December 31, 2011

Come Sail Away

The Lady Washington sails into Moss Landing Harbor in November 2011. (click photos to enlarge)
2011 is hours away from ending as I write this post, so here are a few photos to finish off the year. Moss Landing Harbor hosted a classy lady in November when the sailing ship Lady Washington arrived for a weekend and took admirers on cruises around Monterey Bay. The tall ship has appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and even the film Star Trek Generations, so I made time to catch a sunset arrival after an early evening cruise. Happy new year!

Tourists make for a fine photo as they watch birds and sea life in the harbor.
An otter munches on a crab snack while lazy sea lions could care less about the Lady Washington.

December 2, 2011

Travels with UP 844: 2011 Edition

It's hard to imagine a better birthday present than photographing a 1944-built 4-8-4 on her old stomping grounds, thundering up Cajon Pass and speeding across my beloved Mojave Desert. But there I was on November 19, watching in awe as Union Pacific's magnificent No. 844 engulfed the signal towers at Silverwood station with a cloud of steam and rounded the sweeping curve into Cajon Summit.

The California run was part of a southwest tour to commemorate the 100th statehood anniversaries of New Mexico and Arizona. UP 844 arrived via the former SP Sunset Route into West Colton (that's Bloomington to non-railfans). After a day on display, she climbed Cajon Pass on 11/19 and stayed the night in the desert town of Yermo. From there she traveled over historic UP rails to Las Vegas and points east, with a memorable stop at the restored Kelso depot in the Mojave National Preserve.

Slowing near Lenwood, Cal., for the arrival in Barstow . . . a magnificent machine.

It's always tough to pick my favorite pictures from a road trip, so I finally took a cue from friend Dave Styffe and built a web gallery in Adobe Lightroom. Follow the link below to see a gallery of 50 images of steam, railfans, and an extended visit to Kelso (the town may still be recovering):

Thanks to my family who let me loose for a birthday road trip, and to my cousins Damon and Jeane who let me stay at their place for a few nights. And special thanks to Union Pacific Railroad for once again showing unmatched class and style by sending its goodwill ambassador across the Southwest.

Some Giants fan wanted his picture with UP 844 at Yermo.

November 18, 2011

Chasing UP 844

UP No. 844 in all her glory, climbing Donner Pass in April 2009. (click pics to enlarge)
Union Pacific's goodwill ambassador, 4-8-4 no. 844, is barnstorming the southwest to celebrate the centennial anniversaries of Arizona and New Mexico. In a surprise move, UP extended the tour to include California, and as I write this, the big Northern is on display today in Fontana, Cal. Tomorrow she'll steam up Cajon Pass (following Route 66) and spend the night near Barstow; on Sunday, she'll continue on to Las Vegas and points east. The remaining schedule can be found HERE.

It was hard to resist a steam chase, especially when 844 is storming up Cajon on my birthday! So my family kindly let me loose for a road trip. To get in the mood, here are a few photos from the last time I followed 844, an April 2009 trip over Donner Pass.

Crowds are part of the modern steam experience. I'm expecting about a zillion people on Cajon Pass tomorrow.
Then again, people are what make these chases fun. Above, fans snap pictures of 844 departing Truckee in 2009.

November 6, 2011

Changing of the Guard

Twilight at East Oro Grande, Cal., in June 2010: the headlights of an eastbound BNSF train illuminate old Santa Fe signals and their replacements. (click to enlarge)
 Over the past several years I've made a habit of photographing the signals I grew up with as they're retired in favor of modern replacements that resemble silver erector sets. When I was a teenager, photographer Dave Busse pointed out that when he was on vacation he could easily identify any railroad he encountered based on the unique signals that guarded the line. That won't be the case for much longer. Just like the classic semaphores succumbed to progress, so too are veteran searchlights and cantilevers coming down in favor of high-tech but largely lookalike masts and towers. A few California lines still make use of these aging classics, but the population is dwindling. On my recent trip to the Salton Sea, we encountered a scene in transition along the old Santa Fe (now BNSF) mainlines at East Oro Grande, east of Victorville and beside Route 66. We spent much of the "blue hour" shooting BNSF and UP freights as they blasted by the doomed target signals. The shot above was part of a favorite sequence, and a nice farewell to the old guard.