In April of 2012, on the same trip that I took this picture, we spent a few days traversing the desert landscape of the Union Pacific’s Cima Subdivision. This line was built in the early 20th century as the Los Angeles and Salt Lake, and much of its vintage charm is still readily evident along its right of way.

A long-disused LA&SL maintenance-of-way car, Cima, CA

The main feature of this stretch of remote mainline is Cima Hill, the ruling grade, which clocks in at a stout 2.2%. Westbound trains descending the hill are restricted to 10 MPH, to avoid runaways. This also ensures that photographing a train on this line is a rather simple affair, and given the beautiful terrain, the more shots the better!


A view from Cima siding, at the top of the grade.

In addition to the delightfully slow track speed, there’s a road that parallels the tracks closely between Cima and Kelso, the next “town” west. It’s easy to get carried away and drive too far ahead of the train for the next shot, only to look in your rear view mirror and see a tiny headlight miles behind you.


The bumpy (but luckily paved!) road that runs along the tracks

My Hasselblad was the preferred camera for this part of our trip, and it’s not hard to see why- loaded with Fuji Acros, the desert’s subtle gradations simply come alive. Factor in the brilliant silver paint of the half century-old signals, and you’ve got yourself a perfect recipe for good train pictures. Armed with my 150mm lens, I captured this photo of a faraway approaching train, as it neared Kelso:


signals, code line, and desert

As the train disappeared into the dusky skies of southern California, I photographed it once more, as the DPU at the rear of the train rounded the curve. Framed with the road we’d been traveling all afternoon in hot pursuit, I think this made for the perfect “final frame” of the day. I can’t wait to go back!


blacktop, desert, and a glinty train.