Tehachapi Loop: Photo Accomplished

Tehachapi Loop: Photo Accomplished.

Two simple words that said to a railfan or train enthusiast mean for some a familiar place, for some a quest akin to the Holy Grain, and for some, just a unique, timeless and special place.

I was first introduced to Tehachapi Loop by the January 1977 issue of Trains Magazine.  Back then, it was the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe railroads battling the hills and the curves.

It was… well, it was captivating.  Inspiring.  A place I had to see for myself.  A place I (naively) dreamed about fitting on a 4’x8′ sheet of plywood in HO scale.

Tehachapi Loop is timeless, and on the Bucket List for many a photographer and railfan.

Tehachapi Loop is timeless, and on the Bucket List for many a photographer and railfan.

It took over 22 years for me to get to Tehachapi Loop.  Mrs. Frog was there with me, and once she was over the Loop, she politely tolerated my excitement.

The Southern Pacific was in the process of being assimilated by the great yellow borg (a.k.a. the Union Pacific).

The Santa Fe was disappearing into the BNSF.

And the Loop was magnificent.

To describe the loop is kind of hard.  The reality is that the twists and turns are a result of the railroad needing to gain elevation in its’ climb from Bakersfield to the summit at Tehachapi.

I’ve seen it explained as what would happen if you gave a youngster too much track for a small layout with instructions to use it all up.

You just have to see it to appreciate it.

While I am not a fan of double-stack container trains, they are a reality of railroading today.  The often bright colors of the containers make it easier to see the train as it twists and turns heading east from Keene and Woodford.

It took me another six years to get back to the Loop again.  There were still vestiges of the Santa Fe left on that trip, but not much of the Southern Pacific.

I left somewhat unfulfilled, as I didn’t have a wide angle lens that could capture the whole Loop in one shot.

Fast forward to 2016.  I finally had a lens that could capture the Loop – a Tamron 10-24mm zoom.  I left the night before so that I could be at the Loop at first light – which, in my humble opinion, is the best time to capture the Loop.  The air had a chill as I walked to the overlook and waited.  And waited.  And wished I had a jacket.  And waited.

Modern locomotives are much quieter than they were in 1999.  I didn’t hear the train climb through Keene, and I barely heard it at Woodford.  The white and orange containers stuck out like a worm squirming uphill.  And it was finally time…

I caught three trains that morning before the sun angle became too stark for my tastes.

Mission accomplished, I left satisfied, checking one thing off of my list… (which isn’t to say I won’t go back!).

Those images are now in the Tehachapi Gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

I don’t normally do this – but all of the images in the gallery are cropped to accentuate the Loop in formats from 1h:2w to 1h:6w.  They’re different, that’s for sure.  They’d make a great gift for someone, or a conversation piece on your own wall.  And, even if you’re not in a buying mode, just go in and check out the images of something you can only see just west of the great little town of Tehachapi, CA.

The images from 1999 and 2006 are yet to be scanned, but they’ll be in the gallery some day as well.

If you find yourself on California Highway 58 between Mojave and Bakersfield, I invite you to make two stops: one in the town of Tehachapi – some interesting museums and things to see, and, of course, the Loop itself west of town.

 

The Canadian / le Canadien Gallery

The Canadian / le Canadian.

Sacred words to some.

For me, they’ve been on my Bucket List for most of my life.

I first saw the Budd stainless steel cars of The Canadian in Toronto in the late 1970’s.  Nothing against Amtrak, whose fleet was also largely stainless steel at the time, but The Canadian’s cars looked different.  Polished.  Cleaned.  Loved?

A Park car (that’s the dome-observation-lounge car at the end of the train in the image below) being switched is an image that was etched in my mind – no, maybe stamped, and the desire to take The Canadian across Canada was imprinted.

VIA Rail Canada Train #1, The Canadian / le Canadien, east of Oba, ON.

VIA Rail Canada Train #1, The Canadian / le Canadien, east of Oba, ON.

Fast forward about 35 years or so, and the time and elements finally came together to make it happen.

As VIA Rail Canada Train #1 The Canadian pulled out of Toronto Union Station, the train silently began to move at 2200h on the dot.  I was in the Park car with Mrs. Frog, and it was finally happening!

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey that matters, and every train trip is a journey unto itself.  This was no exception.

From the fine (yes, fine) food to the 1954 vintage Budd stainless steel equipment, from the friendly and professional train crew to the stories and the conversations of and with our fellow travelers, it was a journey.

Many “top train trip” lists put The Canadian in the Top 10 – and I found no reason to dispute that.

Waking in Capreol, ON the first morning, it was -2 degrees F – and we were snug as bugs in a rug.

At one dinner seating, I agonized over the choice I had to make – veal chop, pan roasted duck, or fresh trout.  There was a vegan option – but that wasn’t a choice!

The image above was taken from the Skyline dome at the front of the train for coach passengers – as a matter of fact, it was the 8500 – the first Skyline.  Try finding a view like that in coach on a 737!  The Park car brings up the rear.  Either car is perhaps the best way to travel – at least in the Frog’s eyes.

And the people…  A couple from Australia.  A couple from Scotland.  Honeymooners from the UK.  People traveling for business, family visits, vacations, and necessity, as The Canadian serves many remote towns along her journey.  A lawyer.  A writer.  Active railroaders.  Retired railroaders.  A family with their young daughter on their first train trip (she was so cute looking out the window hoping to see a bear as we left Jasper).  Those on their first train trip.  Those with more than 20 trips on The Canadian.  Conversations in the dome and lounge about life, perspectives, world views, and, commonly (for better or worse) – the U.S. Presidential campaign.  It’s the journey…

The snow and ice covered lakes and rivers in northern Ontario gave way to the fields of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, which gave way to the Rockies and then the canyons of British Columbia.  And then, we backed in to Pacific Station toward the modern skyline of Vancouver.  It’s the journey…

As I sit here and review this post, I’ve wrestled with not going off on this tangent or that tangent and ending up with a 1000 word post.

There’s so much that could be written, whether inspired by the beauty of a scene, something learned in or inspired by a conversation, releasing the inner train geek and talking about the train, or musing about what life would be like in a quiet small town somewhere along the line.

I may revisit bits and pieces over time.  But, for now, I’m going to let you check out The Canadian / le Canadien gallery, and see some of what we saw along the way.

If you find inspiration to make the journey as a result of this gallery, or anything I’ve written – don’t wait too long.  Unfortunately, The Canadian, and VIA Rail Canada itself, exists to a great extent at the mercy of the politicians – much like Amtrak here in the U.S.  Logic and politics are often mutually exclusive, and much of Canada’s rail passenger system has been gutted in the last 26 years.  Every year, there are new worries about The Canadian, and this year is no different.