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Mon, Oct. 27th, 2014, 01:12 am

Well its tine to finish to the remainder of my 2014 transcontinental trip across Colorado on Amtrak's California Zephyr. If you remember from last time I covered the route from Grand Junction through to the "Steven" Moffat Tunnel. Today we will be heading into Denver and checking out its brand new Union Station complex, which was still under construction when I last took this train in 2012. Finally I used some remaining daylight to take some photos on the former CB&Q route heading east out of the mile high city.

If you didn't remember from the last post you can find the full set of photos right here.

We begin heading down the crazy switchback that bring trains up from the flat plains and into the high Rocky Mountains. Hanging out in the aptly named "Rocky" siding is a westbound train with BNSF C44-9W #4862, BNSF ES44C4 #7132 and CSX ES44AC #3156. These were visible out the side window on a lower level of the switchback.

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Tue, Oct. 21st, 2014, 12:25 am

Time for Part 5 of my 2014 cross-country Amtrak trip. As you should all know by now I was reprising my 2012 trip on the California Zephyr and we have now left the state of Utah and reached the city of Grand Junction in the square state of Colorado. This segment will cover the line from Grand Junction to the Moffat Tunnel with a few gaps on parts that I didn't feel necessary to re-shoot. I also managed to cover one of the sections I had previously missed from Glenwood Springs though the junction with the old Tennessee Pass siding and up to the Range siding.

Next week I'll cover the new Denver Union Station as well, but if you want to look ahead you can find the entire set of photos here.

We begin departing Grand Junction where BNSF ES44C4 #8818 sits on a siding.

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Sun, Sep. 21st, 2014, 12:29 am

Note: I just realized that I forgot to do the segment from Reno to Winnemucca, NV so look for that next week.

The section of former Rio Grande trackage between Provo, Utah and Grand Junction Colorado is probably the most scenic on the entire Amtrak system. I had the privilege to survey this route back in 2012 and now it was time for a second bite at the apple, this time armed with a better knowledge of my camera's white balance issues.

One advantage to a late running Amtrak train is that it allows one to get coverage of parts of the line that are normally shrouded in darkness. When I had previously covered this line in 2006 I had woken up just a few minutes prior to Train 6's arrival in Helper, Utah somewhere in the vicinity of 6:30am. Two years later with the train running around 90 minutes late I got a nice little bonus photo session before I had to go back for breakfast.

You can see all the photos, including the newly covered segment west of Helper right here.

So just because the line was new to me doesn't mean that I was going to be guarenteed a lot of trains. Most of what I was offered was scenery and signals. Here we have the vintage DRG&W milepost 654 automatics with a Clear indication on Track #1 and a pair of stick type dragging equipment detectors.

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Mon, Sep. 8th, 2014, 01:44 am

Back on my first Zephyr Trip in 2012 the train was running mostly on time and I was able to photograph most of the Nevada Sub with a short break in advance of Winnemucca and upon departing from there I had enough light to shoot a good deal of the Elko Sub as well. This time due to the backup move in Rosedale and a number of other short delays my train was running a little less than an hour late, which I figured would cut a good chunk off the Elko Sub. However my real goal was to try to capture the section of the Nevada sub that I had to skip on the previous run due to dinner.

This was complicated by the impending re-signaling of the western portion of the line as I was faced with the choice of getting a second set of photos of the older stuff or a first set of some newer stuff. In the end I figured I could get away with a quick dinner and trying to do both, but a very slow service in the dining car actually didn't get me back to my position at the rear of the train until almost the exact point where I had gone to dinner in 2012.

Things got worse however when the extreme lateness of the previous day's Train 5 caught up with us. The crew had short turned in Winnemucca, but would not complete their required 8 hours rest until after we arrived. We ended up sitting at the station for almost an hour, killing any chance of getting photos on the Elko sub, which is a shame as that is also targeted for re-signaling.

Anyway, in this set I'll show some shots around the Reno station and continue on to Winnemucca.

Reno continues to be a very popular stop. I suspect most of these people are going overnight to Salt Lake City or Denver, but they might also be heading home to towns not served by good air service.

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Tue, Sep. 2nd, 2014, 01:14 am

Well it's not often one gets a second bite at the apple. Back when I originally took the California Zephyr I was not fully aware of the color balance issues that both my new Cannon IS30 and my friend's Cannon DSLR presented. Our 2011 trip was largely cloudy where the problems are not as evident and I had only purchased my new camera about 6 months before. The resulting set of photos was heavily blue shifted and worse, in a misguided effort to compensate for bright sunlight I turned down the brightness a little which made many of the shots look as if I were trying to shoot day for night. I fixed the problems as much as I could in post, but I figured I was just going to have to let it go as a learning experience.

Well thanks to my 2014 trip I got a chance to set right what once went wrong and thanks to the trick of using the "flash" white balance setting I was able to show the California landscape for the parched, brown hellhole it is. This set of photos runs from Milepost 113 on the UP Roseville Sub all the way until just before Reno. It is a testament to the clockwork nature of the dining car that I managed to get back to my post at the rear of the train just on mile before where I managed to do so in 2012. You can find the full set of the take 2 photos right here.

Between Roseville and Colfax the route operates as a split main line as the original alighment was improved upon to eliminate curves and grades, but not entirely replaced. That is why many of the initial photos will show just a single track. Here we are on track two with everything all dead and lifeless from the California drought, but adjacent to the track is a small aqueduct brining water down to a farm or residential community. Can someone say "unsustainable"?

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Sun, Aug. 10th, 2014, 07:16 pm

Once again it is time for my annual cross country Amtrak trip. This year was a big different because instead of moving on to the final Transcon route, the Sunset Limited, I instead went back to re-ride the California Zephyr, this time with a father in tow as a combined Father's Day / Birthday present. The method of travel worked as before, flying out via Southwest, spending a day in San Francisco, staying over at my Cousin's house and then setting off the next day from Emeryville.

Despite covering the same ground as my 2012 trip I managed to fill most of the gaps in coverage my first survey of the line suffered from due to my need to eat and sleep. I also have a better handle on the tendency for Cannon cameras to have a disastrously cool automatic white balance and I was able to shoot most of this year's run with the "flash" setting that brought the warm tones back.

Anyway you can see the first set of photos right here!

We begin on San Francisco's Powell St hill where, due to the MASSIVE line of tourists waiting to board the cable car my dad and I felt we should just walk to the place I had identified for lunch. Here cable car #19 passes us on the steep upgrade, however we still would have been waiting in line.

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Sun, Aug. 3rd, 2014, 12:38 pm

On the Friday before Memorial Day I cut out of work early to head down to Washington DC to take a round trip on the Virginia Railway Express Manassas Line, which follows the old Southern Railway main line from Alexandria to Manassas, VA, of civil war fame. Normally this sort of VRE railfanning trip is not possible without resorting to Amtrak because VRE operates a peak direction service into and then back out of DC. However on the Manassas Line there is an "early" afternoon departure from DC around 2pm that then service-deadheads back into the city to for another run.

Now the motivation for this trip was an NS resignaling effort on the Southern main between DC and Manassas that would remove all of the old Southern RR signaling. VRE operates with Gallery car type equipment with railfan window equipped cab cars facing in the inbound DC direction. With the reverse railfan window having been blocked off on Amtrak Trains 19/20, VRE was my only other option to get photos of these signals in the northbound direction.

Now I was well aware that certain commuter operators get off on closing cab cars to allow the crews from having to interact with paying customers and I had little information on how VRE would open up its off peak trains. On the outbound trip my worst fears were realized when the reverse cab car was left closed, despite standing room conditions on the rest of the train. I figured that if the cab car would not be opened for a full train there was little chance it would be opened for a nearly empty deadhead. Well it appeared to be opposite day because on the return trip the front car was left open so I was not only able to get still shots of all the signals, but also shoot video all the way from Alexandria through the DC "trench" and First Street Tunnel to Washington Union Station.

Because of the difficulty in riding VRE for anyone not living in the hell hole that is Northern, VA this was my first ever trip on VRE, although I have covered the lines it uses via Amtrak. You can find the full set of photos here

We start on the lower level of Washington DC's Union Station where Amtrak has been using some P32-8WH's on VA service trains. Here is #514 awaiting its next assignment.

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Sun, Jul. 27th, 2014, 12:50 pm

Back at the end of April 4 days of rail caused a 100 year retaining wall overlooking the CSX Baltimore Terminal Sub to collapse onto the tracks. For those of you who don't watch news or otherwise live with their heads buried in the sand here is the viral video of the collapse itself.

This happened to be located not far from where I hang out and was actually one of my major train watching locations. The street had been showing subsidence problems for years with several sinkholes patched and filled by the city. Still, the problem kept getting worse and everyone in the area knew that it was just a matter of time. Anyway, of course I went and took photos of the aftermath, however I have held off on posting them because I wanted to see how things turned out to present a more complete picture of the collapse and the cleanup effort.

Also thrown into the set are some random photos taken on Balt/Wash area rail lines that didn't fit into any other set. You can see the full album of photos here

Here's how things looked a few hours after the collapse. Who's going to clean up all those cars?

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Sun, Jul. 20th, 2014, 11:56 am

The last time I was in San Jose back in 2008 I made ample use of the region's ample Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority light rail system. Built at throughout the 1990's .Com boom, the VTA Light Rail has seen some of its fortunes decline as the city he was meant to serve failed to see the growth that was anticipated. Even with housing prices exploding in nearby San Francisco, the second tech boom of today has failed to make the city less of a ghost town after hours because for some reason Google workers would want to pay more and drive more to live at the opposite end of the bay.

Well this year a conference that I attended last year moved to San Jose this year to reduce costs and that meant I would have the better part of the week to get out and see what fun I could make a fairly typical and bland light rail system. spoiler alert, there wasn't much I could do, however the VTA did provide convenient connections to the San Jose Diridon Station, home of Amtrak and Caltrain, as well as the Caltrain Tamien station south of the city. The one interesting thing the VTA itself had to offer was an extress service running from the Ohlone-Chynoweth station on the Santa Teresa Line north along the CA 87 corridor to downtown. I was able to try the express run for myself by getting up sufficiently early to make it down to Ohlone-Chynoweth and then catch the express train back.

You can find the full set of photos here

I'll begin at the San Jose Diridon Station which is one of the southern termini for the Caltrain service as well as Amtrak's Capitol Corridor. Here we see Caltrain F40PH-2CAT #901 sitting next to Amtrak F59PHI #2006. Apparently the F59PHI fleet got some sort of ECO Engine rebuilding even thought they were already equipped with 12-710's.

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Sun, Jul. 13th, 2014, 06:40 pm

I always try to get out and do something for national Train Day, usually because its a great way to earn bonus Amtrak Guest Rewards points. More often than not I usually find myself having to scurry through the top level displays as I wait for my non-excursion Amtrak train to take me somewhere like Pittsburgh or Georgia. Well since I had nothing else planned this year I decided to just head over to Amtrak's 30th St station and check out all the equipment on display on the lower level combined with a quick AGR trip to Downingtown via Amtrak's Keystone service. Accompanying me on this adventure was Sub Chat's very own Chuchubob.

You can find the full set of photos here

We begin with a photo tour of the Penn Coach Yards via the adjacent parking garage. Sir Not Appearing in This Equipment Display was private car Clipper Creek.

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