Southern Pacific


The famous Sunset Route runs across southern Arizona, offering a wide variety of desert scenery to take photos in. The areas between Dragoon and Tucson, near Gila Bend and near Yuma are some of my favorite photo locations.

New photos have yellow backgrounds in their cells.

Would you like prints of most any of these slides? Go to Desert-Rails.com for details!

sp_6304.jpg (213521 bytes) A freshly painted "Kodachrome" GP35 is shown here in the Phoenix yard on Oct. 19, 1986.
sp_6334.jpg (187810 bytes) The Coolidge turn is headed south at Picacho, just leaving the Phoenix line for the "big main" on Nov. 28, 1987.
sp_6814.jpg (179726 bytes) A westbound freight at Picacho late in the evening on Nov. 28, 1987.
sp_1013.jpg (208996 bytes) One of several slugs built by the SP is shown here at Tucson on Jan. 16, 1988.
sp_shmt_1.jpg (260936 bytes) Here a westbound has just passed through the Maricopa Mountains at Shawmut on May 8, 1988.
sp_7760.jpg (184404 bytes) Here an eastbound train is just getting underway after clearing Amtrak No. 2 at Picacho on May 14, 1988.
sp_cg_1.jpg (143200 bytes) Very late in the evening at Casa Grande is this eastbound on May 14, 1988.
NEW! A westbound at Shawmut, AZ with the SP 7246 on the point - this engine is now the Copper Basin 304 after having been rebuilt by MEI from ICE 4207. May 15, 1988.
sp_9624.jpg (196704 bytes) Here is a nearly new GP60 at Picacho on Oct. 1, 1988.
sp_9622.jpg (243722 bytes) This late afternoon westbound is climbing the hill into Mescal on Oct. 15, 1988.
sp_police.jpg (227493 bytes) This was an Operation Lifesaver (Officer on the Train) that ran between Phoenix and Higley on Feb. 25, 1992 in a pull-pull configuration.
sp_koda.jpg (225779 bytes) This eastbound train is at Shawmut in the late afternoon on March 28, 1992 under ominous skies.
sp_9671.jpg (202951 bytes) This westbound is at Dragoon on June 19, 1992.
sp_shmt_2.jpg (244400 bytes)

Here is a view of an early morning westbound from one of the highest peaks at Shawmut. This train was less than 2 hours from derailing! (see photo below). June 27, 1993.

sp_shmt_3.jpg (288768 bytes) Here is an eastbound taken about 180 degrees from the above shot. June 27, 1993 at Shawmut.
sp_mohk_1.jpg (271522 bytes) And here is the train mentioned above in the bush at Mohawk. Due to extreme heat this day, the track developed a sun kink and these auto racks went sideways in the cut. Air temp was about 120, so the surface temp was probably quite a bit higher. June 27, 1993. No one was hurt...the units and first few cars did not derail.
sp_shmt_4.jpg (246972 bytes) This westbound train at Shawmut has a varied consist. Sept. 26, 1993.
sp_irene.jpg (221014 bytes) Here is a westbound train late in the afternoon near Irene (east of Tucson) with the eastbound (No. 2) track below. April 16, 1994.
sp_bensen.jpg (296967 bytes) Just west of Benson is a really good area to photograph, as shown here by this westbound just starting up the hill into Mescal. This area is now double-tracked, with the new track about where the service road is in this picture. April 16, 1994.
up_irene.jpg (260127 bytes) A couple of weeks later the ocotillo plants are in full bloom as this westbound Union Pacific train (auto parts to Mexico) train crosses on the high bridge east of Tucson at Irene. April 30, 1994.
sp_9678.jpg (259542 bytes) One of the best features of the No. 2 track east of Tucson between Vail and Mescal was the group of lower quadrant (*real*) semaphores! On April 30, 1994 this eastbound is just passing a double set of blades at Cienega Creek, powered by solar cells...quite an odd contrast between the old and new.
sp_ge.jpg (258638 bytes) At Shawmut on May 29, 1994 is this set of brand new C44-9W's, headed westbound.
sp_8079.jpg (211790 bytes) On a hot Aug. 20, 1994 morning this eastbound train is just leaving Red Rock after meeting a westbound. Picacho Peak is in the background, and it is the remains of an extinct volcano.
sp_9808.jpg (230165 bytes) A rare sight in Arizona is this SD70M, headed west at Shawmut on Nov. 1, 1994. Most of the time these units were assigned to the I-5 corridor in California.
sp_blades.jpg (251419 bytes) Nov. 5, 1994 finds this eastbound train passing a set of slightly leaning blades east of Tucson on the No. 2 track. All of the semaphores are now gone, victims of the double-tracking project.
sp_mescal.jpg (231992 bytes) Another victim of time is this coaling tower at Mescal. It was torn down in March of 1998. Shown here on Nov. 5, 1994 with an eastbound train just starting down the hill towards Benson.
sp_benson.jpg (272486 bytes) The same train as shown above is almost to Benson...again, this is now double-tracked, with the new track to the left (south) of this track. Nov. 5, 1994.
sp_benson_1.jpg (260345 bytes) Another eastbound at the same spot as above, but on the other side of the tracks with the afternoon sun. Nov. 5, 1994.
sp_biz_st.jpg (207300 bytes) On Nov. 10, 1994 the SP ran this special business train east towards Tucson. Here it is just east of Shawmut.
sp_dragoon1.jpg (160697 bytes) On Nov. 27, 1994 I got this eastbound late in the afternoon at Dragoon, AZ., which is a few miles east of Benson.
sp_dragoon.jpg (187740 bytes) The same train in the photo above is meeting this westbound at Dragoon's overhead signal bridge, somewhat of a rarity on the SP. Nov. 27, 1994.
sp_blade1.jpg (223979 bytes) It used to be that the area just to the east of Tucson was well known for its semaphore signals of which there used to be 10 of them on the No. 2 track through the Cienega Wash area. Here an early morning eastbound is passing a solar powered set of blades on Dec. 17, 1994.
sp_blade.jpg (215102 bytes) We then beat the train to this set of blades a few miles further east. These blades would all be gone within a year, having fallen in Nov. of 1995. This shot was taken on Dec. 17, 1994.
sp_coaltower.jpg (176350 bytes)

Here is an afternoon westbound just a few feet from the summit of the grade between Benson and Mescal. The old coaling tower is no longer there, having been torn down in March of 1998. This photo was taken on March 25, 1995 at Mescal.

dixie_blades.jpg (168170 bytes) Sometimes it does pay to get up really early to get a certain photo! On this day I got up a couple of hours before sunrise to be able to get here just at sunrise. Here the sun is splitting a set of semaphores at Dixie, AZ., just to the west of the Phoenix area. April 1, 1995.
sp_8700.jpg (151144 bytes) This unit is at Magma Jct. on a warm summer evening of June 12, 1995, with the full moon above the engine. The exposure was made with 2 No. 25B flashbulbs on Kodachrome 64 film at f 5.6. Flashbulb lighting by John Sharp.
sp_estrella.jpg (245578 bytes)

This late afternoon westbound has just left Estrella and is headed downgrade towards Gila Bend. The low light of the afternoon really lights up the forest of cacti! It was well over 100 degrees on this June 18, 1995, but this is the only time of the year that the sun is far enough to the north to make this photo possible.

sp_redrock.jpg (203239 bytes) Here is an early morning eastbound passing the old water tank at Red Rock, AZ on Oct. 28, 1995. You can see the remnants of an old volcano (Picacho) in the background.
Never did I think I'd ever see another Algoma Central lokie, especially out here in the deserts of Arizona, but here on January 14, 1996 was this westbound at Shawmut with 2 Wisconsin Central SD45's, as well as a SP SD40.
The original paint on the engine (ex ACR 187) is well worn, but not all that bad considering it is 23 years old when this shot was taken.
The 187 likely never traveled as fast as it is here...speed limit here is 70 mph, and the highest on the ACR was 40 or 45 for the SD's.
And of course I had to chase the train west, and lucky for me there was a signal problem at Gila Bend, so I had a chance to get ahead of the train and take more photos! This run was quite a change for the 187, from bouncing along on 90 lb jointed rail at 30 mph or less in the frozen wasteland of Northern Ontario, to the high speed Sunset Line across the deserts with 136 lb rail and 70 mph running.
sp9794_1.jpg (208500 bytes)

Here is a mid afternoon westbound at Shawmut, Arizona on Aug 29, 1999. Certainly a varied consist!

sp9794_2.jpg (199710 bytes)

This is one of the few SP GP60's with the white numberboards. Aug. 29, 1999 at Shawmut, AZ.

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