Southern Pacific SD9s, Novato, California.

NWP Sprint Train—April 1992.

Back in the early 1990s, Southern Pacific was still serving the Northwestern Pacific route as far as Willits, California where it tapped connections, including its former line that was still in operation all the way to Eureka.

Sometimes on Sunday mornings, I’d drive north from San Francisco across the Golden Gate to Petaluma on Highway 101. There wasn’t much traffic at that time of day. Occasionally, I make this run with fellow Bay Area photographer Brian Jennison.

Although the Willits-Petaluma portion of the run was often nocturnal, on Sundays SP’s ‘NWP Sprint Train’ made a turn from Petaluma to Fairfield and this often called for groups of SD9s.

NWP Sprint Train at Novato, California in April 1992. Exposed on Kodachrome with a Nikon F3T with f1.8 105mm lens.
NWP Sprint Train at Novato, California in April 1992. Exposed on Kodachrome with a Nikon F3T with f1.8 105mm lens.

On this day, normal California blue skies were muted by a dull fog. Yet, I persevered and chased the train. It was hard to argue with the great sounds produced by a quartet of 1950s-era 16-567 diesels in multiple. Also, dull days have their moments too.

At Novato, I made this image featuring the gently rolling green hills that characterize Marin County as a back drop. Admitted, I was disappointed by the ‘lobotomized’ leader, which had its classic SP lighting package disturbed; its oscillating headlight was missing leaving a scar on the short hood. Oh the shame of it all!

Looking back, I’d quite happily take this again. It was an era before graffiti covered freight cars, the uniform proliferation of locomotive ditch lights, and when SP was still the SP!

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Tomorrow: On the Streets of Long Beach!

 

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