Sunday, July 22, 2012

A very rare California Zephyr train meet at Switch 9:

It was a beautiful day in the Sierra Nevadas, and I was again train-chasing with scanner, camera and video.

I first caught the eastbound #6 California Zephyr near Secret Town, running up the hill at full passenger train track speed of 30 mph. I immediately noticed there were three units pulling; normally Amtrak only places two locomotives on each Zephyr.

Those familiar with the California Zephyr know that the route runs between Chicago, Illinois in the east, to Emeryville in California. The westbound Zephyr is the #5, and the eastbound Zephyr is the #6.

Those familiar with train-chasing also know that catching a train meet photographically or on video is extremely rare; it is even more rare to catch a meet of the two California Zephyr trains, as they run only once per day, each direction.

With that in mind, please see my video below. Click here to visit the YouTube link itself, where you can enlarge the video completely on your screen.

You can see that I catch the eastbound Zephyr, first, near Secret Town and approaching Gold Run. The eastbound #6 Zephyr features GE P42B #203 on point, with #201 in second spot and #189 in third position. I found this unusual, because Amtrak customarily runs only two engines on the Zephyr. I soon discovered #189 was dead and likely being transported for repairs or service. All three of these engines were manufactured by GE in 2001 and feature 4,200-hp engines with DC-driven traction motors.

The westbound #5 Zephyr, at Switch 9, has GE unit #192 on point, with #161 trailing. Both of these engines come from the same pedigree as the #6 Zephyr locomotives.

My apologies: as the eastbound #6 enters the Switch 9 tunnel, I fell from the rock where I stood whilst attempting to pan.

That said, as I hiked down to the tracks from the top of the Emigrant Gap area, I felt a certain "something" -- a bit like my Spidey Sense was tingling. Like this:

Mountain lions in the western United States have been re-populating exponentially. A recent mountain lion attack in my general area put an older hiker in the hospital with very serious head, neck and shoulder wounds, when a big cat ventured into a camper's tent at night.

Up in the high Sierra Nevada elevations where I live and customarily shoot video and digital photographs, mountain lions and black bears range. They are the pinnacle predators. Plus, the deer populations have rapidly expanded as well, creating a wonderful food source for said apex predators.

Two things I fear, because I primarily hike alone: a lone mountain lion -- old and addled or young and stupid -- or the cubs of a black bear. Because that means Mom is nearby and mostly unhappy.

I've seen much bear scat with berries and large animal prints over the years -- in the dust, the mud and the snow.

That day, the hair on the back of my neck raised and my radar lit up from behind. Mountain lions will take you from behind and you mostly won't see or hear them.

I started making noises, talking, and snapping my fingers. For those of you so interested, I am also customarily armed with a handgun whose caliber never falls below the first digit of 4. And a number of speedloaders. Mostly, I carry a Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan in .454 Casull.

I grabbed my video and hiked back uphill. I felt I was being watched. It felt like a large, bloody X was painted on my back.

Ever have that feeling when you're hiking?



Well Seasoned Fool said...

Don't know if they still use baggage cars but the first car behind the engines at .21 and 2.43 appear to have open doors.

Lots of things will follow you, even elk and deer. As a kid and young teen living along the old D&RG tracks, my parents insisted I always had one or more dogs with me. When my father had the section of track from Toponas, CO to McCoy, CO, he and his crew saw the occasional lion. How many didn't they see?

Once bringing out a pack string near the Crystal Peak North of Steamboat Springs, CO the mule and horses stopped and refused to go forward. Since there was another route down, I didn't force the issue. Never did find what spooked them. One of the dogs wasn't too happy either.

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

WSF, yes, the first baggage car had open doors, and the attendant looked at me as we passed. He was smoking, there.

I have dogs, but not the kind of dogs that will engage other animals. At all.

These animals are now all around because Fornicalia won't tag them for thinning.