1 day. That’s what it takes to get from Brussels to the west coast of the United States. The flight brought my friend and I safely to San Francisco International Airport. I recommend visiting San Francisco, it’s a nice city. I visited a couple of years ago already though, and the longing for adventure in the wide open was too strong… so after getting our rental vehicle we drove off to Tehachapi to spend the night.
You may recognise the name Tehachapi. It’s made famous by a loop in the railroad, leading the train over itself. The loop itself is located in Walong though, a 20 minute drive from Tehachapi. No problemo. Thanks to the jetlag we were able to get up early and start the day on one of the surrounding hills.
On this first picture we can see a westbound train rounding the hill in the center of the loop. It is about to ride under itself.
Tunnels and curves
The Tehachapi loop is spectacular to see, but the line between Bakersfield and Mojave still has a lot more to offer. It runs almost completely through a mountainous area. There seems to be no meter of straight track on the line. A lot of tunnels were needed to conquer the pass. They are identified by a number, counting up from Bakersfield. Here an eastbound train has exited tunnel 10, just east of the Tehachapi loop.
Making photos of the same train doesn’t become boring. For getting this shot, I had to run down the hill a bit and zoom out. The speed of the trains allows it easily…
A well used tunnel
When out shooting, one of my goals is to not make two photos from the same point of view. Always try different angles. Unless I want the conditions to be exactly on the spot, of course. So, when the next eastbound train announced itself, I set up to shoot the photo that will follow next, but first made this image of the portal of the tunnel.
If I’m not mistaken, this tunnel doesn’t exist anymore today. It was torn down in order to allow a second track to be built. The mostly single tracked line suffers from capacity constraints on certain moments, indeed. The black strokes above the portal illustrate the tunnel’s intense use.
Long live double stack trains
Double stack container trains (and the Stagger’s act, check wikipedia) have played a major role in the revival of American railroads. They allowed huge efficiency gains and competing prices, helping rail freight transporters become profitable companies.
To illustrate the point made in the previous chapter of this story: this shot was made after switching lenses and setting up again.
2 trains and a number of varied shots later, we were ready to move on to the next spot.
Time for a break
Even if the busy mainline is filled with beautiful viewpoints, you still need luck. After hours of waiting for no train to come, in the burning sun, our stock of water heating up and shrinking away too fast, we had to decide to do something else.
Take a break (like what the train traffic did). Walk back to the car. Get a dollar menu at an airconditioned fastfood restaurant.
With renewed energy, and a couple of hours later, we noticed train traffic resuming. We went back to the same spot we had been standing before noon, where all previous shots were made. The sun had turned, and so did we. Some totally new viewpoints of the snaking railway line were possible.
Here we see a westbound grain train. On the top left of the photo, the mid train helpers can be seen. The end of the train is still far away.
In what is almost the last light of the day, a Union Pacific westbound manifest is finding its way through the Tehachapi hills. Wagonload traffic seems to still be a profitable business on the western side of the Atlantic. That is, judging by the number of mixed freight trains we saw.
Go to the next day