This past weekend allowed me the chance to check out the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum with a fellow photographer with the hopes of capturing some fascinating photos. Arriving early in the morning, we were greeted by a warm sun and cool air.
Originally we were planning on riding in the passenger car, but we realized that since the cab ride hadn’t sold out this would be a great opportunity to get ourselves up in the diesel electric cab for our train ride.
After the conductor, who was appropriately dressed, called out, “all aboard!” we hopped on-board the cab and met the train engineer who would be our guide. Built during WW2 in the 40’s and weighing in at only 80,000 tons, the diesel-electric engine we were boarding was not one of the larger engines available.
As our ride got started we began to spot signs of the ever looming rusted stripe jutting through the distant hills. We quickly realized that this was the infamous border fence separating us from Mexico. I asked how close to the border we would be getting. To my surprise I discovered that at the end of the first leg of the trip we would enter a tunnel that had a line delineating the border painted across it on the ground. “The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!” floated through my mind. All that I needed was for us to cross a trestle bridge and my day would be complete I thought to myself.
About half-way through the journey the Pacific Crest Trail was pointed out to us. At 2,650 miles it spans from Mexico to Canada by way of California, Oregon, and Washington. Timing is important as you need to make it through the Sierra Nevada without the snow and before it gets too hot if you want to make the trip in one go.
We began our final approach to the tunnel when I was instructed to peer over the edge. Low and behold, a trestle bridge! Built in 1915 back when there was nothing here, it would soon carry us across the tunnel and the border. In the distance, we spotted the bright white and green of the border patrol who graced us with his presence for our scheduled arrival.
After only the briefest of seconds stopped in the tunnel we began to reverse direction began the journey back to the railway museum. The train operator asked us if we would like blow the whistle as we passed by several of the crossings on the way back. Would we? Most definitely. He told us the pattern. Long, long, short, and long. Easy, right? My pal didn’t do quite so hot in the rhythm department. I did moderately better and we soared through the crossings without much of an incident.
Making it back to the museum we spent the rest of the time squeezing past trains and hopping on the tracks to see some of the Western freight history of the US.