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The Road to Williams, Arizona 9/30/2022

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I woke up at the Branding Iron Motel and after doing our Internet duties, we checked out and Elizabeth drove us to the Boxcar Cafe where I enjoyed French Toast with bacon and Elizabeth had sausage, eggs, hash browns and toast along with orange juice. Our GPS took us via Pagosa Springs, Colorado and today we would take pictures of the station there. We switched drivers again before we arrived.

Denver and Rio Grande Western Pagosa Springs station built in 1900. Our routing took us through Durungo and Cortez. We turned onto the road leading to the Four Corners National Monument and about nine miles from our destination, we came upon road onstruction. There was no traffic light and we sat, with no traffic coming from the other way, so after about fifteen minutes we gave up and turned around; I knew in my heart this was the right move. We would go east via Shiprock, New Mexico.

Chimney Rock.

Unknown butte.

Shiprock with clouds behind it. We turned off the main road in Shiprock as the town was having a festival but turned onto US Highway 64 just before.

A cloud with a face in the lower part of the picture. I drove us to Teec Nos Pos where Elizabeth took over driving and our road turned into US 160.

Red Mesa was to our north.

Baby Rock Mesa.

Agatha Peak.

Unknown volcanic plug.

Two more volcanic plugs.

View from along our route.

Really impressive cliffs ran by us as I took many pictures of them along our route.

Peabody Coal Company's Black Mesa Mine near Kayenta.

Black Mesa & Lake Powell Railroad

Located entirely within the state of Arizona, and isolated from other railroads (meaning no outside connections), the 78-mile Black Mesa & Lake Powell exists purely for the purpose of transporting of coal between the Peabody Coal Company's Black Mesa Mine near Kayenta and the Navajo Generating Station power plant at Page.

Construction of the BM&LP took place during the early 1970s. In the interest of providing a more economical operation, the line was electrified (it was the world's first 50,000 volt railroad). Electrification allowed the company to avoid the expensive option of trucking in what would surely have amounted to an annual total of millions of gallons of diesel fuel; the locomotives instead receive their "juice" from overhead catenary lines stemming directly from the power plant. General Electric produced six E60C locomotives (a model unique to the BM&LP) for the railroad between 1972 and 1976.

To meet the needs of the power plant, the railroad's single trainset runs on a near-continuous basis -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The train usually makes three round trips daily between the mine and the plant, although I have heard reports that on Wednesdays, only two round trips occur, as the first shift reportedly does not work that day of the week. When I visited the BM&LP in October 2000, the line was nearing the end of an intensive three-year track rehabilitation project, performed by outside contractors. The work included the installation and/or replacement of concrete ties at several locations. So if you're planning a visit, bear in mind that maintenance projects may disrupt train operations.

Something else to bear in mind is the impending retirement of BM&LP's fleet of E60C locomotives. The railroad recently acquired several surplus E60 locomotives from Mexico; these locomotives are in excellent condition and are essentially "new", having been stored "south of the border" for many years after being built decades ago for a Mexican electrification project which never fully materialized. BM&LP's acquisition of the Mexican E60s will allow the eventual retirement of the older E60Cs. Before entering service, however, the Mexican locomotives must first undergo numerous modifications to ensure compatibility with Black Mesa & Lake Powell's operations. One of the required modifications is the installation of a magnetic device to trigger the lowering of the engine's pantograph when it passes beneath the coal loading tower at the Black Mesa Mine. The locomotives must also be upgraded from their present 25,000 volt configuration in order to achieve compatibility with Black Mesa & Lake Powell's 50-kilovolt catenary.

As far as accessibility for photographs, all of the photos on this page were taken from publicly accessible areas and did not involve trespassing. BM&LP's trackage is contained within the Navajo Indian Reservation in northeastern Arizona; when visiting, it is recommended that you respect property rights on the Reservation just as you would anywhere else, but that doesn't necessarily mean restricted access to the railroad. Unless posted or gated, roads in the area, both paved and unpaved, are generally publicly accessible.

The electrical components of the railway were dismantled between winter 2019 and fall 2020, but the tracks have remained in place to be evaluated for future use.

The rail line can still be followed.

This high bridge is near the Black Mesa & Lake Powell Railroad where it stops following US Highway 160.

Elephant's Feet are two erosional remnants of the Cow Springs Member of the Jurassic Entrada Sandstone, which also forms the adjacent bluffs. The "toes" are formed by the underlying reddish part of the Entrada Formation.

Interesting geology along this route.

The last mesa on our route. We continued west down US Highway 160 to Tuba City and beyond to US Highway 89 south which we took towards Flagstaff.

Strawberry Crater is a 6,526 foot cinder cone volcano in the San Francisco volcanic field, 20 miles North of Flagstaff, Arizona, in between the boundaries of the Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater National Monument in Arizona Wilderness lands. The crater lies in a volcanic field and has an elevation between 5,500 feet and 6,526 feet. The northwestern end of the crater is covered with lava flows, while the southern end is filled with low cinder cones. Several of the surrounding cones include the better known, taller and younger Sunset Crater in the adjacent Sunset Crater National Monument.

From here we went to The Habit in Flagstaff where I enjoyed a Beef Tenderloin and lemonade and Elizabeth a Chicken Club sandwich and lemonade. She then drove us to the Ramada Inn in Williams for the night.