Saturday, December 4, 2010

Railfanning in the desert

This has nothing to do with this project.  I am in a motel room hundreds of miles from home and being able to work on this project. 

Yesterday I had a little spare time from what business brought me on this road trip.  I drove out to Banning, California.  Banning is on highway I-10 about 20 miles west of Palm Springs.  It was the home of one of my grandmothers and I had spent a lot of time here as a child.  Driving around the town many memories came back to me.

The Southern Pacific railroad went through Banning but the passenger trains did not stop here.  My mother and I would ride the Greyhound bus to get here from Los Angeles.   I liked to wander the town with the skate board that I would carry on the bus with me.  It was down hill from grandma's house to the SP line and that's where I would go to watch the trains.

These memories returned to me as I drove and I found myself at the San Gorgonio Road grade crossing when the gates came down as a train approached.  I turned my truck onto the old frontage road that runs between I-10 and the tracks and then onto a dirt road and sat for awhile.  There is a signal here and watching that one can get a good idea of when a train is approaching.  It was about one every 10 minutes.  In the half hour I was there I saw 4 trains, they were all Union Pacific now.  I also noticed that the rail ties were now concrete.
  • East bound - Trailers on flat cars.  3 GE engines pulling
  • Westbound - Containers, mostly 3 unit well cars, 3 GE engines pulling with 1 at the back pushing.
  • Westbound - Unit hopper car train,  good mixture of hopper car types with many rotary coupler type cars in the mix.  I think this was a train of empties as there was no pusher.  There were 3 GE engines pulling.
  • Eastbound - Mixed train, pulled by 2 GE engines.
Over 40 years ago I had sat there on my skate board watching trains.  In those days they where mostly EMD engines but I do remember a few GE's as they stood out.  I even remember seeing a U50 once.  This was a great trip down memory lane, I wish I had brought my camera.