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August 2000

   I made my August trip before I had come up with this idea of taking one trip a month and posting everything that happened on my website. It was kind of a last-minute idea, I just decided on Tuesday night that I would get up early and head up “The Hill.”

   The Cascade Line runs geographically southwest out of Eugene, Oregon roughly paralleling Highway 58 up into the Cascades. After crossing over the summit, the track turns south and heads for Klamath Falls. The line is the only major north-south route between California and Oregon. Trains headed north are referred to by UP as “eastward” and trains headed south are “westward.” I refer to trains as either going northbound or southbound.

   Wednesday (August 30) I got up early and packed everything that I would need for my trip. I was already learning an important lesson – pack the night before! I spent an extra hour in the morning getting stuff together. That’s an hour of daylight lost.

   I spotted my first train of the day at Dougren, a siding not too far out of Eugene. It was a northbound train, and I knew that there would be no way for me to catch it without going all the way back to Eugene. I let it go, but I was encouraged by the fact that I had already seen a train.

   Highway 58 follows the Willamette River into the mountains, and along the way there are two reservoirs. The track lies between the water and the highway along the upper reservoir (Lookout Point Reservoir), and I knew that I wanted a picture of a train with the water in the background.

   There are a few places with a cliff on the opposite side of the road from the tracks, and I knew that climbing one of those cliffs would be the only way to make the water visible behind the train. I parked my car and started walking along the bottom of the cliff, looking for a good place to climb up. While I was looking, a northbound intermodal train came by. I got an okay picture of it, but it wasn’t the overhead shot I wanted. After it passed, I continued working on the cliff.

SP 7501 East
   I tried in a couple places, but I just couldn’t get any good hand holds. I finally realized that I was not going to climb the face of this cliff. I walked back toward my car, and finally found an easy place to climb on the end of the cliff. There was even evidence of a man-made trail there. Up on the ledge, I dropped all of my gear (not dropped off the cliff, but set down on the ledge) and found a comfortable rock to sit on. It was still fairly early in the morning at this point, and the morning cloud cover had not burned off. Even though the sun was on the opposite side of the tracks, there were no shadows being cast.

   I was hoping for another northbound because the train would have disappeared out of the shot to the right, and then come back in up above in the distance. A southbound train would have looked good, but not quite as cool as a northbound.

   I ended up staying on that ledge for a little over an hour, and while I was waiting I realized something that I would do differently on my next trip – bring some reading material! There would be a lot of boring down time waiting for a train to roll into my shot that day. Finally I heard a hotbox detector go off on my scanner. I wasn’t familiar with my mileposts at the time, so I didn’t know for sure which way the train would come from. After a couple minutes I could hear the train coming up from the north. The result is September’s Image of the Month.

SP 8188 West   SP 8188 West
   I was going to wait for a northbound train because I really wanted that shot, but the sun came out and cast a shadow the wrong way on the tracks. I climbed down and continued up the hill to look for a place to take advantage of morning sun.

   My next stop was Tunnel 23. I’m not sure of the exact date, but several years ago SP discovered that T23 was caving in. They dug out the hill next to the tunnel and moved about 400 yards of mainline to go around the tunnel. Diagonal bracing was added inside the tunnel to keep it from completely caving in, and drainage pipes were placed to make sure that water didn’t further erode the insides of the tunnel. The result is two unused tunnel portals that make excellent places to take pictures from.

   The sun was to the south and slightly to the east, so I positioned myself on the north portal hoping for a southbound train. After about half an hour of waiting, I heard on the scanner that the northbound Coast Starlight was on time. It would be passing me in about 20 minutes. Right before the Starlight got to me, I heard on the scanner a southbound train enter the siding just downhill (Lookout) to hold for Amtrak. I got a picture of Amtrak going away from me, and as soon as it was clear I got a picture of the southbound freight coming toward me. By the time I got the shot of the freight, the sun had moved directly in front of it. The lighting I ended up with wasn’t exactly flattering  the engines, and it turned out to be just an okay shot. Not as good as I’d hoped.

NB AMTK no. 14  UP 6009 West
   I knew I had lost the advantage of the sun, so I moved on up the hill. Not far from T23 is the town of Oakridge. The small yard there is used as a base for helper sets and MOW equipment used on The Hill. There was a helper set there when I arrived, but before I could get a shot it started down the hill to pick up a train down near where I had taken my first shot of the day.

   I left Oakridge and headed up Hwy. 58, not really knowing where I would stop next. I had a guide to the line that I had printed off the internet (Joel’s SP in the Cascades), and decided to go up to the slide area.

   The slide area is a spot along the line that the ground is slowly shifting downhill. SP filled the area with cinder and restricted the speed there to 25 m.p.h. The ground has remained stable since then, but the speed limit remains. Last winter I sat near the slide for three hours waiting for a train to come along. All I ever got was a stupid helper set. This time I waited in the exact same spot hoping I would have better luck. I still waited two and a half hours this time, but I finally got the train I wanted. It was a northbound manifest led by an SD60M, and it was beautiful (despite being painted in Armour Yellow).

UP 6281 East  UP 6281 East
   As far as I could tell listening to the scanner, there wouldn’t be any more northbounds, and the southbound that that helper set had attached to still didn’t have enough power to make it up the hill. They held that train at Heather so that other southbounds could get by, but they wouldn’t be there for quite a while. I headed just up the road (we’re talking Forest Service roads now, not the highway) to Fields. Fields was originally used to turn snow fighting equipment, and the wye is still there. All that was at Fields this day was three water cars stationed there to protect the track from forest fires.
SPMW 6331
   After I got bored poking around Fields, I consulted my guide to figure out how to get up to the giant rocksheds visible from the highway. The road was a little scary in my poor little car, but I made it up to what is known as Rockshed 12, between Tunnels 12 and 13. I’d never seen a rockshed up close. It’s a pretty impressive structure. Designed to keep falling rocks off the track, it’s like a three sided tunnel. The downhill side is open, with thick concrete columns to hold up the top. While I was investigating the rockshed, I heard over the scanner that my southbound at Heather was finally ready to go, as soon as another southbound got ahead of it. The sun was starting to get low in the sky, but I wanted a shot of a train in the rockshed. The southbound I was waiting on took its sweet time getting there, but I finally did get my shot. It didn’t turn out quite as well as I’d hoped, but it’s too bad. I finished my roll of film on the helpers pushing the train into Tunnel 12.
Rockshed 12  CEFX 9375 West
  All things considered, it was a very good day on The Hill. I went from getting one good shot every ten rolls of film to getting two good shots on this single roll. My only regret is that I didn’t get to explore as much of the line as I had hoped. I look forward to returning there this winter as soon as we get a little snow. Next month I visit BNSF’s former Spokane, Portland & Seattle line along the north bank of the Columbia River.


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