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A Day at Cajon Pass Watching Freight Trains 4/25/22
A Day at Cajon Pass, Watching Freight Trains
April 25, 2022

Photos by Carl Morrison -

In  Attendance -  Gary Hess and Don Roe

We drove our 2020 Tesla Model 3 from Placentia, leaving about 9:30 on a Friday, first up 57 Fwy. to 60 Fwy. to I-15 and we started up Cajon Pass.  We had intended to take Kenwood Avenue Exit, but found that it is only accessible by the truck lanes on the right as I-15 joins I-215.  We continued to Cleghorn Road Exit and went to a viewpoint of several tracks.  Photos below of a stack train and piggy-back train then we went to the Hwy. 138 location in the map below.

Upton arrival from the Cleghorn Road Exit, there were two trains - container train on far track headed west and piggyback semi-trailers eastbound on the closest track. 10:32 a.m.




(Most images, just click for a larger copy; Click the back arrow to return to this page.)

Out first location for photographing (red arrow) was Hwy. 138 exit left off I-15 to a paved pull off on the right, just before the bridge over the tracks.  In this image, you can see the two tracks in front of our car, the track farther up, and the track in the bottom right.  We saw freights on all 4 tracks with the two distant tracks in the background of some photos.

I thought this sandstone looked as if it might have been carved for habitation.

The Mormon Rocks, a striking group of pink sandstone rocks along Cajon Pass, served as shelter and an overnight campsite for a group of approximately 500 Mormon pioneers who traveled through the region by wagon in 1851 on their journey west to California, where they later founded the city of San Bernardino. The large sandstone formations contain a number of small holes and caves inhabited by animals such as lizards, owls and pack rats.

Early inhabitants and others passed through the area, including the Serrano Indians who occupied the region from 1200 to the mid-1800s, Spanish explorers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and the namesake Mormon pioneers.

Source:  Mormon Rocks video at      

Sue and I also passed through this area, on Route 66, in Summer, 1968, in our 1965 VW bug as we moved to California for teaching jobs in Anaheim, California. We drove on part of old Route 66 on this day of railfanning.


This is what I wanted as background for the trains we would see here.

First Video - 11:12 a.m. Time lapse of Westbound empty container tubs:

Second Video:  11:28 a.m. Eastbound double train.  Stack Train pulling a train of empty Ethanol tank cars. Second train enters video at 8:26.

It takes a few seconds before the lead locomotive enters from the left.  You may want to advance through the long, slow stack train, but don't miss the second-attached train's power at 8:28 into the video.

Eastbound trains arrive quickly from behind the highway fill and under the bridge, but the ground rumbling gave us fair warning.

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Gary was prepared to video, left.  My tripod with iPhone XS Max taking "Second Video" above.

What I had envisioned as a good photo of a Eastbound.

The whole scene - train past hill on the left, bridge in the middle, hill on the right.  Train actually turns left out of sight at right end.

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Left, Don, Chief of Set Security, with train passing on track behind him.  Center, popular place for train hoppers to ride who can get out of sight between the end of the container and the ladder.  Right, rare refrigerator container by Cosco with Panda logo.

First sight of the lead engines on the second/attached train of ethanol empties.
Gary Hess noted:  The law requires that the ethanol cars be separated from the locomotives by at least one non-hazardous car.  This train had 2 such cars before the ethanol cars.

We were pleased to see earlier Santa Fe war bonnet silver/red paint on the second engine.

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Gary, Railroad Researcher, found that cargo 1987 was ethanol and these were empties heading back to Oklahoma, Kansas, or Missouri to be reloaded.


As the pusher DPU helped the double train upward, a southbound Union Pacific mixed freight appeared on the Palmdale Cutoff on Cajon Pass. 11:43 a.m.

Southbound Union Pacific mixed freight on Palmdale Cutoff over Cajon Pass.

Third Video:  11:45 a.m. The beginning of a westbound stack train with an unusual cargo in one car, shown in still photos.

Another westbound freight at 11:46

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Gary was still on point with camera.  We noticed an older Schneider container on a semi trailer.

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A few cars later, the most unusual setup that I have seen on a stack train.  Makes me wonder what the object covered in black might be.

With the excellent train action passed, we packed up for lunch in Riverside at Cracker Barrel, then on to the Summit overlook.

Panoramic photo of Summit curve.

Panoramic photo showing the proximity of Hwy. 138 to the curve.

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The curve with DSLR camera.

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Walking a little further east on the bluff, I discovered why the train was idle; crews were working on one of the lead locomotives. 
The second or third engine occasionally tried to start, but without success.  Gary said radio conversations were about setting out a locomotive.
Betty from my Train Travel Meetup the next day said this would be the hardest pull of the route to the Midwest.  Chris said the set out would probably be at Barstow.


Article and photo above from TRAINS magazine about the realignment of the Summit tracks.  Thanks to Gary Hess for finding this article.

A great time was had by all.  My last photo before folding my tripod and heading home.  2:35 p.m.


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