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.

 

UP on the ex- Western Pacific

The former Western Pacific Railroad traverses through the Feather River Canyon between Portola and Oroville, CA.  This is breathtaking and relatively unknown scenery.

The WP was taken over by the Union Pacific over thirty years ago, so I never got to see the line as WP.  As close as I can get it to the real thing is the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola (check out that gallery here), which is well worth visiting if you’re in the area.

The WP that I have come to know is under the Armour Yellow of the Union Pacific, and it’s still a remarkable line to photograph.

I had started to put some of my images from the former WP into the UP, and came to the realization that they might well get lost in there.  They need to stand on their own!  So, there’s something new on Laughing Frog Images – the UP on the ex- Western Pacific Gallery.

I tend to get less than ideal weather in the Feather River Canyon, and the photos reflect that.  However, life isn’t always blue skies and sunshine – and I’ve never been one to put the camera away if I’ve made the journey and the time to photograph something.  Sometimes, I’ve felt that the sun takes the same time off that I do, but digital photography has made that much easier to deal with than it was in the days of ISO 64 Kodachrome!

The BNSF has trackage rights over the WP, and that will be a separate gallery as well.  I contemplated that idea for a while, and for similar reasons, decided to make that its’ own gallery.

At some point in time, there are two more galleries coming that are related to the WP.  These will be of the eastbound and westbound trips of the 2014 Feather River Express as viewed from the train.  (Yeah, I know, I promised those a while ago, but they’re still works in progress!).

Enjoy!