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GCL LA to Parker Page 2

The Grand Canyon Limited

Los Angeles, CA to Parker, AZ

May 14, 2012

Story and photographs by Richard Elgenson
RailNewsNetwork writer

Just before the San Bernardino Freeway (Interstate 10) the Grand Canyon Limited crosses the diamond at Colton.  This is a major intersection of two important railroads.  A rail-to-rail grade separation project will speed up the 110 trains which cross this point daily.  The chosen design will elevate the Union Pacific tracks over the BNSF tracks.  The UP tracks parallel the I-10 Freeway.  I was astonished to read that students from nearby schools use Colton Crossing as a pedestrian walkway.  Really?  You have to convince people not to trespass?


We reached San Bernardino just before 11:00 AM for the first service stop for the Santa Fe 3751 steam locomotive.  The first of the box lunches were distributed by the car hosts.


Once under way, a significant part of the day's journey was beginning.  The Cajon Pass is a historical route from the Southern California population centers to the high desert plain and access to the north and east.  One cannot help but notice the railroad tracks while driving the I-15 Freeway.  From the road, the railroad weaves away and close through big curves.  The last time I rode the rails over Cajon Pass was when the Desert Wind train ran from LA to Salt Lake City.  Since then, the railroad physical structure in the pass has been widened to 3 or 4 tracks.

Our train entourage included a helicopter.  The debris fence along Cajon Wash appears to be made from old rails.


The lower portion of Cajon Pass is wide with the railroad on the west side, the wash, and the Interstate 15 on the east side.  It is dry most of the year with the rainy season being October through April.  In this Mediterranean climate, summer temperatures in Cajon Pass tops 100 degrees.  On this particular day, it might have been 70 degrees, perfect for taking photograhs from the Zimmerman baggage car or any other open vestibule.  We had followers along much of Cajon.  Here is our entourage at Blue Cut.


I shot the first of only a few videos.  There is a lot of wind noise in this 30 second video, but the running gear on 3751 looks great in action.


There are 3 levels of railroad through here.  In the immediate 2 above left column photos, the Southern Pacific built Palmdale Cutoff is visible.  We are on the midlevel rails.  Below us is another level of railroad.  Looking back at the location known as Cajon (below right) and panning right to left gives the viewer an idea of the lower alighnemt.  The left photos shows Highway 138 overcrossing the railroad alignments at two locations.


Below, Highway 138 bridges our line and crosses under the old SP Palmdale Cutoff.


Below, the train clears Highway 138.  View on the other side of the train is of the old SP line, now UP.


I did a video from between Highway 138 and I-15.  The drivers on the 3751 look great pulling us uphill.  Right after this shot, I went back into video mode and had a huge surprise.  I had panned from front to rear, the back to towards the head end and ....surprise.


We have crossed under Interstate 15 at the railroad location known as Alray.  On google maps, one direction is is called the Barstow Freeway and the opposite direction is called the Mojave Freeway.  This Interstate is heavily traveled on weekends with Las Vegas traffic.  Too bad one cannot take a public passenger train there.


Grand Canyon Limited Page 3