Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Train Number 52 at Bealville, CA

Somewhere I have a black and white photograph of a Santa Fe GP 7 or 9 helper engine on the rear-end of a caboose. It is pushing a freight train through Tehachapi. I must have convinced my parents to stop the car so that I could take my photograph. I must have been eight or ten then. What I know for sure is that by that age, I was a railfan.

Many years later, I took this photograph.  I was an employee of the Southern Pacific Transportation Company, and I was off duty. It was sometime in the early 1970's, and I had driven to the mountains just so I could photograph this train. Bealville and Caliente were two of my favorite locations to see and photograph trains.

One of the things I like about these photographs is that they show the section houses. I am guessing that this photo was taken in 1972 or so, and there still were facilities at Bealville (they were all removed shortly thereafter). To the left of the train, and just beyond the signal tower, is a section crew truck. It is parked near a section house.

Around the time that I took this photo, I worked on the brakeman's extra board. Several times I was a crew member of a work train. A work train was a special train that was ordered by a section foreman. Its purpose was to provide a platform for a small crane, and to deliver ties and ballast. We often had two SD 9 locomotives, and a relatively short train. We delivered the ties, spotted the crane, and spread the ballast wherever the section foreman desired. We had to work around the mainline trains, and so we spent a lot of time "in the hole" (siding) while traffic passed.

I do not recall the name of the Bealville section foreman. I wish that I did. He took great pride in his section and in his work. I understand that he regularly walked his entire section to inspect every aspect of his tracks, so that he could take the best care of his section of the railroad. He and others like him all over the system were instrumental in keeping the trains rolling, and the railroad safe.

Train Number 51 at Bealville With One of the Section Houses