Southern Pacific GP60s

DAILY POST: Southern Pacific at Indian Camp, February 1994

Brand New GP60s work the Modoc Line.

In the mid-1990s, I made numerous trips to California’s remote and desolate Modoc County in the far northeastern portion of the state. Here Southern Pacific’s rolling Modoc Line hosted big trains which made for a stunning, but difficult, subject.

Not only was the line exceptionally far away, but also traffic was unusually sparse and often erratic. SP had built the route in the late-1920s, piecing together the old Nevada-California-Oregon 3-foot gauge with bits of new construction and other trackage.

Southern Pacific GP60s
Southern Pacific’s EUCH-Q works through the Indian Camp Loop on the Modoc Line. I exposed this photograph at 2:35 pm on February 11, 1994 using my Nikon F3T with 105mm Nikkor lens. I’d scoped out this spot on a previous trip and Brian Jennison drove us here ahead of the train which we’d been following from Alturas, California. Variations of this image have been published in several places and SP had retained a copy in their company files. Union Pacific abandoned and lifted this section of the Modoc Line after it acquired SP.

My favorite part of the Modoc was the old narrow gauge N-C-O section, where it looked as if tracks had been laid down on the desert floor with little concern for heavy grading.

This raw construction was evident at the Indian Camp Loop (compass south from Alturas) where SP’s line curved around to gain elevation.

In the second week of February 1994, Brian Jennison and I set out from Verdi, Nevada making the lonely drive up to the Modoc Line where we spent two rare days photographing trains.

We scored big with an EUCH-Q (Eugene-Chicago Quality) manifest freight that was led by a pair of brand new EMD GP60s.

Here’s a tip: when working sparse or erratic lines it really helps to have an inside track on operations, yet all the information in the world can’t help you if you’re not trackside! When you are trackside it’s helpful to know where the best locations are in advance of trains. In this case we had both the needed operational knowledge as well as prior location knowledge, and made the time to be trackside to take full advantage of it.

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2 thoughts on “DAILY POST: Southern Pacific at Indian Camp, February 1994”

  1. One of my all-time favorites. As usual, your composition is better than mine, in terms of showing the location. I regret not up-dating the Modoc chapter of the SP-Oregon Division book to include this image. Big mistake. Oh well.

    1. That was a great day for photography. The Modoc line was among the most difficult to photograph and if you recall we caught two trains that day. We started at Wendel, got them cutting in a mid-train helper, and followed the Oregon-bound (east and west on the Modoc Line always confuses me, at some point SP changed the direction of the line!) train toward Alturas, where we intercepted the pair of GP60s heading the other way. Someday If I feel adventurous, maybe I’ll wander back to the Modoc and take photos of the empty desert for comparison. But, then, maybe not. What is the Modoc without tracks?

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