RETURN TO CAJON PASS
Charles H. Bogart
In September 2014, I traveled to Los Angeles, California, to attend a military history conference. Mary Ann, my wife, went with me. We added some extra days to our stay to do some sightseeing. This included a two day trip east to re-explore Cajon Pass. We had visited Cajon Pass some ten years ago. This time we stayed at the Best Western Motel off Exit 131 on I-15. The motel is located almost trackside, so if you stay here, ask for either room 201 or 202 if you want a view of the track.
During our previous visit to Cajon Pass we had limited our railfanning to paved roads as the unpaved roads all had signs saying “No Trespassing BN-SF” or “No Trespassing UP.” However, I had recently found out that these dirt roads are actually U.S. Forestry Service roads and that for a $5 fee one can drive these roads. We purchased our Forestry Service 24-Hour pass from the Circle K gas station next to our motel. Using our Forestry Service pass, we would spend almost all of our two day stay at the Pass driving these dirt Forestry roads. We spent the majority of our time railfanning between Swartout Canyon Road and Summit on the west side of the Pass.
If you plan to railfan Cajon Pass and drive these dirt roads, be sure to have a 4-wheel drive vehicle. The dirt roads have deep ruts, rocks sticking up through their surface, and stretches of soft sand. Also make sure you take water, food, GPS, and a cell phone with you. The BN-SF employees we met while shooting photos trackside just told us to make sure we were at all times standing twelve feet or more away from the track.
During our stay at Cajon Pass, we saw, on average, three to four trains per hour; the high point was seven trains in an hour period and the low, two trains in an hour period. My enjoyment of watching all of this BN-SF action was marred by the thought that I had at one time owned 50 shares of BN-SF stock, but I had to sell it to Warren Buffet when the majority of the stockholders voted to sell to him. We got a few silver dollars and Warren got sacks full of gold coins.
Below are some photo shots taken at Summit during our Cajon Pass outing.
1a-1. We are at Summit and BN-SF 7562, a GE ES44DC; with BN-SF 8218, a GM SD75M; and BN-SF 7271, a GE ES44DC, are transitioning from Track #3 to Track #2 as they head for Los Angeles. Note the yellow speed limit sign P-55 (55 MPH for passenger trains) and F-50 (50 MPH for freight trains). Note the rear hatch of our SUV is open to provide shade and a place to sit.
1a-2. BN-SF 7197 and BN-SF 6614, both GE ES44C4, are seen east bound climbing up the hill for Summit. I quickly learned to scout ahead on foot when the dirt road went to one lane as sometimes the road ended in the middle of nowhere with no place to turn around. The road running past the signal pole terminates 100 feet around the bend.
1a-3. BN-SF 6754, a GE ES44C4, and BN-SF 4608, a GE C44-9W, are providing pusher service to the eastbound stack train seen in the preceding photograph.
1a-4. This west bound stack train has four units on its front: BN-SF 6915, a GE ES44C4; BN-SF 4388, a GE C44-9W; BN-SF 5094, a GE ES44DC; and BN-SF 7231, a GE ES44DC. The UP single track mainline runs in the cut on the hill to the left of the lead locomotive.
1a-5. BN-SF 7523, a GE ES44DC; BN-SF 4109, a GE C44-9W; BN-SF 5608, a GE AC4400CW; and BN-SF 6655, a GE ES44C4, are struggling as they bring their mile long double stack train up the hill to Summit.
1a-6. BN-SF 7902, a GE ES44DC; BN-SF 5406, a GE C44-9W; BN-SF 4512, a GE C44-9W; and BN-SF 6631, a GE ES44C4, are passing Summit westbound. To the right of the locomotives is BN-SF’s Summit Station. This view was shot with a 300 mm telephoto lens as I had been told by a BN-SF track inspector not to go any closer to Summit Station.
1a-7. BN-SF 7298, BN-SF 7460, BN-SF 7577, and BN-SF 7252, all GE ES44DC locomotives, are fighting their way toward Summit with an eastbound 90 car stack train. Note the concrete ties and the two feet deep granite ballast.