Wednesday, December 26, 2018

BNSF Transcon: Kansas City to Cajon (Part One: Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas)





Cimarron River, Oklahoma





This photo-essay is the first of four parts that follow BNSF's Transcon from Kansas City, Missouri, Union Station to the mouth of Cajon Canyon in San Bernardino County, California.  The images were taken from 2000 to 2018 and constitute a labor of love for a man who, like a possum on a moonless night, passed during this project from middle to old age with hardly a sound.

I originally intended to include all the photographs in a single post but soon realized that such a project would overwhelm not only the capabilities of this program (Blogger) but also my 68-year-old attention span.  Thus, the move to four parts.

The coverage is not fully inclusive; rather, I present images from locations that I have enjoyed photographing.  Locations not represented either did not interest me or else were missed through inadvertence -- caused mostly by advancing age and concomitant memory loss.

But I think you will find all major locations have been covered, including some you may never have heard of.  I also include maps showing the locations of the various photographs by number.  The location of photograph #1, for example, can be found at the large numeral "1" on the accompanying map.

When I started this project, I thought it would be interesting and fun to follow the Transcon from Midwest to Pacific.  Somewhere in the middle, I discovered that my avocation was metamorphosing into something eerily close to a vocation.  This was the same experience I went through 40 years earlier in law school.  By the time I figured out what I had gotten myself into, it was too late to turn back.

I hope the effort was worth it.


Kansas City


Through central Kansas City, Missouri, the BNSF runs on the tracks of the Kansas City Terminal Railroad, so I suppose you could say that several of the images in this group do not technically involve the Transcon.  I have nevertheless chosen to begin coverage at Kansas City Union Station because I am very fond of the city where Ernest Hemingway got his start as a reporter for the Kansas City Star.  

If you have never visited this town, you will be surprised by the beauty of its many hills, public fountains and bucolic neighborhoods.  Also, the railroad action is fantastic.  Chicago is the only American city that can rival, and even surpass, Kansas City for trains, but there is nothing in Chicago that I would call scenic.  Also, many locations there are, how shall I put it, dangerous.  Many areas I visited 45-plus years ago (in the early 1970's) are now off limits.

Kansas City, on the other hand, presents a number of opportunities for scenic urban railfanning in a friendly and pleasant environment.  Kansas City is to Chicago as roses are to kudzu, or thistles, or creosote bushes.  Choose your own analogy -- and no offense to my friends from Chicago, but you know this to be true.




Photograph #1:  This image (of westbound stacks headed to Argentine Yard) was taken from the walkway across the tracks at Kansas City Union Station.  The passenger platforms are just visible on the right side of the photograph.  The walkway is an excellent vantage point to view trains, which come through with amazing frequency, provided you don't mind people stopping to ask you what in the world you are doing.





Photograph #2:  Eastbound stacks have just left Argentine Yard and are approaching the walkway from which the previous image was taken.  The photographer is standing with his tri-pod on the top level of the Union Station parking garage, another great location to watch trains, if you don't mind paying the small parking fee.  I suppose you also could just walk into the garage and avoid the fee, though I've never tried that.





Photograph #3:  Here is Santa Fe Junction, about a mile west of Union Station and just a stone's throw from the Boulevard Brewery.  BNSF uses the "Flyover" which was constructed to eliminate major congestion, while Union Pacific crosses ground level on the "High Line."  This is perhaps the most favorite location for railfans in Kansas City and is easily accessed by turning west on 27th Street off Southwest Boulevard.  27th Street crosses the tracks on an overpass, then dead-ends, so there is virtually no traffic on the road.  One can sit on the overpass all afternoon, watching trains, and the setting feels almost rural, even though you are in the middle of a major city where trains roar through every ten minutes or so.  As you can see, it is possible to get a shot of trains on three levels, though I have never accomplished that trick.

My friend Carl Graves and I have come here several times to photograph trains.  After finishing, we like to tour the Boulevard Brewery (just down Southwest Boulevard) and sample the wares in the tasting room!





Photograph #4:  Here is another view of Santa Fe Junction, taken from the side of the hill that overlooks the tracks.  Those not familiar with Kansas City may be unaware of its many hills, which caused Ernest Hemingway to remark:  "In those days . . . Kansas City was very like Constantinople.  You may not believe this.  No one believes this; but it is true."

The hill from which this image was taken at one time supported a chain restaurant called Baby Doe's, named after Baby Doe Tabor, who was born into poverty, married into wealth, then lost all her money and spent the last 35 years of her life living in a one-room cabin near the Matchless Mine in Leadville, Colorado.  Like Baby Doe, the restaurant chain is long gone.



Photograph #5:  This view of Santa Fe Junction looks west from Federal Reserve Hill toward the hills of Kansas City, Kansas, across the Kansas River.  Westbound BNSF stacks with pushers are crossing the High Line above a loaded UP coal train.  As the name implies,  the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City sits atop this hill, which is also home to the official United States World War One Museum, which contains the most extensive collection of Great War artifacts in the world.  The museum tower overlooks Union Station and presents breathtaking views.





Photograph #6:  Here is another view from Federal Reserve Hill, with the Boulevard Brewery smokestack left of center.  Portions of UP's High Line, supporting a loaded coal train, are visible in the background.





Map 1





Photograph #7:  This image was taken from the West 83rd Street Overpass in Johnson County, Kansas, in metropolitan Kansas City -- even though the scene looks thoroughly rural.  The train is back on BNSF rails, which closely follow Mill Creek (which accounts for the lack of development) to the southwest toward the farmlands of northeastern Kansas.  Carl Graves and I took this photograph from the overpass while a local policeman directed traffic around us.  He was very friendly and, I think, fascinated by two old men taking pictures of trains.





Photograph #8:  Here is another location in metropolitan Kansas City that looks completely rural -- the overpass at Prairie Star Parkway.  Again, the Transcon is running beside Mill Creek (immediately right of the tracks).  Several large apartment complexes stand just out of sight to the right of the creek and the image, which was taken on a cold day in March made more uncomfortable by a strong north wind.




Map 2




Map 3




Rural East-Central Kansas

After leaving metropolitan Kansas City, the Transcon crosses rural east-central Kansas toward Emporia.  Here corn and soy beans grow like weeds in soil as black as a Norfolk Southern locomotive.  In the fall, many farmers burn their fields, and the plumes of dark smoke can be seen for miles.  I-35 roughly parallels the Transcon, though the tracks are rarely visible from the road.

The railroad now encounters the last vestiges of the Midwest.  Soon the tracks will reach the Flint Hills, then Curtis Hill, then the Texas Panhandle, and all pretense of Midwestern stoicism and rectitude will be left behind in favor of the high plains and badlands favored by the millions of bison and those who killed them.  But here in east-central Kansas, life is still ruled by copious rainfall in the warm months, snow in the winter, and a general feeling that life is somehow manageable.




Photograph #9:  A westbound manifest rolls southwestward toward Ottawa, Kansas, through a hint of fall foliage.  Ottawa is a picturesque town on the banks of the Marias des Cygnes River, and both the Santa Fe and Missouri Pacific once ran trains down city streets.  Alas, both lines were abandoned many years ago.





Photograph #10:  The Transcon does not run through Ottawa.  Instead, it skirts town to the north.  Years ago, the Santa Fe line to Tulsa, Oklahoma, diverted north of town and ran south through some of the city's main streets.  I remember seeing the tracks, but I was never able to obtain a photograph of street running in Ottawa.  




Photograph #11:  West of Ottawa, eastbound stacks are headed to Kansas, City, beside more black soil.  The warbonnet has seen better days.





Photograph #12:  At dusk, another eastbound is west of Ottawa.





Map 4





Map 5





Photograph #13:  Eastbound trailers are seen at Melvern, Kansas, where the double-track Transcon from Kansas City splits in two for about eight miles before coming together again at Ridgeton.  I have always assumed that one line takes a shallower grade, though I have never been able to confirm this.  Nearby to the north are Melvern Lake and Eisenhower State Park, lovely spots to eat a picnic lunch when the sun is too high in the sky for photography.  




Photograph #14:  A Santa Fe warbonnet from the 1990's, plus two Heritage-I B units, are racing trailers and stacks southwest toward the U.S. Highway 75 overpass near Olivet, Kansas.  The two tracks of the Transcon are beginning to come together again.  Ridgeton is about two miles to the west.  Ridgeton is a former station on the railroad that is now completely deserted -- not a soul or structure in sight.  Recently harvested corn in the foreground gives testament to the fertility of the black soil.





Photograph #15:  Ridgeton -- eastbound stacks at dusk.





Map 6





Map 7





Photograph #16:  At Emporia, the original AT&SF mainline from Topeka joins the Transcon, creating a triple track freeway running west to Ellinor, Kansas.  The image above shows old Merrick Tower, on the west side of town, which at one time controlled all movement west toward the Emporia and La Junta Subdivisions.  For many years, Emporia was a division point on the Transcon, and the AT&SF presence in town was enormous.  When the Santa Fe streamlined its operations, removing many division points and virtually all cabooses, Emporia found itself on the wrong side of history.  My wife was once a professor at Emporia State University, and she had several friends with sad stories about the railroad's demise -- how several thousand people were relocated virtually overnight.  I believe that Merrick Tower was one of the casualties.  It was torn down a short time after this photograph was taken.  Today, there is no evidence of the tower.





Map 8





Map 9





The Flint Hills

One could easily write a book about the Flint Hills.  Indeed, William Least Heat-Moon has done just that in PrairyErth:  A Deep Map.  If you haven't read this book, I suggest you find a copy (it is still in print) and settle down for several days of enjoyment.

Of the people interviewed by Mr. Heat-Moon, there is Slim Pinkston, "a character shaped by the bovine nature of the animals he spends his days with"; Larry Wagner, crippled by polio, eloquent in his efforts to save the prairie; Linda Thurston, whose cafe went bust:  "We never did get the farmers to eat alfalfa sprouts.  They know silage when they see it.  Maybe we should have tried it with gravy"; and Blanche Schwilling from Bazaar, serving Scripture tea (a bible quotation with every cup).

The author describes the long walks he took across the treeless hills:  "Hiking in woods allows a traveler to imagine comforting enclosures, one leading to the next, and the walker can possess those little encompassed spaces, but the prairie and plains permit no such possession.  Whatever else prairie is -- grass, sky, wind -- it is most of all a paradigm of infinity, a clearing full of many things except boundaries, and its power comes from its apparent limitlessness; there is no such thing as a small prairie any more than there is a little ocean, and the consequence of both is this challenge:  try to take yourself seriously out here, you bipedal plodder, you complacent cartoon."

When you enter the Flint Hills from the east, you feel that for the first time you are looking at what might be called the American West.  The hills are not terribly tall, but yearly fall burnings keep them clear of brush and timber so that, standing on one of the many summits, peering down a long valley blanketed with bluestem grass, as fine as a silk comforter, you would swear that when you close your eyes, you can hear Colorado.

At dusk, when the wind dies, trains sound like flowing streams, as though Chase County, Kansas, might actually be covered with water, not grass.  The entire county has about 3,000 residents and one high school located in the county seat -- Cottonwood Falls, about five miles west of the Transcon.  At night, you can stand on the courthouse lawn and hear trains across the hills as plainly as you can hear yourself breathe.

When my wife was a professor at Emporia State, we owned a small house where I would spend every other week.  In the evenings, I loved to make the short drive into the Flint Hills and listen to trains.  Those quiet moments were among the happiest of my life and reminded me of a poem I once read about my dog:


Lying on my back
With the sun of my tummy,
I am happier
Than you will ever be.



Photograph #17:  West from old Merrick Tower, the Transcon runs through the valley of the Cottonwood River.  The two original tracks are built on a grade close to water level and are thus subject to periodic flooding.  After the Great Flood of 1951, in which the small town of Saffordville was basically washed away, the AT&SF built a third track on a significantly higher grade.  In this image, westbound stacks and trailers are racing on the low tracks (Mains 1 & 2) toward Ellinor, Kansas, where the line to La Junta, Colorado, divides from the line to Amarillo, Texas.  The photographer and his trip-pod are located on the higher track (Main 3).




Photograph # 18:  At Ellinor, the La Junta Subdivision continues running due west toward Colorado, while the Emporia Subdivision turns to the southwest toward northwestern Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle.  In this photograph, a westbound Norfolk Southern-powered RoadRailer is passing a stopped BNSF stack train waiting for a clear board.  If you like to see a lot of trains, Ellinor is your ticket.  On Fridays and Saturdays, it is not uncommon to see four to five trains per hour.  I have been there when as many as twelve have run through in about 60 minutes.



Photograph # 19:  Ellinor at dusk.





Photograph # 20:  BNSF routes a significant number of eastbound trains from Mulvane, Kansas, where they leave the Transcon, north to Wichita and Newton, then east across the La Junta Sub to Ellinor, where they rejoin the mainline.  In this image, eastbound stacks are passing the old depot at Strong City, Kansas, about five miles west of the junction at Ellinor.  Strong City is a shell of a town, with a few commercial establishments and houses, and many vacant lots and open spaces.  I do not know who, if anyone, maintains the depot; it is fenced, boarded-up and sees no use.  







Photograph # 21:  Pushers on a loaded coal train are passing the hills overlooking Bazaar, Kansas.  The train is headed to the Oklahoma Gas and Electric generating plant in Red Rock, Oklahoma, and will leave the Transcon at Augusta, Kansas.  This image was taken in late spring, when the Flint Hills are as green as Ireland.  Ranchers in this region burn the grass each fall, a practice originated by Native Americans, and the new shoots that come back the following April are so green that they must be seen to be believed. 








Photograph 22:  Westbound stacks hold the mainline at the east end of the passing siding at Matfield Green, Kansas,  a town with between 20 and 45 residents, depending upon the time of year and the extent to which one is willing to count people who do not exactly live in the tiny hamlet.  As this image shows, the Flint Hills are filled with timber in the bottom lands, but the hills themselves, due in part to yearly burning, are clear of vegetation other than bluestem grass.





Photograph 23:  Eastbound stacks are passing the east end of the Matfield Green Passing siding.




Photograph 24:  Westbound trailers are racing through Matfield Green, with the Flint Hills unrolling in the background.  This image was taken from the yard of a gentleman who built his own house, including a wind-power electric generator, and was nice enough to allow me to take photographs from his property.  The old cattle pens, long out of use, demonstrate that the AT&SF was once a major livestock hauler into and out of the Flint Hills.  Today all cattle in this region are moved by truck.





Photograph 25:  A westbound taconite train leans into the big curve south of Matfield Green.  The original alignment ran through a creek bottom and contained many narrow curves, limiting train speed to 30 mph.  In the late 1940's, BNSF straightened the tracks, creating this curve through which trains can fly at 60 mph.  The image was taken on one of the hottest days I ever recall in Kansas.






Photograph 26:  The same curve from higher elevation.  The original alignment was in the trees to the right of the state highway.  Remnants of the old roadbed are still visible, over 60 years after realignment.  




Photograph 27:  A westbound manifest roars through the twilight at Aikman, Kansas, the first passing siding west of Matfield Green.  The cantilever signal was replaced years ago.  As of the date of this post (January 2019), I am unaware of any cantilever signals still existing on the Transcon.





Photograph 28:  South of Aikman, these stacks are rolling toward El Dorado Lake.





Photograph 29:  A westbound Z-train is racing down the tracks just west of El Dorado Lake.  The line here was relocated after the reservoir was constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1981 for flood control.  The original alignment had crossed Durechen Creek on a steel girder bridge which was removed during reservoir construction.  Remnants of the original line are still visible from abandoned portions of old Kansas State Highway 177, which was also rerouted because of the new lake.  Notice the B-unit.  You don't see those anymore.   





Photograph 30:  An eastbound Z-train is running compass north along the western edge of El Dorado Lake, with the town of El Dorado, Kansas, in the background.  This portion of the line was also rerouted during construction of the reservoir -- effectively the end of the Flint Hills on the Transcon.





Map 10





Map 11





Wellington

These images were taken near Wellington, Kansas, a division point on the Transcon, which crosses the old CRI&P north/south Texas mainline (now Union Pacific) on a grade separation on the southern edge of town.  Crew changes in Wellington usually take only a few minutes -- at most.  I have seen changes in Wellington where the train does not stop.  Instead, it slows down long enough for one crew to jump off and the other to jump on.  Time is money on the Transcon.

Wellington was established as a cattle town, the southern terminus of the old Rock Island line.  Cattle drives across the future state of Oklahoma ended at Wellington, where the livestock were placed on trains for shipment north.  When the tracks were extended south to Caldwell, Kansas, Wellington lost some of its luster as a livestock center, but its importance for the railroad remained, especially when the AT&SF completed the Belen Cut-off, allowing the Transcon to circumvent Raton Pass on the Colorado/New Mexico border.  Today, it is not unusual for 60-80 BNSF freights to pass through town every 24 hours.

Another interesting note about this portion of southern Kansas:  some farmers are beginning to plant cotton again.  In the 19th century, cotton was a common crop in far southern Kansas -- the northern limits of that plant's range in America.  As cotton production expanded elsewhere, most farmers turned to hard red winter wheat, still the predominate crop here, but in the past ten years or so, a few cotton fields have appeared.  For my money, nothing is more radiant than a broad white field of unharvested cotton in the fall.  This is especially true in the country around Wellington, where the soil is dark black.  In this country, a cotton field stands out like a soprano in a men's choir.



Photograph 31:  Westbound stacks (compass south) are racing across the Kansas countryside near Mulvane.  When this image was taken, BNSF was double-tracking this portion of the Transcon.  Dirt work and bridges were completed.  Soon after this photograph, the contractors laid an asphalt base.  Pre-assembled rails and ties were then brought in by train, laid in place and welded together.  Ballast followed quickly.




Photograph 32:  Just east of Wellington, the Transcon turns due north near some of grain elevators that tower like cathedrals over the southern Kansas landscape.  Here eastbound trailers have made the turn and are headed toward the Flint Hills.  




Photograph 33:  Trailers race west of Wellington on a hot day in mid-June.  High summer is the only time that this shot is available.





Photograph 34:  Trailers are roaring west at Mayfield, Kansas, one of many "speculative" towns along the railroad that never reached critical mass.  Even so, a few hardy folk still live in the village, though I have no idea what they do for a living.  





Photograph 35:  Eastbound minerals at Argonia, Kansas.





Map 12





Map 13





Curtis Hill

I have been to Curtis Hill so many times that I have lost count.  My first trip there was in 1972 with my friend Dale Jacobson, who seemed to know everything there was to know about railroads.  Dale was about four years older than I, had recently returned from a tour of duty with the Air Force in Viet Nam and was finishing his committment at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.  He told me that Curtis Hill was about a ten mile stretch of one percent westbound grade over which the Santa Fe arduously climbed out of the valley of the Cimarron River and across a line of gypsum hills called the Gloss Mountains.

Although born and raised in Oklahoma, I had no idea that anything like Curtis Hill existed in my home state.  We drove for about three hours from Oklahoma City, through the Cross Timbers and out into the rolling plains of western Oklahoma.  Along the way, I saw nothing that even remotely looked liked gypsum hills or a steep railroad grade.  Then we turned off the highway and began winding our way up a hill that I had not noticed from the road.  The grade grew steeper, and tall cedars began to crowd the right of way.  We made a sharp turn and crossed a narrow bridge.  To the left and below about 100 feet, I saw a single track curving through a cut of bright red sandstone and clay.  The line curved broadly to the west and south, eventually emerging from the cut and crossing a valley on a deep fill.  Then the line disappeared at the top of a ridge which Dale told me was the summit of Curtis Hill.

To the east, I saw the end of a passing siding below in the same cut.  About two hundred yards further east, the mainline and passing siding split, the mainline running through another huge cut of red sandstone and clay, the passing siding running south around the edge of the hill.  I learned later that the passing siding followed the original alignment constructed in the early 20th century, while the mainline followed a realignment constructed in the 1940's.  To my young eyes, the scene was spectacular.  Although we did not see a meet that day at Quinlan (the name of the siding), I returned many times over the years and took several meet shots at that location, before the passing siding was abandoned during the double-tracking project in the mid-1990's. 

I have posted three separate articles about Curtis Hill:   

https://www.waltersrail.com/2015/11/curtis-hill-cimarron-river-valley.html

https://www.waltersrail.com/2016/05/santa-fe-on-curtis-hill-things-aint.html;

https://www.waltersrail.com/2016/09/bnsf-at-curtis-hill-where-west-begins.html.

So this discussion is far from inclusive.  Instead, I present a few images that I hope are somewhat representative, to give you a small idea of what the country looks like.  (I could easily include hundreds of images, but then this article would never end.)

Is Curtis Hill my favorite location?  I'm not sure, but it is closest to my heart, because I have grown up and spent most of my life in red dirt country.  Once you've seen the red dirt, nothing else comes close.





Photograph 36:  The red soil of which I speak.





Photograph 37:  Westbound stacks are crossing the Cimarron River and approaching the beginning of the grade up Curtis Hill.  In the background is the small town of Waynoka, Oklahoma, once a division point on the Transcon.  Waynoka was down-sized at the same time as Emporia, Kansas.  Today, there is not much left, just a few hundred hardy souls.





Photograph 38:  Westbound stacks have crossed the Cimarron River, hidden in the cedar trees in the background, and are approaching the beginning of the grade up Curtis Hill.





Photograph 39:  Two Z-trains meet in the Cimarron River Valley.





Photograph 40:  Westbound autos have begun the climb up Curtis Hill beside the Little Sahara State Park.  The dunes are remnants of sand washed southeastward out of Colorado at the end of the last Ice Age.





Photograph 41:  Eastbound stacks have just come off the grade and are racing toward the Cimarron River.  Some of the gypsum hills surrounding the Transcon are visible in the background.



Photograph 42:  Another eastbound racing beneath the gypsum hills.





Photograph 43:  Eastbound stacks are rolling downgrade at Belva, an 11,000 feet long passing siding that saw frequent use before the double-track project.  The farmhouse in the background has a sign in the front yard announcing that it (the sign) is the absolute center of Belva, Oklahoma -- population 3.





Photograph 44:  Eastbound stacks are racing down the same location as the image immediately above.  The difference is that this shot was taken in December from track level, when the sun is setting about 30 degrees south of due west, while the immediately preceding image was taken in high summer from the ridge on the right of this image, when the sun is setting about 30 degrees north of due west.





Photograph 45:  A westbound manifest climbs the grade, with Belva in the background.  This location is quite inaccessible, requiring either a long hike or a rugged, four-wheel drive vehicle.  I have used both methods to reach the hill from which the image was taken, and I must say that, as I age, I prefer driving.





Photograph 46:  BNSF 7553 West climbs the Curtis Hill grade through the cut at Quinlan, with the hills of western Oklahoma in the background.  Before the line was double-tracked, this cut was quite narrow and supported only a single track.  The passing siding ran around the hill to the right, following the original, early 20th century alignment.





Photograph 47:  At the top of the grade, eastbound stacks begin to descend Curtis Hill.






Map 14




Map 15





Red Deer Creek

A large portion of the Texas panhandle is encompassed by the Llano Estacado, an area of Texas and New Mexico among the flattest on the globe -- the remnant of the uplift that created the Rocky Mountains millions of years ago.  The country around the Llano has eroded, but this huge plateau remains.  Driving across this country is like sailing across the ocean; your line of sight is broken only by the curvature of the earth.  At night, stars stretch from horizon to horizon, and the universe somehow seems larger than infinite, and you feel somehow smaller than infinitesimal.  This land can drive a man crazy.







The Transcon stretches across this flat sea of short grass from roughly Clovis, New Mexico to Pampa, Texas.  Town names here, to me at least, reflect the ocean-like emptiness:  Farwell, Black, Dawn.  This area, again to me at least, resists all attempts at railroad photography, because there are no lines of reference, no points of contrast.  Imagine floating in the darkness and depths of space, trying to determine direction, and you will have some idea of how difficult it is to photograph a train that no more stands out from the landscape than do the grass or highway beside it.  This is as close to a two-dimensional existence as is possible in a three-dimensional world.   

I have driven the highway from Clovis to Pampa many times and have yet to obtain what I consider a presentable image of the Transcon.  However, many years ago as I was traveling northeast of Pampa on U.S. Highway 60, I stumbled over the edge of the Llano Estacado and into the valley of Red Deer Creek.  After mile upon mile of unbroken ground, the effect was overpowering, like walking out of a movie theater into the bright sunlight of mid-day.  All at once the ground receded sharply down a hill, the first significant change in topography in well over 100 miles.  Ahead, a broad valley unrolled itself, with tall buttes to either side, which I quickly realized were simply the flatlands of the Llano Estacado that had not eroded.  Right here, right where I was standing, or driving, really, was where the natural earth of hill and valley reclaimed itself.  Right here was the American West where I had spent most of my life.  If I had been a trumpeter, I would have blown a fanfare.

I have posted an entire article about the Transcon through the valley of Red Deer Creek and shall not repeat it here.  Instead, much as with the images of Curtis Hill, I will try to give the flavor of the area.  Those interested in seeing more can go to:  https://www.waltersrail.com/2016/01/railroad-photography-bnsf-transcon-in.html.





Photograph 48:  Eastbound stacks are seen in the valley of Red Deer Creek, approaching the hamlet of Miami, Texas, population about 800.  Miami is the county seat of Roberts County, population about 900.  Miami is the only town in the entire county.





Photograph 49:  More eastbound stacks are on the big curve at Codman -- a ghost town along the line.  In the upper-left corner is U.S. Highway 60 at the point where it begins its descent into the valley of Red Deer Creek, dry year round except following extremely heavy rains, which occur from time-to-time in this country.




Photograph 50:  Here is the same curve taken from the edge of the Llano Estacado.  This is the first view of the valley of Red Deer Creek that one sees while traveling northeast on U.S. Highway 60, and the effect, after so many miles of table land, is truly electrifying.  The westbound here is climbing a 0.6 percent grade as it struggles out of the valley of the Canadian River.




Photograph 51:  Looking northeast across the valley of Red Deer Creek.




Photograph 52:  In the valley of Red Deer Creek, a stack train on the right-hand track is overtaking the stack train on the left-hand track.  This location is easily accessible from U.S. Highway 60 and was taken from the side of the road.




Map 16




Map 17







































Thus ends Part One of our trip across the Transcon from Kansas City, Missouri, to Cajon Pass.  More is yet to come, including some truly spectacular scenery, as well as some of the most isolated locations in the United States of America.  I've been to those locations, and believe me, I know what I'm talking about (for one of the few times in my life).



To see my other posts, go to waltersrail.com.



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