Southern Pacific at Emigrant Gap—Daily Post

Appearances can Deceive.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film using a Leica M2 fitted with a Leitz 135mm Elmar.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 slide film using a Leica M2 fitted with a Leitz 135mm Elmar.

At first glance this might look like a train heading downgrade toward the camera. In fact it is an image of rear-end helpers working the back of a eastward freight ascending Donner Pass.

In December 1989, I was familiarizing myself with SP operations on Donner Pass. I had just recently moved to Roseville, California and this made for a good base of operations to explore ‘The Hill’.

I’d been following this eastward freight. Although it was December, California was in a drought and there was very little snow in the Sierra.

I parked at the rest area off the westward lanes of Interstate 80 and walked down to the snow-shed that protected Switch 9—located east of Emigrant Gap.

I framed this trailing view to take in I-80 as well as the railroad.

How can you tell this the locomotives are trailing? There are three clues: SP normally assigned more than two locomotives to the head-end of trains on Donner Pass. The train is working the normal eastward main (although this was CTC territory, so in theory train could have used either track). For me the real tip off is the headlight, which has been dimmed, a standard practice for helpers.

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