Rails & Trails Pages

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Tuscobia Trail 2018

My next book will be called 'The Park Falls Line.'  This was the Omaha Railway branchline track from Tuscobia, north of Rice Lake, to Park Falls.  The branch was abandoned in 1965 and is now an ATV Trail called the Tuscobia Trail.  I have wanted to see this former trackage for years and finally got a chance on Thursday, June 28, 2018.

These are the signs at the trailhead in Tuscobia.  This section of the trail, from Tuscobia to Birchwood, is restricted to walking and bicycles.

Friend Dan Morris has two 4-wheelers and offered to let me use one.  And he grew up in Radisson, located on the line, so he was anxious to ride the trail also.  (He had an engine cab ride on part of the line in his youth!)

 The first location I wanted to see was Wooddale (note misspelling on the sign).  This was the location of a log loading siding and even had a boxcar depot, which wasn't abandoned until 1952.  There is absolutely no sign of the siding as foliage has taken over.
We found water covering the trail, maybe due to a beaver dam?  No problem for our ATVs.
Next location is Yarnell.  Again, a log loading siding with a stockyard and a carbody depot.  No trace remains.
 Lemington is the spot where the Omaha Railway crossed the Wisconsin Central, later Soo Line, now Canadian National track on a trestle.
With the removal of the track and formation of the trail, the trestle was removed.  CN trains cross this location at speeds up to 60 MPH but none came through as we passed due to track tie replacement just north of this location.  This is what it looks like today from the south.
 And from the north.
Couderay is the next railroad location we came to.  Here a train crosses the Couderay River just east of Couderay.
And a couple of shots from the bridge today.
Here is a picture of the village of Couderay when it was an active railroad town.
And here is what it looks like today!
Even though temperatures were in the 80s, it was a beautiful day for a ride.  Much of the trail is in the shadows due to trees growing in the right-of-way.  And our movement prevented any mosquito or horse fly attacks!  Here's a few shots from the shadow sections.
We saw some wildlife.  Here is a doe with two yearlings.  They never flinched as we passed as they were enjoying the cool water.
And who would have expected peacocks on the trail??  (There was a hobby farm next to the trail with lots more of these fowl).  I also saw ruffed grouse and wild turkeys but no pix.
And there were beavers, which we didn't see.  Here is one of their dams.
Which backed up water, flooding this swamp right up to the trail.  I'm sure this section is flooded during rainstorms.
More wildlife habitat:
 Wild flowers abound at this time of year.

Rivers and creeks are always fun to cross.  Here is the Brunet River:
And we crossed the Chippewa River:
The bridge piers from the original railroad bridge at this location still remain:
I didn't get the name of this creek!!!
Another creek:
And a creek leading to a large swamp:
Radisson was the next village we came to.
And then Ojibwa.  There isn't any sign of the railroad here today.
At Winter, we find the only remaining depot of this rail line.  It has been moved and is being restored.
Loretta and Draper are only one mile apart, both on Highway 70.  When Loretta developed, the railroad didn't want two depots so close together so they moved the Draper depot to Loretta.  Today, except for the trail, you wouldn't know these at one time were large logging towns.

Here's Loretta:
 And here is Draper, looking north:
And looking south:
I was eager to see Kennedy and Kaiser, former logging towns and from what I've read, have now completely disappeared.  There was no sign of Kennedy.  I thought there would be a trail marker but nope.  But, just east of what I think was the location of Kennedy, we found this huge ravine.  This must have been spanned by a very large timber trestle.  Would I like to get a picture of that for the book!!  First picture, looking north or east:
 And looking south, or west:
Unfortunately, the trail was blocked about seven miles from Park Falls, probably due to flooding.  So we didn't find Kaiser.  I really wanted to see this section as it took the railroad about two years to complete this last section due to very rough terrain and I wanted to see it!!  Maybe another trip later . . . .  So we turned around and headed back.  We covered about 120 miles in 10.5 hours, six hours up and 4.5 miles back.
Thanks to Dan Morris for taking me on this adventure!!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

California 5 2018 Tehachapi Loop

 Brian Sykes of Atlanta recently retired from the Norfolk Southern Railroad.  He asked me to join him on a railfan trip to southern California.  Here is what we did on Day 5.

It's the last day of our California trip and we 'Saved The Best For Last!!'  The Tehachapi Loop is one of the top railfan locations in the United States and visited by thousands of people each year.  And--we were very lucky.  The previous day had been overcast and foggy and snow was predicted for the following two days.  BUT ON THIS DAY--temperatures started out at 37 degrees in the city of Tehachapi with some snow still on the ground from the previous night's snowfall.  But by the time we got to the Loop, temperatures were in the 50s, bright sunshine, and no wind!  More on the Loop later.

As we head to Tehachapi, we saw lots of trains--and, as what became to be 'expected,' another meet right beside us.

And we pass this huge wind/solar farm.
We arrive in the city of Tehachapi and see these neat houses in the mountainside.  I couldn't find an internet reference about them.
There is a Railroad Museum in Tehachapi in a recreated depot, but it being Monday, it was listed as closed.  We decided to walk around it for an inspection and as I got close, a man motioned me up the steps and asked if we wanted a tour of the Museum!!  We spent at least an hour here looking at exhibits and I purchased a couple of neat T-shirts.
Here's a neat exhibit.  It is a section of rail 'worn down' by a locomotive traction motor.  The crew knew it was spinning but couldn't stop it.  Nowadays, with computers in the new locos, this couldn't happen.
As we were shopping, we heard a train approaching and stepped outside to catch this train led by 8 BNSF locomotives.
Here's a couple of shots of memorabilia on the outside of the depot.
Inside the depot they had this map of the Tehachapi Loop.  X marks the spot where I would be taking my pictures.
There is a road with parking spots right beside the Loop and this marker--but we walked up the hill to get a better vantage point.  It is private land but the owner doesn't mind railfans walking there, just as long as they don't litter.
The Tehachapi Loop is a 0.73 mile long spiral, or helix through the Tehachapi Pass of the Tehachapi Mountains.  It connects Bakersfield and the San Joaquin Valley to Mojave in the Mojave Desert.
Rising at a steady two percent grade, the track gains 77 feet in elevation in the Loop.  Any train of more than 4,000 feet long passes over itself going around the loop. At the bottom of the loop, the track passes through Tunnel 9, the ninth tunnel built as the railroad worked from Bakersfield.
The line, which sees an average of almost 40 trains each day, is one of the busiest single-track mainlines in the world. With its frequent trains and spectacular scenery, the Tehachapi Loop is one of the prime railfan areas in the country.

Since we had met many trains coming off the Pass before we got there, we knew action might be slow.  For 2.5 hours NOTHING except a rail truck.   And then the floodgates opened!  First, two BNSF trains met at the loop, then two UP trains met at the loop (there is a passing track on the loop).  The westbound UP train would wait there for FOUR more trains coming from the west to pass it before it headed out.  So we would see 8 trains in two hours, all meeting another train at this location!  You could NOT ask for more!!!  I'll explain how the loop works via pictures.  As we were waiting, the fog in the mountain was lifting.  Grrreat scenery!
Finally, a BNSF train approaches from the east.
It will stop on the inner track, short of the signal.
Meanwhile, a BNSF train approaches from the west.  It will pass behind the train in the foreground through the cut marked with an arrow.
And loop around and come through the tunnel under the first parked train.
It will pass the first train and keep heading east.
Then the parked train will head west and stop in a siding to let 5 east bound trains come by it before heading to Bakersfield.
Then a UP train comes from the west.
And a UP train from the east.
They will pass before another eastbound comes into view.
Enjoy more train pix!
Meanwhile, California wildlife enjoyed the great weather also.  Here is a lizard, or salamander, or gecko, or what??
And, I never thought I would see a Bullock's Oriole (a relative of the Baltimore Oriole) and not found in the Midwest.
Back to the trains . . .
Who is this railfan enjoying the beautiful weather on the Tehachapi Loop???
Time to head back to LA to fly home the following day.  As we drive on the Interstate, we note several tunnels where these trains run.  Wouldn't those be great photo ops??  Maybe . . . some day . . . . . . . . .