Friday, March 18, 2011

Train Meet: Dutch Flat

Train meets are rare.

Further, they are rarer when actually captured by photos or video.

Monday, March 14th, I had occasion to document a completely unanticipated meet that was, in truth, quite historic in nature for both directions: eastbound and westbound.

I was driving back to the cabin via the old US Highway 40 (the Lincoln Highway) between Gold Run and Dutch Flat (just north of current I-80) when I chanced to see the green signal for eastbound traffic at milepost 153.6.

I stopped, extricated my Flip HD with image stabilization from its LowePro camera bag, wiped the lens and waited for eastbound traffic. Instead, I was greeted by the oncoming horns of westbound (downhill) Amtrak #6 cruising through lower Dutch Flat.

But there was a major surprise coming, as the video indicates here:

This video is too good to pass up.

My blog, due to its inherent structure, can't physically accommodate the actual original letterbox content through the Flip HD; I have to trim it horizontally, each time, to fit my chosen blog template. On the other hand, you can click on the full link here and watch the video in true HD.

If you choose to do this, please enlarge the video and, further, plug your Denon headphones into the audio output of your confuser. Trust me: you will NOT be disappointed. Turn up the volume.

That written, some details for the purists amongst you:

Amtrak #86 on point, a GE Dash9-P42B DC unit making 4,200 hp, manufactured in 1997. Next, Amtrak # 194, a GE Dash9-P42-B DC unit, 4,200 hp, manufactured in 2001. Third, Amtrak # 41, another Genesis GE Dash9-P42B DC unit with 4,200 hp manufactured in 1997. From there, eight common Amtrak cars pass by.

The final two passenger cars are "private varnish," which means they are privately owned and paid for Amtrak to carry. They are, in order, the Creative Charters cars "Evelyn Henry" and then the "Warren R. Henry," with two persons waving to me on the veranda.

These two final cars are owned by Patrick Henry Creative Promotions and, on their website, indicate that prices for these cars "start at $8,500 per day."

Good luck with that fee.

Sufficiently unique for you, perhaps?

On the other hand, I hadn't even remotely thought of archiving SIX elder EMD GP engines in line as they hauled ass uphill at, minimally, track speed.

In order, these B-B trucked EMD GP38-2 units, of 2,000 hp each, manufactured between 1973 and 1981, were #600, #587, #604, #589, # 566, #590.

They carried solitary UP flanger SPMW 331. Though painted in armour yellow, the numbering is a tribute to the original Southern Pacific Maintenance of Way #331 flanger car.

And a tip of the hat to the flanger's Winter Professionals over Union Pacific's Donner Pass and to Jim "The Bear" Mahon of the late, great Southern Pacific.

God bless The Bear, for whom many SP Snowfighters wished to work!

Finally, check out Donner Pass snowfighting here.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Amtrak In The Snow

First, my most sincere apologies for not posting more frequently. No, as I have been asked, I am not going away or abandoning the blog. I have found, however, the work continues to get in the way of my hobby (a point I hope to ameliorate within the next year or so), and, in order to upload my videos, the connection has to be beyond what I have at my cabin in the Sierra Nevada mountains -- that is, faster than "dial-up." Yes, I fully realize that even our current president is faster than dial-up, which provides bushels of clues about dial-up itself.

That said, I present a very cold video that, trust me, made my feet even colder.

Above, eastbound Amtrak California Zephyr #5 slugs uphill as it approaches the signal and crossing at Dutch Flat.

As you can see, there is much snow -- and ground fog as well. The temperature is roughly 20-degrees. The area had just seen two very heavy storms which left about 7 to 8 feet at Donner Summit. Locally, we got about 2 to 3 feet in the first dumping and an additional 3 feet subsequently.

When I travel, I usually carry my camera bag replete with Nikon super-zoom P100 and the Flip HD video. I had just finished shopping in Colfax and was driving home when I caught sight of a green signal for the #2 track. Unfortunately, not thinking I'd be encountering much, I'd dressed that day in Keen Newports (see photo), no socks and no coat. Silly me.

I stopped the RAV-4 near the tracks with the Flip HD video. Snow, as I had clearly forgotten, can be deceiving. My first stride plunged me into about one foot of water, hidden by the snow itself, after I'd broken through a crust of ice. The second stride put my sweats into about three feet of snow. The third and continuing strides held me knee-deep or more in snow and the final step landed my other foot into another watery dip.

So there I stood, my feet and calves wet, sweats drenched from the knee down, open shoes, no socks, no coat, waiting a good five minutes for the approaching Amtrak. In 20-degree weather. I know this because my SUV has a temp readout on the dash. It took all that I had plus the Flip's image stabilization to keep my shivering from being patently obvious as the Zephyr approached and passed.

Of course, once finished with the video, I had to slog my way, in the snow and water, back to the SUV. Happy days. I couldn't feel my feet -- no shock there. Only by taking a hot shower did I begin to feel my toes, later.

Details: Amtrak engines #133 on point, and #199 behind (elephant-style) are GE Dash9-P42-B's with 4,200 horsepower four-stroke engines, DC final transmissions, B-B trucks, 2,200 gallon fuel capacity, weight of 268,000 pounds each, built in 2001. Amtrak purchased 87 of these units. Those 8,400 horses are pulling just nine cars -- not much of a challenge that day.

Thanks for sticking by me at MP154, and I'll be doing my best to increase the frequency of posting, more photos, more videos.

Take care and be safe!