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Tehachapi Pass November 2002. Part 1. Waiting at Caliente

Tehachapi is a name well known all over the trainspotting world. The railway line climbing up the pass over the Tehachapi mountains topped by the loop where a long freight train will actually pass over itself in order to gain the extra height needed to get over the top of the pass. Most all railfans know of it. In November of 2002 my wife and I were lucky enough to be in California visiting her sister, and when I found out we were only going to be less than 2 hours drive from Tehachapi I just had to go. Surprisingly my wife and her sister both agreed to come along on the expedition...
The drive was a little longer than I thought but we arrived at the lineside at Bealville about noon and found a MOW crew there. I asked them when I might expect to see trains that day. They told me that the line was closed until 3pm for track inspections. This is pretty much a daily occurence and should anyone go to Tehachapi trainspotting for the first time you should be aware of this mid-day shut down.
So with three hours to kill we drove around looking at the countryside which was really quite spectacular in places and we arrived back at Caliente, the base of the pass, just before 3pm just as the first train pulled up a drew to a halt.
first train arrives at the base of tehachapi
Five loco's! Who wants to double head when you can lash up like that! Four C-44's and an NREX leased SD (in UP colours no less) would be the train that I would chase up the hill to the loop. The roll call is, C44's No's 4106, 739, 5393 and 5229 The NREX leased SD is No. 5087 As an interesting aside, I spotted the second unit in this lash up No. 739 in Elk River, MN only a couple of weeks later.
the up train at rest
But things were not to be so simple some of the line up the pass is single track so we had to wait for a train to come down the pass first and there, in the distance, it was, coming down the hill. A BNSF container train.
first train down the hill
As it came down the hill I could hear the breaks squeaking and squealing. Then it rounded the curve at the base of the grade and turned to face my camera. I could see I had a warbonnet SD70MAC No. 122 sandwiched between 2 C44's No. 4662 leading and 4440 bringing up the rear
second train down the hill
It passed by my waiting train and eased off into the distance. I was ready to chase my train up the hill... Not so fast! There was another coming down. As this one came down the hill brakes squeaking I was feeling that this was going to be a special day indeed.
another downhill train
A triple headed BNSF trailer train, it passed by, saluted the waiting train with a blast of its horn and headed off west. Three C-44's No's. 4466, 4494 and 4406 looked pretty impressive to my eyes. Strange to think that now over 5 years later I'm pretty sick of them.
second down train arrives
Now I was ready. But my train wasn't, there was another one coming down the hill! I could see yellow at the front this was to be a UP train
third down train
third train down
UP locomotives do look pretty impressive with that big American flag on the side. What we have here is an SD70M No. 5039 on the lead and a pair of C44AC- CTE's No's. 5822 and 5813. I got a cheery wave from the driver and that train headed out to Bakersfield. OK then lets go up the hill. I was ready. Woah Emma! Not so fast there! There's another train coming down the hill.
fouth train comes down
A mixed freight this time. With a mixed bag of power on the front a C44-9W No. 4862 leading, and a pair of SD40's 6955 and 6754. It followed the usual routine coming down the hill, brakes squeaking and a' squealing, rounded the curve and headed off west. As this one arrived though the sun came out to brighten things up.
sun comes out
But this one also had another surprise for me. Some extra power at the rear another BNSF C44-9W, No. 4406 and a Norfolk Southern D9-40C, No. 8803. Pretty unusual I thought to see an Eastern loco such as this out on the West coast. It must have been paying back some horsepower miles or something
power at the rear
Now I was ready and so was my train. Lets go on to page 2 and follow the train up the hill...>>>