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.
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!