Tag Archives: Mojave

The Earthworm and a Joshua Tree—Mojave, California; a Lesson in Composition and Subject.

Forty years ago in Mrs. LaFond’s Fifth Grade class (Main Street School room 22) we were tasked to research a National Park. I think the big name parks were more popular, the likes of Yellowstone and whatnot.

I asked if I could research and write about the Joshua Tree National Monument. At the time this wasn’t a full National Park, but Mrs. LaFond agreed, and so I wrote to the Park Service and they sent me some literature about the odd ‘trees’ and the National Monument.

So why was a ten year old living in Monson, Massachusetts interested in Joshua Trees?

At that time, I’d taken a interest in the Santa Fe Railway, stemming in part from some Lionel F3s that my dad had bought us a few years earlier. This manifested into a desire to make an HO scale model of the desert. I’d read about Barstow, California, and the nearest relevant Park to this Santa Fe hub was the Joshua Tree National Monument.

Fast forward to the early 1990s. My friends and I made regular trips to the southern California desert to photograph trains, and finally had the opportunity to see a real live Joshua Tree.

Last weekend, I was exploring the Mojave Desert with fellow photographer David Hegarty, with an eye on photographing Union Pacific and BNSF trains. Again I had the opportunity to place a Joshua Tree in some photographs.

Here are several views of a heavy BNSF ‘earthworm’ grain train crawling upgrade across the desert floor. (The nickname stems from the prominently brown color of the grain cars, their curved body shape and the crawling effect of the long slow moving consist across the landscape). I’ve juxtaposed the freight with a scruffy Joshua Tree. Knowing what you do now, which do you think is the main focus of my photographs?

A southward (old Southern Pacific timetable direction west) BNSF 'earthworm' unit grain train climbs across the desert floor near Mojave, California—July2016.
A southward (old Southern Pacific timetable direction west) BNSF ‘earthworm’ unit grain train climbs across the desert floor near Mojave, California—July2016.




Here’s an irony: after all these years I’ve never been to the Joshua Tree National Park [https://www.nps.gov/jotr/index.htm ] (upgraded in 1994). I have visited Barstow on several occasions. This features a massive yard and a fascinating old Harvey House and railway station, but is a shocking bland town; ugly, sprawling and commercial.

Tracking the Light Post Daily!

Santa Fe FP45 Leads an Eastward Intermodal Freight

Mojave, California, June 1992.

Santa Fe FP45 near Mojave Calif in 1992
Santa Fe EMD-built FP45 number 98 eastbound near Mojave, California. I exposed this on Kodachrome 25 using my Nikon F3T with an f4.0 200mm lens positioned on a Bogan 3021 tripod with ball head.

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.