|An eastbound Intermodal train holds the main at the west end of Tucumcari, NM|
Thursday, 16 March 2017
UP Inspection Train…… by Don Janes
the town of Tucumcari, NM. Located on Old Historic Route 66. At one time this was
where the Rock Island Lines routes from Kansas City, MO and Amarillo, TX merged and
trains were handed off to the Southern Pacific to continue south west to Texas and
California. Today it is all part of the Union Pacific with the line from Amarillo and points
east abandoned. It is still quite a busy route hosting a variety of intermodal, auto and
general freight trains. Passenger trains no longer ply this route that once hosted name
trains like the Golden State Ltd, a RI/SP train to California.
We usually stay at Amarillo on our second night on the road but with a snow and ice
storm forecasted for that area we decided to push on a couple of extra hours to
Tucumcari to get ahead of it. It turned out to be a good move as Amarillo was hit by a
nasty winter storm that night and the roads were treacherous. The day dawned quite
overcast and gloomy but I decided to swing by the old restored station and see if there
were any trains in sight. Just as I pulled up to the station an SD70 rolled by with an 80ft
flat car and track geometry car in tow. I didn’t even have time to get the camera turned
on and it was gone. Looking up the tracks I noticed a red signal on the track the train
was on so scooted up the road to where they had stopped. To the west, a headlight
appeared so I staked out a spot where I could shoot the trains but stay off the UP
property. Unfortunately, the inspection car was behind a tree and the crew was out
crawling around it so I didn’t want to get too brave and end up in the UP doghouse.
Within minutes the eastbound intermodal train passed and the inspection train started to
pull. I was able to get several shots of each train. Once it was gone we headed west to
the town of Santa Rosa, another Old Route 66 town that had a large trestle in a good
spot for photos but the train passed over the bridge just as we were driving by. The
conductor, having recognized the car gave us a friendly wave and then they were gone.
There are some great spots to shoot trains along Highway 40 once you get into
New Mexico and Arizona and I always try to get some photos on our trip out west.