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Holiday Snaps - Arizona September 2008.

Mrs TS-USA and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and by way of a present to ourselves we spent 5 days based in Flagstaff, Arizona. From where we toured many of the Arizonan "holes in the ground". Meteor Crater, Walnut Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon (better known as the location of Sedona) and of course, the biggest of all the holes in the ground. The Grand Canyon. Stunning places to visit but there were no trains there except for the Grand Canyon, more of that later. Flagstaff, where we stayed is a real railroad town. Situated on the main BNSF transcontinental main line, it sees approximately 100 trains a day. That's an average of one every 15 minutes or so. I was pretty confident of being able to see some trains while I was away. Our hotel was even close to the railway line. A warning to light sleepers this can be a bit of a problem... My wife and I developed an arrangement to get some trainspotting in for me. When we left for our days touring we'd stop at Starbucks, grab a coffee and Chai latte and go and drink them in the car park of the beautiful depot seen below.
flagstaff depot
So with the scene set lets get down to some train talk. The first morning we went down there there was a C44 parked in the sidings with a few cars behind it. This had been there the night before when we arrived in the rain. I'm guessing that the crew had been working the industries in town on Friday and their shift had ended. So the train waited there all weekend for the crew to return on Monday.
waiting for a crew
The biggest problem with Flagstaff for grabbing pictures of the trains is the fact that the line thought the depot is pretty much East-West so shooting westbounds in the morning and eastbounds in the evening is difficult you end up with back lit shots that you can barely make anything out. However on the  Monday morning I was helped out by some dark clouds in this passing shower just behind C44 No. 4053.
4053 under stormy skies
At the rear end of this long container train was a couple of C44's on DPU that caught the attention of this father and daughter train watching.
father and daughter train watching
Only a few minutes behind that long container train was another one headed by ES44 No. 7419 with another railfan/photographer wanting to get a picture.
No 7419 under dark clouds
Returning from our days trip we strolled around Flagstaff in the late afternoon and as we returned to the car walking along the lineside I captured this SD70MAC leading three other locomotives on a train of no more than a dozen cars a clear case of overpowering if I ever saw one.
BNSF 8174
Tuesday saw us head up to the Grand Canyon on the Grand Canyon Railway behind their F40 No. 239 (pictured below waiting to leave Grand Canyon for its return to Williams). The ride from Williams to the Canyon takes some 2 hours and the crew of the train go to great lengths to keep you entertained with singers and guides as well as a robbery on the return journey.
Grand Canyon Railway No. 239
Wednesday before we headed down to Sedona we spent some time in the depot car park as usual and was treated to a couple of eastbound container trains the first one lead out by C44 No. 683
BNSF C44. No. 683
I'm particularly pleased though with this shot of C44 No 5445 leading out 2 more C44's and an ES44 on yet more eastbound containers
BNSF No. 5445
Thursday was another long day as we headed out to discover the Grand Canyon by ourselves and on our way down to Starbucks as we approached the level crossing just down the road from the hotel the crossing lights went off. I quickly reached behind me in to my camera bag and grabbed this shot of more GE power on this eastern container train.
GE power at the grade crossing
With that we headed up to the Grand Canyon and a leisurely drive through many of the scenic view points until we found Grand Canyon Railways' F40 again waiting to leave for Williams and the return trip home.
GCR No. 239 again
Friday was our last day and we spent a last hour in the Depot car park with coffees before we drove back to Phoenix to get our plane.  I grabbed a couple of nice shots of C44 No. 5131 at the depot. In the first one the tree covered hillside above Flagstaff makes a nice backdrop. I was also trying to get the Lowell observatory high on the hillside into the shot as well but just missed.
BNSF No. 5131 approaching the depot
another shot of BNSF No. 5131
Then I took a stroll up the line to take a closer look at this B40-8W No. 508. Looking rather untidy covered in graffiti but also exhibiting the ever more common changed out aircon unit in Warbonnet livery as shown in the lower picture.
BNSF No. 508
close up of the cab of No.508
There we go then, that's 5 days in Flagstaff. The holiday was a lot of fun. But Flagstaff is not really a highly recommended trainspotting location because of the lack of variety. You will notice that most of the pictures are of container trains. That's pretty much all there is. No coal trains, no auto racks, no grain. Nothing. I did see a military train in Williams but I'm not allowed to photograph those for reasons of national security.  So if you like to see container trains hauled by GE power, then Flagstaff is heaven for you. Otherwise you will probably be a little bored. Still, that isn't stopping us from going back next year.