MNRR: "Quintupling" Ambrose Grade
March 9, 2006
The plan for March 9th had been to take a train of empty cars up the Lake County Railroad to Lakeview, Oregon, and return to Alturas with loads the following morning. This would have been a first for the Modoc Northern, and would also arguably be the first time a GE locomotive had been on the Lakeview branch. By the time I arrived at Alturas to chase the train, however, that plan had been scuttled due to poor track conditions at Lakeview.
Not one to waste a trip when I could be taking pictures, I chased (well, if you could call it that, more like waited for) the train from Alturas back towards Tule Lake.
Early morning view of Alturas Yard from the south: Starting off with a beautiful, clear day!
The old Southern Pacific yard office, aka MNRR's new Alturas depot, could use a coat of paint.
B30-7 7780 and caboose 01480 idle in the yard, awaiting the crew.
The crew arrives and makes preparations to depart. Engineer is Chris Slater, Rito Delgado is the Conductor, and William McGinnis is the Brakeman.
Releasing the hand brake.
An Alturas Yard still life
The throttle is notched up and the locomotive begins to move.
Our caboose hop rolls toward the Alturas wye.
Westbound at County Road 75 through rural farmland with clouds coming in from the north.
Crossing Highway 299 at Canby
Our train takes the siding at Canby to run around the cars it had left there the previous day
Maurice is at Canby with the company's Durango after having dropped the crew off at Alturas.
The crew will drop the caboose on the siding then back the locomotive to make the first joint.
Heading up Ambrose Grade with the first cut of five cars.
A mile to go to the top, and we're down to walking speed, and in the snow zone
It's a beautiful sunny day.
Notice how clean and shiny the 7780 is!
I really thought the train would stall on this curve - it was barely moving.
Having left the first cut in the siding at Ambrose, the 7780 drifts back down grade to Canby for the second cut.
Chris at the throttle.
The second pull is a cut of four cars.
Crossing Loveness Road, the 7780 runs back to Canby for another cut of cars. Yes, it's cold out.
Note the incoming clouds.
Back at Ambrose with the third cut; four more cars and darkening skies.
Crossing Loveness Road with cut #3
Passing the east switch of Ambrose siding with the third cut - where did our blue skies go?
Back at Canby, the caboose and last four cars wait their turn for the grade.
With permission, I take a little tour of the caboose while we wait.
7780 arrives for the second-to-last cut.
William pulls the cut lever behind the fourth car while Rito watches
All ready for another pull up the hill.
Another trip up Ambrose grade and it's started to snow.
Meanwhile, at the top of the grade, the snow is getting intense.
It doesn't take long for my Jeep to get covered in snow, but my soda pop stays cold while I'm waiting for the last section to arrive at Loveness Road crossing at Ambrose.
Here comes the last set.
In all, the locomotive made the round trip five times, with five cars the first time and four each remaining trip (except the last, which brought the caboose up with the last four cars).
While the crew reassembles the train, I drive ahead and wait for them at Blue Mountain Road.
It'll be a few minutes before the train gets to this point (and no, I'm not parked on the tracks).
Yonder comes the train!
I hope Rito is warm in there. Probably is.
I catch up and overtake the train along Highway 139
Westbound (northbound?) through Perez
Crossing Clear Lake Rd and passing under Hwy 139
Last photo of the day, westbound from Casuse Mtn. Road into the evening gloom.
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