Tag Archives: SP

Kodachrome on Kodachrome: Donner Pass, February 1990.


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.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is SP_8286_eb_mp140_near_Colfax_Calif_Feb2_1990_Kodachrome_livery_KM©BrianSolomon_592858-3.jpg
Colfax, California on the ascent of Donner Pass on February 9, 1990

Southern Pacific, Bealville, California 1993.

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.

 A version of this image appeared in Pacific Railnews in the mid-1990s when I worked for Pentrex Publishing.

A version of this image appeared in Pacific Railnews in the mid-1990s when I worked for Pentrex Publishing.

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!

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