March 25, 2010

Stormy Weather Snapshots

While driving south to San Bernardino in February for a book signing, I was able to bypass the usual mind-numbing I-5 route in favor of highway 99, the Tehachapi mountains, and U.S. 395. While I can't match friend David Styffe's epic 13- and 14-hour drives between Fullerton and Modesto, this one came pretty close. A lack of trains and a gauntlet of storms kept me moving all the way past Bakersfield, but suddenly the clouds began to break up and an ongoing parade of "storm light" moments provided plenty of opportunities. In no particular order, here's a selection from the drive south on Friday, February 5. (click photos to enlarge)

Clouds, mountains and valley, Kern County, Cal.

Windmills in storm light, Mojave, Cal.

Rainbow, Tehachapi, Cal.

Sheep enjoy a momentary sunburst east of Bakersfield.

Clouds and desert peaks, U.S. 395 near Adelanto, Cal.

Finally, some sunny skies for the drive home (and a train in nice light!). UP 5514 West rolls through the curves in Cajon Pass, seen from Highway 138 on February 7. It's Super Bowl Sunday and I'll be home in time to see the New Orleans Saints complete their first Bowl victory.

March 12, 2010

Train of Blinding Lights

(With apologies to the great U2 song)

First, I don't know which is sadder... that it took three months to update this #$@! blog or that I'm doing this post in a La Quinta Inn the night before Winterail. The chief reason: we realized the American dream by becoming homeowners again, buying a house in Monterey County. But before any more time passes, here's a post to get the blog back in action.

The weekend after Christmas, I drove up to the Niles Canyon Railway to check out their annual Train of Lights. It was well worth the time -- what a spectacular sight. It's easy to see why this holiday tradition has become wildly popular over the years. Powering the train was 1956-built SD9 No.5472 in gorgeous Southern Pacific "black widow" colors.

Below are a selection of photos from the impromptu ride -- thanks to Dave Hensarling, Dave Roth, and the rest of the Golden Gate Railroad Museum gang. For more information on the railway, visit the Niles Canyon Railway and GGRM sites. Special steam weekends will take place in March, with more events planned in 2010. Upper left photo: cruising down Niles Canyon from Sunol (click photo to view)

SP "Cadillac" 5472 idles beside the Sunol depot before helping the next train descend the canyon to Niles. (click photos to enlarge)

Families enjoy the festively decorated coaches.

A sight to quicken any SP fan's pulse . . . the red Mars light and number boards of SD9 5472 at twilight.

Dave Hensarling, president of GGRM, poses with the friendly crew of SP No. 2979, the museum's beautifully-restored Art Deco lounge.

A streak of blinding light, the holiday train rolls past the crossing near Brightside yard.

SP 5472 and the immaculate Sunol depot bring the 1950s back to Niles Canyon.