We are hoping to chase the Big Boy during this segment of the trip. I'm not familiar with the area, and it looks like much of the line may be far from good roads. Any suggestions? Should I take my light Toyota Pickup, or the Honda Accord sedan?? I have a room at the Barstow Budget Inn--is it a good place to stay??

Thanks!  I don't trust that it will come to Sacramento area next year--one never knows what changes may befall the steam program, or my life for that matter!

S'incerely,

David "two rails" Dewey

Original Post

David - I suggest you fire up Google maps and take a look at the territory between Las Vegas and Barstow - its not easy pickin's.  I've looked at it some (its helpful to look at the Satellite image to see what the roads really look like).  There's a brief stretch going SW out of LV where the UP tracks are sandwiched between I-15 and something called South Las Vegas Blvd - but most of that is some distance away (~couple of hundred feet) and then further SW, the tracks diverge from I-15 as you approach the CA-NV state line (I'll bet I-15 will be nutz...).  Once in CA, the tracks go through the Mohave National Preserve.  You will see a paved road that goes to Ivanpah, which intersects the UP tracks, but doesn't run parallel to them.  Another bet, further west in the MNP is the Cima-Kelso road (looks paved) that does parallel the tracks between these two - uhhh - 'settlements'.  One of the intriguing features of Kelso is a wonderful looking old station that seems to house a coffee shop (to serve about ten houses).  From the map, you can click on the station and a Google street view will pop up!  West of Kelso, the tracks go back into no-person's land almost until they parallel I-15 just east of Yermo.

As I said, I looked at this some and we've decided to head off in the other direction from Las Vegas - we're staying in Cedar City, UT and hope to see/chase the 4014 from Milford, UT to Caliente, NV (which has its own, absolutely classic, mission-style depot in the center of town).  It also gives us the chance to go poke around in our favorite National Parks in SW UT - Zion, Bryce, Escalante-Grand Staircase.

traindavid posted:

Interesting idea; I will have to look into maybe changing my plans and chasing  TO Las Vegas. I realize the Vegas-LA run will be overun with railfans and others (and I'm just adding to that crush of folks).

Plus, it may be mostly down grade. On the other hand, running FROM Barstow TO Las Vegas, the 4014 will have to ascend Cima Hill.

 

BOB WALKER posted:

There is a very interesting story about the running Big Boy in Popular Mechanics magazine. Two items of note: (1) 60% of the running unit is modern metal,

No way! Apparently the folks at Popular Mechanics magazine don't know much about steam locomotive restorations/overhaules.

and (2) it was converted to run on fuel oil rather than coal.

Yes, they got that correct.

 

So, Bob2, whajasee?  In my response to David's original question, I based my 'analysis' on what I could tell from Google maps - flipping back and forth between map and satellite view.  Other than the immediate stretch of I-15 out of Las Vegas and the section of road between Cima and Kelso, it looked to me like there are few opportunities to be near the UP tracks.  Did you see anything different than that? 

Trestleman1 -- The UP website - here: https://www.up.com/heritage/steam/schedule/index.htm suggests that the closest 4014 will get to St. Louis is Kansas City.

Hot Water -- wasn't the conversion to oil largely out of necessity?  Short of hauling around your own coal and a front end loader, I'd guess coal isn't readily available in the first place and second, the emissions from coal firing are going to be more problematic than burning oil (are they not?).  It seems like the conversion to oil came off without any real issues(?).  So what does a "modern" oil-burning locomotive burn?  I assume that the old bunker C (and its ilk) are no longer available (not to mention the problem of emissions) - so is it diesel #2 or ??

The run up Cajon pass (from Barstow to Colton) has some nifty scenery, but man-o-man, traffic on I-15 in that area is bad on a good day, let alone chock full of foamers jockeying for position...

 

richs09 posted:

 

Hot Water -- wasn't the conversion to oil largely out of necessity?  Short of hauling around your own coal and a front end loader, I'd guess coal isn't readily available in the first place and second, the emissions from coal firing are going to be more problematic than burning oil (are they not?). 

Actually the two main issues were/are: 1) trackside fires set from the hot cinders, and 2) all handling and mess of the coal and ashes. When 3985 was still a coal burner, and went to the grand opening of the California State Railroad museum in 1981, she set so many fires that when the 10th anniversary of the museum was planned, the UP was informed that 3985 could not return. Thus, in 1989/1990, 3985 was converted to oil burning.

It seems like the conversion to oil came off without any real issues(?). 

Maybe not. Reports have been that full working boiler pressure is difficult to maintain, under heavier throttle. so,,,,the book may still be out on the burner design.

So what does a "modern" oil-burning locomotive burn? 

Reprocessed waste oil, or #5 power plant oil, if available.

I assume that the old bunker C (and its ilk) are no longer available (not to mention the problem of emissions) - so is it diesel #2 or ??

See answer above.

The run up Cajon pass (from Barstow to Colton) has some nifty scenery, but man-o-man, traffic on I-15 in that area is bad on a good day, let alone chock full of foamers jockeying for position...

 

 

The railroad follows the highay for about ten miles, just north of Jean, then takes a wild detour south to get around some high terrain.  Kelso is about 30 miles off the freeway.

Then about 20 miles north of Daggett it rejoins for a while.  Then it again splits off, but there is a small road that follows it from Barstow to maybe Victorville.  After that, traffic will be horrible.

Daggett to Barstow is four track and is probably the most heavily traveled railroad in California. It is both UP and BNSF.   It is parallel by a good unpaved road. I would skip Victorville and then follow the tracks from Hesperia to Cajon Junction on State route 138. There are a number of side roads to the north that will take you to the tracks. All are unpaved, but are good to drive on unless it has been raining. In this area sabotage of the Santa Fe that caused a serious derailment has made the railroad sensitive to trespassers. Stay off railroad property. West of Summit tracks are mostly in national forest land so public assess is acceptable. At Cajon Junction there is gas and several places to eat. To continue following the train will require getting on I-15 south. Get off at the next off ramp and follow old Route 66.  There is one paved road to the west that goes to and crosses both BNSF and UP, but it will probably be jammed.  There is a good view of both railroads across a canyon and creek from Route 66 and lots of parking. No way of knowing which railroad 4014 will be on, UP uses both (former SP and ATSF).  At the bottom of the hill old Route 66 reconnects with I-15 and I-215.  This is rattlesnake country.  Watch were you walk and stay out of brush and loose rocks.  

 

You might find the background you have been thinking of by checking out photo locations using railphotos.net and limiting the search to Union Pacific and the state of Nevada.  A second search for Union Pacific in California with the keyword "Cima" might also help to find your spot.  

There are some great photo locations between Milford and Las Vegas, but it's a one-shot deal for the 4014 (except in Meadow Valley Wash near Caliente).  However, you could spend the day and get some good contemporary UPRR photos, along with the 4014, but that country is a destination, and a rugged one.  You will never again catch the train until is is at Las Vegas.  You have to go in on "graded" roads that drop through dry washes where you might find deep sand.  And there is no cellular service nor is there anybody out there to rescue you.  If you want a photo out there in the red rock country east of Las Vegas, you ought to make a dry run in advance so you can find the particular rabbit trail that takes you where you want to be and find out if there are any locked gates in your way.  And be sure to let someone responsible know where you are going, so they can call the Sheriff if you don't check back in with them after 24 hours.

One thing about it, there are no annoying trees to block your view, but you still have to find the track.  I'd suggest DeLorme map books of Nevada and Southern California.

I don't think that's what you had in mind, though, is it?  West of Las Vegas you may find something more like what you want.  Just be sure to carry plenty of drinking water and review in advance how to find the place that they put the jack if you are driving a modern day vehicle.  An Army surplus entrenchment tool and a little bit of scrap wood is often handy when driving on graded roads in the desert.

I spent 9 years in the Mojave Desert as a Santa Fe official.  Proper preparation prevents getting stuck.

Take the Toyota pickup.  Leave the Accord sedan at home.   If you go early and set up just the right photo, be prepared for there to be a cavalcade of cars at any location where there is easy access.  Also don't be surprised if, after you have arrived early and set everything up to get your perfect photo, several people in dune buggies or jacked-up Jeeps race in at the last minute, raising lots of dust and possibly blocking your perfect photo.

Tom

 

Superintendent, High Plains Division (O Gauge) 

The Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Co.

Lone Star Hi-Railers

Santa Fe, All the Way

Thanks for the amazing amount of advice. This may sound crazy, but I'm not really looking for "that perfect photo" -- I have those of 4449, 3985, 844 & 25 (McCloud River Railroad); but what I treasure are the memories of seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling them run and go by. That's really the only reason I want to go down and see it--what if it never comes to Roseville next year and I don't get to experience it.

With this kind of popularity, you have to expect people to NOT respect photo lines, and for crazies to be around. So I guess what I SHOULD have asked is; what locations would you chose to see it, considering the traffic, etc. as I probably will only get to two or so locations given the terrain, roads, and traffic.  I'm thinking I could get "the lay of the land" coming back from the Vegas display on Monday.

I looked at my work schedule, and I can't do the pre-Vegas stretch on Saturday. BUT should I consider the trip home, and if so, what route will it take, I understand it will go south--however that area, AFAIK is even more populated. ???

And, am I crazy to drive 13 hours, spend 3 nights in a motel just to see 4014? Umm, maybe I don't want to know the answer to THAT question!

S'incerely,

David "two rails" Dewey

Tom - I've been through Caliente a few times (usually on our way to Zion NP from the SF Bay Area) but you may know the area better than I.  Peering at Google maps - especially the satellite view - it looks to me like the (paved) state route near Modena UT parallels the UP tracks for a few miles and then they diverge westbound until you get to Caliente.  As you point out (and I overlooked it on my first pass) west of Caliente, the paved road (state highway) and the tracks zig-zag through Meadow Valley Wash for what looks to be ten or so miles.  Beyond that, there really don't seem to be many good access points most of rest of the way to Las Vegas.  Since we are flying in to Las Vegas, renting a car and staying in Cedar City, I thought we'd run up to Milford late Friday afternoon to see 4014 there (it overnights there Friday night) and then catch it in/near Modena on Saturday morning and then on to Caliente where it stops  and overnights on Saturday night.  I hope it stops near the old iconic depot - that would be a good shot.  I hadn't planned on doing any more train chasing Sunday - thinking that the aspen in and around Zion and Cedar Breaks should be pretty spectacular.  But, getting some shots of 4014 running through Meadow Valley on Sunday might be pretty cool.

Speaking of cool, do you happen to know any of the history/backstory on the depot at Kelso?

richs09 posted:

. . . do you happen to know any of the history/backstory on the depot at Kelso?

Sorry, but I don't.  It is one of several mission-style depots that were built along the Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad.

Tom

 

Superintendent, High Plains Division (O Gauge) 

The Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Co.

Lone Star Hi-Railers

Santa Fe, All the Way

  • traindavid posted:

. . . what I treasure are the memories of seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling them run and go by. That's really the only reason I want to go down and see it--what if it never comes to Roseville next year and I don't get to experience it.

 

Now I get it!

If you want to hear and see the engine when it is working, I'd suggest either of two crossings off of National Trails Highway (Old Route 66) west of Barstow.  In both locations the train will be coming out of a sag and the Engineer will have to throttle up.

  • Holcomb Ranch Road, between Hodge and Helendale
  • Vista Road, at Helendale.

Also, the engine will be working upgrade through Hesperia.  Main Street is the easiest access from Interstate 15.

Tom

 

Superintendent, High Plains Division (O Gauge) 

The Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Co.

Lone Star Hi-Railers

Santa Fe, All the Way

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