One day in 1959, I was driving by Santa Fe’s main line tracks in Buena Park, California, and noticed a small wooden station there. I drove by there a couple of months later, and the station was gone. This started me thinking; “Hmm, these things seem to be vanishing just like steam locomotives did.”
This led to my photographing stations when I encountered them, but in time my focus narrowed to Santa Fe’s stations, due to their wide variety of sizes and architectural styles. I eventually found a few other railfans, (especially Joe McMillan), with the same interest.
I’d planned to select station photos from all over the Santa Fe system, but I found there was remarkable variety just in the 129.5 miles of main line between San Diego and Los Angeles. Here are a few.
Several years ago, I lost patience waiting around for a train to photograph and started to pay more attention to the landscape that the tracks run through. I became absorbed in the things that surround the railroad, and that the railroad alters and defines as it passes through. So absorbed, in fact, that trains occasionally rumbled by un-photographed.
Our tribute to the Maine Central and the railroaders who made The Pine Tree Route what it was.”
This is a story about a railroad, a song, a songwriter, a singer, a photographer, and a Maine Central Railroad veteran. And it’s about how people with common interests, located thousands of miles apart, connected, collaborated, and created a musical tribute to the Maine Central Railroad, The Pine Tree Route.
The Georgetown, Breckenridge, and Leadville Railway, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad, completed the Georgetown Loop Railroad in 1884. Built as a 3-foot narrow gauge, its main objective was to haul silver out from the mines in Silver Plume. Due to the rugged and narrow confines of the Clear Creek canyon, the line wound 4 ½ miles from Georgetown to Silver Plume, a straight-line distance of only 2 miles. This portion of the line gains more than 600 feet in elevation with horseshoe turns, grades approaching 4%, and 4 bridges across Clear Creek. It also includes the massive 95-foot high Devils Gate Bridge that loops the line over itself. Later in 1893, the line became part of the Colorado and Southern railroad system. Due to its unique construction and beautiful vistas, the Georgetown Loop has been popular with tourists since its beginning. The line was dismantled in 1939 due to declining revenue from the mines, but thankfully, was re-built in the 1980’s. Read more
Why trains? What is it about the railroad that connects to so many people? For many of us, the answer lies in childhood memories, our earliest wonder at the spectacle of a thundering locomotive, or perhaps that Lionel train under the Christmas tree. I am old enough to remember watching steam railroading on the Norfolk & Western as a boy in the 1950s. But it goes beyond that. The railroad was the prototype for that most American of obsessions, the road trip. Even though train travel has been overshadowed by the automobile and airplane, when we look down the tracks, far-away places still call, and we are pulled into the distance.
Across the river from Thurmond, West Virginia, we continue our journey eastward along McKendree Road. After about two miles the road crosses the river at Stone Cliff. After crossing the river the road turns to dirt and gravel. At Stone Cliff camping is permitted and there are rest rooms but no shower facilities or electricity. A footpath from Stone Cliff up along the river is a nice area for spring wildflowers and after about one mile you come to Big Stony Creek which has some nice waterfalls when water flow is up (best time is in spring). I’ve never ventured beyond Big Stony Creek so I don’t know how far the path goes. Read more