"Rawhide," as the non-railfans locals call the location, is at M.P. 159.1, between the U.P. stations of Baxter and Midas, is one of my favorite locations on Union Pacific'sRoseville Subdivision to railfan, as the scenery is great, it's a little-known location, it's hard to get to, and it's a long ways from the freeway, so you'll hear trains, and you won't hear the roar of freeway traffic.
Saturday, July 23, 2022 turned out to be a simply amazing day, as I was rewarded with lots of trains, including a work train, a special car at the end of Amtrak #6, and a very train of empty container cars.
Photo: After enjoying a hearty breakfast of barbecued Texas-style brisket, eggs and more at Sierra Grill Smokehouse, located in nearby Auburn, I arrived on location shortly after 09:00 in the morning, and at 09:50, I was rewarded by a work train headed west, led by one of the newest, most high-tech units in U.P.'s maintenance of way fleet, U.P. #98400MW, a MW958-700, a head of the "SMRT," known as "Smart Metal Recycling Team." As of this writing, the MW958-700 is the newest equipment to join the railroad's maintenance of way fleet.
#98400MW is one of six units roaming the system, and she and her sisters will be working between Roseville and Sparks for the next few months picking up ties, and they're expected to audition for snow-removal duties later this year. This new equipment can "do it all," including tie pick-up, brush cutting, scrap pick-up and ditch cleaning.
Photo: At 10:44, U.P. #9050 east showed up, leading a double stack trailer train. U.P. #9050 is a EMD SD70AH, built in 2016.
Photo: U.P. #8348, a EMD SD70ACe, built in April, 2005, brings up the end of the train. Nearly every train that Union Pacific runs over Donner Pass had D.P.U.s either at the middle, or at the end of the train, thanks to the ruling grade of 1.8%.
Photo: U.P. #2663, a GE ET44AH, a graduate of the Class of 2015, leads a eastbound manifest, with mostly reefers, east at 11:33 in the morning.
Photo: D.P.U.s are cut in the middle of the train, and do their part to get the eastbound train up the steep 1.8% grade.
Photo: I love the "ripple effect" the exhaust from the units makes on a warm July morning, in contrast with the dark green of the oak trees and sugar pines.
Photo: My first westbound arrived at 12:04 in the afternoon, led by U.P. #2634, another GE ET44AH, leading a stack train.
Photo: U.P. #6555 does D.P.U. duty near the center of the train. She happens to be a GE AC44CW, built in March, 1997.
Photo: At 12:45, I heard the horn blow where Casa Loma Road crosses the railroad tracks, and photographer UP #8244 leading an eastbound manifest, which was mostly reefers. This unit is a GE ES44AC-H and was built in September, 2014.
Photo: UP #8244 and friends lead a eastbound manifest just after crossing Casa Loma Road, at milepost 159.1. It looks like the conductor has just left the cab to enjoy a breath of the fresh mountain air, as the elevation at this location is about 3900 feet.
Photo: The conductor enjoys a smoke, a break, and the beautiful mountain scenery, aboard U.P. #8244 east.
Photo: U.P. #5986, a GE AC44CWCTE leads a westbound manifest at 12:54, just minutes after #8244 passed by my scenic photo location.
Photo: Here comes the tie pickup-train, now led by MW958-700, UP MOW #958201, at 13:35. The train is now heading east, led by #958201, which a few hours ago was the tail unit on this interesting trail.
Photo: The job of this interesting work train was to pick up used ties, which were placed in piles along the right-of-way every hundred feet or so, and to tidy things up a bit.
Photo: The Caterpillar "CAT" 325F hydraulic excavators are mounted on wheels, which ride on rails mounted on top of the special gondola cars, which is truly a unique sight. The job of these machines is to pick up piles of ties from the right-of-way - which they do with ease - and place them precisely in the gondolas. The "Cats" pick up the heavy ties like they were matchsticks, and as they fill a car, they scoot backwards, crab-like, on the rails mounted on the cars.
Photo: There were two "CAT '325's" working on this train, as one was moving forward, and the other was moving backward. You get a good look at how they ride the rails on top of the cars, and the price order they are stacking the ties in the gondolas.
Union Pacific's website mentions the railroad has plans to use these machines this winter for snow removal duty.
Photo: Nothing is left behind on the railroad's right-of-way, even small scraps from a very used tie.
Photo: U.P. #98400MW brings up the rear of the now eastbound train. On this late July day in 2022, the MW958-700-powered maintenance train was based out of nearby Truckee, on the east side of Donner Pass.
Photo: At 14:40 in the afternoon, Amtrak #6, lead by #202, a GE P42DC, built in October, 2001, heads east towards Reno, and beyond.
Photo: This interesting heavyweight observation car, named "America," was at the end of #6. Or... judging by the random window placement and the opulent railing surrounding the observation platform, is this a privately-owned business car? I have no idea, as the car was lettered "America" on the side, but I couldn't read any other data. Anybody know anything about this unique piece of rolling stock?
Photo: At 15:05 in the afternoon, U.P. #8454 east, an EMD SD70 ACe, built in June, 2006 leads a very slow drag freight up the grade.
Photo: No wonder this train was traveling very slow - maybe 10 mph? - as it worked up the grade, as there were many rock cars in the consist.
Photo: U.P. #2684 works as one of the DPUs in the center of the train, as she assists leading another string of rock cars up the steep grade. This unit is a GE ET44AH, built in August, 2016.
Photo: End of the train was marked by a grain car sporting an end-of-train device, which I could clearing hear chirping for MILES on my scanner, programmed with railroad frequencies.
Photo: The last train I caught today was an eastbound of empty intermodal double stack container cars, headed by a solo, lonely-looking unit, UP #7239, which is a GE AC44CWCTE. She appeared to be by herself, slowly pulling a seemingly-endless string of well cars east, up the hill, perhaps bound for Chicago?
Photo: There she goes... UP #5961 leads a long string of empty double stack container cars east.
Photo: Near the middle of the train, working hard, and doing her part to get this strange train of empties up the grade was UP #7239, a GE AC44CW. With #5961 alone at the head end, and #7239 alone near the middle of the train, this was a strange sight.
Photo: End of the train. I have no idea of how long this train was, but it was at least a mile long of nothing but empty intermodal container cars, with only two widely-spaced units for power. Although the train was traveling at less than 20 mph, it must have taken 10 minutes to pass me, as there were hundreds of empty well cars in this train. The two units pulling this train were certainly earning their keep, pulling this long, non-revenue train on this mid-Saturday afternoon!
Such ended for me a simply spectacular day at one of my favorite railfan locations on Union Pacific's Roseville Subdivision...
I absolutely LOVE the "S-curves" in both directions, the fact that you're at a high vantage point, and the light is acceptable to excellent any time of the day. You won't hear freeway noise, as the photo location is MILES away from busy Interstate 80, and you won't have a lot of company, except for a few locals and four wheelers. This location is only known by local railfans, and railfans who are dedicated to seek out obscure, scenic photo locations in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains.
I love the scenery, I love the area, and when Union Pacific is running trains, there's nothing better than spending a day at "Rawhide."
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