On July 10, 1993, I spent the day on Donner Pass, focusing my morning efforts in the famous Coldstream Canyon west of Truckee, California where Southern Pacific’s former Central Pacific line winds nearly three miles up the canyon, turns on a tight horseshoe curve at Stanford Flat to continue its ascent on the far side.
The area is rich in history. Yet, it can be a challenging place to capture in photographs.
Having thoroughly explored this area on foot on earlier visits, I’d located this angle at Andover that shows SP’s double track line on two levels. The tracks in the photograph are less than a half mile apart as the crow flies, but about five miles distant on the timetable.
Helpers had gone downgrade a while earlier and met a westward GJWS-Q (Grand Junction to Warm Springs ‘Quality’ manifest, ie a carload train) at Truckee.
In this view the freight is in run-8 (maximum throttle) roaring up the canyon. More than ten minutes would pass before it reached the upper level.
I exposed this photograph on Kodak T-Max 400 black & white film using a Nikon F3 with Nikkor zoom lens fitted with a yellow filter.
Key to the success of the image was shading the front element from the sun with my notebook to minimize flare.
Another subtle element is SP’s twin headlight arrangement on the leading SD40T-2: this had been a trademark of SP’s diesels, but by the mid-1990s very few locomotives still carried both headlights and it was getting relatively rare to find one leading.
This is one of my favorite black & white photos that I exposed on Donner Pass, and reminds me of the work of the late Richard Steinheimer who had been photographing in this canyon decades before I made my exploration.
Weso is a contraction implying ‘Western Pacific Southern Pacific’. This is the control point at the western end of the famed ‘paired track’ where SP’s and WP’s single track mainlines were coordinated during World War I to function as directional double track to ease operations.
My long-time photo pal TSH and I camped here in July 1991 and made a promising morning exposing Kodachrome of the parade of trains that passed after sunrise.
This view is of an eastward SP Modoc Line freight on Union Pacific’s former WP line just east of the crossovers at Weso, mile post 537. Weso is near Winnemucca. The parallel SP line is off camera to the left.
Weso, Nevada on July 21, 1991. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3T fitted with a f1.8 105mm Nikkon lens, mounted on a Bogen 3021 tripod.