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Wednesday morning, May 24, 2023 found me camping at Slash X Ranch, the base camp for CA4WDC's awesome Hi Desert Roundup, which is one of the premiere four wheel drive events on the west coast.  The event didn't actually start until Friday, so I had some time on my hands and what could be better than to pay a visit to BNSF's Needles Subdivision, which happens to be the busiest mainline railroad in the North American Continent.

Photo:  After I left camp, I started out my day with breakfast at Peggy Sue's 50's Diner, located in Yermo, a few miles outside of Barstow.  After enjoying breakfast, I worked my way over to historic Route 66 and followed the old road to Ludlow, where I left the pavement, shifted my truck into four wheel drive, and headed a couple miles west of Ludlow to milepost 694.7, where I spent the next five hours or so photographing some of the most fascinating mainline railroad action the Mojave Desert has to offer.

The next several photos are only a few highlights of the many trains I photographed from the hill, overlooking milepost 694.7.  The photo location is easily accessible if you have a four wheel drive vehicle in decent condition, and you park at the crest of the saddle and hike the last 200 feet or so to the hill, which provides one of the most scenic photo locations on the entire Needles Subdivision.

Photo:  Look at this eastbound double stack train, and you can get an ideal of how big, lonely and uninhabited the desert is.  The scenery is magnificent, but the weather is brutal, as it's cold in the winter and the summers are super hot, and it seems the wind blows most of the time.

Weather aside, if you long for railroad action, with more trains to photograph than you can post, the Needles Subdivision is for you.  Don't forget to bring proper clothing, sunscreen and lots of water!

Photo:  Early in the afternoon, I drove a few miles east to Ash Hill, milepost 686.6, which is the highest point on the Needles Subdivision, and is famous for the brutal 1.4% ruling grade for westbound trains.  

The westbound stack train struggles up the 1.4% grade on this hot 100+ degree Wednesday afternoon.  Note the heat rays that make this telephoto shot out of focus and the steep grade, as easily seen in the photo.

Photo:  Once the train crested the summit at the signal bridge, it was easy going westbound to Ludlow, Barstow and eventually Los Angeles.

Photo:  BNSF #6898 east, a GE ES44C4 from the class of 2011 has no trouble leading an eastbound double stack train up the grade toward Ash Hill.

Photo:  Another westbound double stack freight cresting the grade at Ash Hill.  The signal bridge marks the summit, and the high point on the mainline between Barstow and Needles.

By late afternoon, after enjoying countless trains and enduring 8+ hours in the desert sun, it was time to head back to Barstow and enjoy a delicious dinner of menudo at Plata's Mexican Food.  Muy sabroso!

The Needles Subdivision, between Barstow and Needles, CA sees around 80 trains a day and sometimes more, so you'll rarely go long before catching a train.

Big-time mainline railroad happens every day, on BNSF's Needles Subdivision, between Barstow and Needles. Great train watching and railfan action, every day of the week!

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