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Casa Grande, AZ

Casa Grande, AZ
Prakash Tendulkar, November 11, 2006


This morning, Saqib and I met at our usual spot for rail fanning. We were headed for Casa Grande, a small farming town in Pinal County, Arizona.

 Well, small it may be, but it has an Amtrak Depot, that has now been shuttered, loop line for platform as well loading parcels, including ramp for moving parcels from storage room, all have been removed now.

Depot1.jpg (43508 bytes)

Part of platform loop remains intact and is being used for storing freight cars but no dead end near platform. May I call it open-ended derailment point?

Depot2.jpg (67988 bytes)

That leaves only one fully functional loop line.

Depot3.jpg (49184 bytes)

The rails of loop line are made in US in 70's; the rails for main line are made in Japan by Nippon in 2001. One may not know it, almost all rails in US are imported from Japan, may be made from Iron ore in India? Dunno!

Rail1.jpg (60767 bytes)

Just before our arrival, one high-speed container rake passed by. We missed it by seconds and we had already missed another, as we were few miles away from the spot traveling at 35 miles/hour on City Street.

We parked our car on west side of track and walked to east side so that we had better view and sun would be behind us.

For almost an hour, there was no movement. We were getting restless.

To change our mood, a police officer pulled in and asked us to identify.

I showed him my BNSF ID card indicating that I am registered Rail fan. He asked for Driver's license that is considered a valid ID as it is issued by State.  Saqib and I presented DLs to him.

He called dispatch and verified that we are "clean" based on DL #s.

Now he became friendly and provided lot more info.

I had found on Internet that Amtrak changes crew at Casa Grande, even after depot was closed and passengers cannot board train. It did not make sense. Amtrak agent at Maricopa had told us earlier that crew change occurs at Tucson.

 Well, this Police officer told us that Amtrak trains do not stop here any more. We were standing on vacant lot between two unmanned but gated RR crossings. He mentioned that they are the deadliest in this town based on # of hits.

I wonder if auto rickshaw driver in Chennai was born and brought up in Casa Grande, Arizona? Can Chennai members verify?

Soon after he left, another Police officer pulled in but did not stop. Looks like he got message from the first officer that we are clean. Or may be he was back up called to ensure safety of first officer.

We saw Patrol officers making round every 15 minutes and realized that it may not be a safe place based on local environment. So we bid Adios to Casa Grande and headed to Maricopa, Arizona.

Before heading for Casa Grande, we took detour to grain loading plant and captured WDS1 siblings on camera.

WDS1.jpg (86192 bytes)

Now we all know Professor Murphy's Law. When things have to go wrong, they do go wrong.

Instead of taking local road that runs parallel to RR track, we took State Highway. We could see thousands of cows on ranch but not a single train. No punch intended.

As we were a mile away from Maricopa RR crossing, westbound container passed at 60+ miles. We saw it but Saqib could not take picture because his view was getting obstructed by buildings every few seconds.

As we came near gate, we saw one eastbound container rake, 17,600 horses with all locos wearing UPRR colors.

M1.jpg (29229 bytes)

We decided to catch her in loop. Well Prof. Murphy was watching. As soon as westbound rake cleared tracks, eastbound rake got green signal. All we could watch is how quickly she accelerates and how long she was.

Prof. Murphy was satisfied and signed off.

We waited at Amtrak Depot and were not disappointed. In 10 minutes, 95-container coach rake, hauled by three EMD  SD70 locos, 13,200 horses passed at 65 miles/hour headed west. All locos were alive and all freight wagons were -- EMPTY.

C2.jpg (62266 bytes)   C1.jpg (64429 bytes) 

I envy that Engineer. He must be feeling that he is driving Rajdhani.

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