Friday, June 21, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Pins and Needles, June 21st, 2013

Today's train of though takes us to the California high desert just west of the Colorado River town of Needles.

Between the Los Angeles Basin and Albuquerque, NM, the fabled Route 66 paralleled the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe's transcontinental mainline, which to this day covers a lot of rugged and sparsely populated territory. From there, both the Santa Fe and Route 66 took dramatically different routes between New Mexico and Chicago- with the Santa Fe going through Colorado and western Kansas and the 66 swinging northeast past Oklahoma City and through the Ozarks on its way to St Louis and Chicago.

With a number of songs and even a TV show written in its honor, Route 66- sometimes known as the Mother Road or Main Street of America- began falling into decline with the completion of the parallel Interstate 40. While decommissioned as a US Highway in 1985, several states mark the former Main Street of America with 'Historic Route 66' markers along the way. Other stretches of the former Route 66 being re-branded state highway 66 in places like Kansas, California,  Missouri, Arizona or Oklahoma.

But as Route 66 fell into decline, the Santa Fe mainline remained an important gateway into and out of the state of California- even after the BNSF merger. The remote nature of the Mojave Desert in California also meant that the Santa Fe had to bring in water to remote towns such as Amboy or Cadiz by tank car- a practice that reportedly continues to this day under BNSF.

The concentration of military facilities around Barstow, CA (the US Army's Fort Irwin, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow and Edwards Air Force Base) also means that both the BNSF and Union Pacific [via their Salt Lake City- Barstow line- NANESB!] frequently run trains consisting of nothing but military equipment from bases all across the nation destined for the military facilities in the California desert.

Here, contributor Drew Mitchem caught BNSF C44-9W #4955 as it leads a westbound extra consisting of Humvees, trailers, generators, trucks, earthmovers and MRAPs on flatcars as it climbs its way out the Colorado River Valley on Feb 25th, 2012.

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