Amtrak’s eastward Southwest Chief, train number 4, made a relatively long stop at Barstow, California, affording me time to explore and photograph historic rolling stock (displayed near the platforms) by the Western America Railroad Museum.
I find it strange to see once-familiar locomotives exhibited as static displays. In the 1990s, I regularly photographed Santa Fe’s FP45, such as number 95 seen at Barstow. Back then these were working machines. Today, 95 a decayed appearing vestige of another era.
Compare the static equipment—displayed like dinosaur bones to a curious public—with Budd Vista dome Silver Splendorin consist on the Southwest Chief.The dome is a functional piece of equipment on its transcontinental journey from Los Angeles to its new home.
Growing up in New England, I had a childhood fascination with Barstow, which I viewed as a treeless desert Mecca of all good things Santa Fe. Although I’ve photographed in Barstow several times over the years, this one short nocturnal visit was especially surreal.
All photos were made handheld with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.
My visits to California’s Tehachapis in July and August (2016) made me curious to dig deep into my archives and revisit the photographs I made there in the early 1990s.
I traveled with J. D. Schmid on my first visits to Southern Pacific’s Tehachapi crossing. (Then Santa Fe operated in the Tehachapis via trackage rights on SP, as does BNSF on Union Pacific today).
I made this Santa Fe FP45 photo on a rainy morning February 1991. We were on our way back from a detailed study of the SP’s Beaumont Hill and environs.
While hard to beat the great sound of EMD 20 cylinder diesels working the Tehachapi grades, it was difficult working with Kodachrome 25 to capture the experience. The film was slow and its spectral response didn’t favor dull days.
Certainly the weather was better on my more recent visits. I traveled with David Hegarty, and we had ample opportunity to make photographs in the bright California sun.
In the dim early hours of September 9, 1995, I spotted Wisconsin Central’s recently acquired former Santa Fe FP45 leading a southward train through Duplainville, Wisconsin.
Normally I walked to work. I lived just a few blocks from the Pentrex Publishing offices on Grand Avenue. That morning, twenty years ago today, I’d been prowling around in my Mazda looking for angle to photograph the Wisconsin Central.
WC’s FP45 6652 was a one of a kind, and a prize to be scored! When I saw that engine roll across the diamonds at Duplainville, knew I’d be a little late to my desk.
WC freights tended to roll along, and chasing was difficult.
However, this southward freight had to make a meet at Vernon, south of Waukesha. The resulting delay was both long enough for me to make a swift drive on country roads to Burlington, Wisconsin, and for the sun to rise high enough to expose Kodachrome.
I set up in the park on the east side of the tracks. The Canadian Geese in the pond were an unanticipated bonus.
In the early 1990s, I made several productive trips to the California Tehachapis. Southern Pacific owned and operated the line over the mountain, while Santa Fe operated by virtue of trackage rights.
Yet at that time, Santa Fe ran about three times the number of trains as SP. On this morning, T.S. Hoover and I were set-up on the east slope of the mountain. While catching a Santa Fe FP45 in the ‘Super Fleet-Warbonnet’ livery leading was certainly a coup, it wasn’t especially unusual.
Dry desert air and clear skies were nearly ideal conditions for Kodachrome 25 film. This was one of many choice chromes exposed that day. I wish I could turn back the clock!
The locomotive survives at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California. I made some more recent photographs of it on visit in June 2008.