish with an overnight in Albuquerque. Wouldn't mind shooting that new commuter service if possible going down the middle of the highway, but a roster shot sitting at the station would work too.

2. Apache - figured I would spend a few days working my way across NM, eventually ending up in Holbrook. Depending on when they start, I would like to either do a there and back chase from Snowflake (I think) or just chase them back from the interchange. Any idea of times for this road? Found a few old internet post suggesting a 10am start time M-F.

3. Copper Basin - depending on Apache operations, would either spend the night in Snowflake and drive to Hayden in the morning or vise versa (assuming there is hotel near by in either). I've heard the Copper Basin is busy enough that you can just show up and wait and have a good day.

4. Grand Canyon - figured on spending the night somewhere near Phoenix after the Copper Basin. Because of that, not sure how to handle the Grand Canyon. Figured I will be beat after going balls to the walls with the Apache/Copper Basin, so I was thinking of sleeping in, then following the branch back to Williams and photographing the return trip from the Grand Canyon there. I've been told that there is really nowhere to shot this train north of Williams, true?

Thats all I have for sure. After Williams, I'll be Santa Fe all the way into SD. I wouldn't mind shooting the ARZC or those electrics mine railroads, but from what I can tell, including those would require some serious back tracking. Figure the ARZC can be a weekend trip and the electrics a long weekend at a later date.

Anyways, any insight would be greatly appreciated. Final note; anything I missed? I find it hard to believe that there is so little in New Mexico, but I can't seem to find anything worth shooting.

Thanks in advance. Can't wait for my plans to change next and end up just flying out the day before after writing all this
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Old 08-16-2009, 06:25 PM   #2
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Here are a few thoughts on what you've considered, and a point or two you may want to consider...

1. Santa Fe Southern-- this is almost completely a tourist train operation, though they do handle some freight 1-2 days a week. They tie it onto the passenger train, so you get a revenue mixed. You may consider calling ahead to see if there is a particular day they'll be doing this so you can plan your visit around it.

2. Apache-- M-F are the operating days, but on Wednesdays they typically do NOT run to Holbrook. If you want them out on the line, plan around that. They have a call time of 10am in times past, but I heard that had been moved a little earlier. However, times I've seen for them at Holbrook suggest they are still doing about they same as they always have. The only access to the line is east of the plant at Snowflake (this is actually about 10 miles west of the town of Snowflake) and from MP 5 on in to Holbrook. MP 5 makes a very nice location for photos, as there is an elevated pull-off from the main road next to the tracks that can make for some dramatic photos. If you go to the office in the morning and check-in, they may allow you to photo the Alcos staged up for the crew. They do not allow you to roam around the shop area.

3. Copper Basin-- works like a Swiss watch. The ore train is precisely timed, and you'll do yourself good to be in position for the first departure from Ray Mine at about 9:15 am. Follow him all the way to the dumper just south of the yard at Hayden. NOTE: the ore train typically does NOT operate on Thursdays, as this is used as a day to replace brake shoes and do general maintenance on the train set. Traffic is much lighter without the 3-4 cycles of the ore train. Stop in at the office-- this is a must at what is an incredibly friendly operation. If an escort is available, you may be given a tour of the shop or at least allowed to photograph some of the power that may be sitting there. You may even wind up talking to legendary shortline railroader Jake Jacobsen. Not to be missed if he's around.

4. Grand Canyon-- can't add anything, other than I have heard access is limited, just as you mention.

Now, for something you may have not thought about-- how about the Southwestern Railroad in New Mexico? You may not have noticed, but if you are in Albuquerque, this is a couple of hours to the south. They now operate the former ATSF branch from Deming, NM to Rincon, NM, in addition to the original trackage up to Hurley (which is near dormant). There is something on this line almost daily, between the SW local and the Cochise coal trains, which use BNSF power. The crew still starts in Hurley, but will drive to Deming or wherever the train is. Deming is your best bet for a starting point, but they may tie up at the siding at Las Uvas Dairy, which is about 8 miles west of Hatch. Keep in mind, with the drive from Hurley, an 8 hour day for them only encompasses 5-6 hours of train time.

SW also operates the former ATSF line down to Roswell and Artesia, but I have yet to visit that side of the operation. Shops are at Hurley and their should be some power sitting around there if that is all you can work in based on where you're headed.

You may think about the Arizona & Eastern, either on the original trackage or the newly acquired former UP branch out of Lordsburg, NM up to Clifton, AZ. Phelps Dodge Mine RR interchanges with them in town at Clifton. PD comes down mid-morning, and when I say "down," I'm not kidding-- it is quite a substantial grade down from the mine to town. 4 GP38-2s are the power.

Arizona & California gets to Cadiz, CA to meet with the Barstow local mid to late afternoon, probably 4pm on average. There are some nice shots around "town" there, but to get the really good desert scenery, you need a vehicle with good ground clearance if you're going to venture down Cadiz Rd.

Also, it's high time for rattlesnakes in the desert. Watch your step carefully. The chase and dash out of the car whenver, for whatever, mentality we are used to here in the east is not quite the same out there. Have food and water, as areas around the Copper Basin and Southwestern are pretty desolate, and running to the convenience store while waiting for the train is likely not an option.
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Old 08-17-2009, 06:53 PM   #3
ken45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdirelan87 View Post
Final note; anything I missed? I find it hard to believe that there is so little in New Mexico, but I can't seem to find anything worth shooting.
I was very underwhelmed by the Gallup Sub (BNSF Transcon west of Belen) through New Mexico when I visited last January. Not a place I'd ever make a planned trip to. The Glorieta and Raton Subs were nice however, and it should be pretty easy to catch some Railrunner action.

One item of interest you did miss however is the little Escalante Western near Prewitt, NM. Serves a powerplant and the train set operates over the BNSF to Lee Ranch Mine to load pretty much every day. I've heard the train leaves the powerplant fairly early in the morning, around 6-7am, which means well lit shots are possible at a paved county road x-ing just east of the power plant. If you look up Prewitt on google maps, you'll see the powerplant just to the NW.

The AZCR interchanges about the time mentioned, but as a note, there is typically no interchange on Saturdays. Also as a note, it's not particularly adviseable to take a car off-pavement along the Needles Sub. Although many of the side roads leading to the tracks are fairly firm and not rutted, along Route 66, the first 10-50 feet can be pretty soft at some of the turnoffs...you'll see what I mean. Also be careful when parking on the shoulders as you can get stuck even in places that look harmless.

Will be strange seeing photos by you from out west...when I think of John Ireland, I think of Pittsburgh.
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