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  • Rail Grinding Equipment on the Southern Pacific

     

    Model Railroading - March 1990 - Page 62 Model Railroading - March 1990 - Page 63

    by Gene Green

    There it was.  Standing in Southern Pacific's Cotton Street Yard in El Paso, Texas was rail grinding equipment be longing to Loram Maintenance-of-Way, Incorporated of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since the Southern Pacific tolerates NO trespassing and NO photography on their property in this area, I tried a few shots from the access road along Interstate 10.  The resulting slides were disappointing to say the least.

    Undaunted, I pursued my evasive goal - to acquire red-hot photos of the equipment.  I called the dispatcher every day to find out where the equipment was working.  Some days, they didn't go out; other days they worked relatively inaccessible areas.  But, I was persistent. Finally, on August 2, they were working along the SP main, east of EI Paso.  I grabbed my camera gear and an ice chest full of cold sodas and set out. The day was sizzling hot.  Better yet, a late afternoon thunderstonn was forecast.

    Model Railroading - March 1990 - Page 64

    No road actually parallels the track outside of EI Paso, but Interstate 10 and Texas Highway 20 are close.  Every few miles, a dirt road connecting Interstate 10 and Texas 20 crosses the tracks at grade.  The Union Pacific (originally Texas and Pacific, and later Missouri Pacific) has trackage rights from El Paso east to Sierra Blanca.  Both SP and UP have frequent, fast freights in the daytime.

    I caught up with the equipment near McNary, a station on the SP. I had expected the equipment to start grinding and progress in one direction . Not so. Not only did they frequently scoot to a siding to pennit a freight to pass, but they seemed to flit about, grinding a little here, then a little there; moving to and fro, seemingly at whim.  I did find a vantage point, set up, and photo graphed as they moved back and forth in front of me.

    The crew on the Loram caboose extinguished fires as they went along.  The Conrail locomotives, with the SP water cars, stayed west of the rail grinder and spent all day mopping up fires caused by hot sparks.  Apparently, SP was due some locomotive hours from Conrail.

    Late in the day , the approaching storm provided what I think is a very dramatic backdrop.

    I think photography here in west Texas is kind of tough.  The incredibly bright sun causes dark shadows.  The predominate colors of light tan and light gray-green offer little contrast and no pizzazz.  The subject itself must provide the excitement.  Auto-exposure cameras tend to over expose,  but a good way to compensate is to re-set the ASA one or two film speeds faster.

    The photos here were taken with a Canon AE-I and Tokina 28-85 and 75-205 zooms. The camera was pre-set to 1/250th of a second, and I let the camera set the f-stop.

    During Gene's stint in the U.S. Army, he saw some fascinating railfan spectacles.  He was especially captivated with the narrow gauge steam locomotive he watched on location in Vietnam. This one traveled a good forty miles across flatlands to a steep incline (at least a ten percent grade), hooked its gear up with the rack, and climbed 3,900 feet STRAIGHT UP.

    Article Details

    • Original Author Gene Green
    • Source Model Railroading
    • Publication Date March 1990

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