In the summer of 1993, I attended an event in San Francisco hosted by Kodak to debut a new Ektachrome slide film. As part of the event, Kodak gave everyone a sample of LPP, a warm-tone emulsion with subtle color rendition.
I had recently bought a Nikkormat FTN from a co-worker, and promptly loaded the camera with the new film.
It was mid-August, when I climbed to the top of a hill over-looking Southern Pacific’s Cal-P route with a view of Suisun Bay/Carquinez Straits and the stored navy ships anchored there.
Curiously, this SP westward freight had a Conrail C32-8 in consist. This was one of ten built as test beds for Conrail in summer 1984 and routinely operated on the Boston & Albany route through the 1980s. They were known as ‘camels’ because of their hump-back appearance. It was odd to see such a familiar locomotive so far from home.
In continuing the celebration of the 150 anniversary of completion of America’s First Transcontinental, I present this view of a ‘Kodachrome’ painted Southern Pacific ‘Tunnel Motor’ on Donner Pass.
In the mid-1980s, Southern Pacific and Santa Fe anticipated merger and so painted their respective locomotives in a bright yellow and red merger livery, similar to those colors once used on the familiar Kodak Kodachrome film boxes.
A few locomotives were lettered for the proposed new railroad, SPSF. Executives felt certain the merger would be approved.
The Interstate Commerce Commission wasn’t impressed and refused the merger, twice, so ‘SPSF’ came to mean ‘shouldn’t paint so fast.’
I made this view of an eastward SP train at milepost 140 near Colfax, California on the ascent of Donner Pass on February 9, 1990, using a Leica M2 and, yes, Kodachrome film!
It was one of the last trains I photographed with an SP locomotive in the lead with full-lighting package (headlight, oscillating headlight, red oscillating light and class lights) and dressed in the Kodachrome scheme. By 1990, both of these features were on the wane.
We heard the thunderous roar of EMD 645-E3 diesels laboring upgrade in ‘Run-8’ (maximum throttle.) Thick fog at Bealville in the California Tehachapis amplified the sound.
I was traveling with my friend and fellow photographer Brian Jennison, a veteran of Tehachapi railroad photography.
As the sound faded in and out, I looked for an angle; walking back and forth, I finally settled on this view on the outside of the curve at the often-photographed Bealville horseshoe.
On Southern Pacific all train movements were deemed either ‘eastward’ or ‘westward’ in their relation to the direction traveled from milepost 0 in San Francisco, regardless of the compass. In the Tehachapis, a train may be traveling in all directions at the same time owing to the exceptional sinuosity of the trackage.
This uphill freight was moving railroad timetable east.
In the lead was a Rio Grande SD40T-2. It had a transitional lighting arrangement, that included its as-built headlight and oscillating lights, plus recently added ditch-lights and a ‘gumball’ rotating yellow light atop the cab. Again the fog has accentuated the locomotive’s lights.
I was working with my Nikon F3T with Nikkor f1.8 105mm telephoto mounted on my Bogen 3021 tripod and loaded with Fuji 100 slide film (what I used to call ‘Fujiahundred’). I metered the scene with a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld photocell.
The sound show was far more impressive than any image I could have made of the train’s approach and passing. I wish I could stand there again in the fog on that April 4, 1993 morning!