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.
Last weekend, I gazed down upon that famous spiral officially known on the late Southern Pacific as Walong, but to the rest of the world as the ‘Tehachapi Loop’.
It was, and still is, one of the great places to watch trains; and on this day it didn’t disappoint. I’d been away a long time and now I was back.
The last time I was here, I’d stayed with my friends Dave and Helen Burton, who lived just over the hill on the north side of the spiral. Back then, Southern Pacific still owned the line, and the merger that was to consume the Santa Fe Railway was still more than a year away.
Now, SP, Santa Fe, and Dave and Helen are all just memories.
It was strange to watch a train traverse the loop. I was delighted to see it, but sad. It was like seeing some weird vision of the future.
So, I made these images—my first digital photos of this often-photographed landmark—while thinking back to earlier times.
I dedicated books to both of my friends: to Dave, I dedicated my BNSF book of 2005.