Union Pacific (Ex SP) West Phoenix Line

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Union Pacific (Ex SP) West Phoenix Line
Posted by Fred M Cain on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 1:27 PM

I was wondering if anyone has any information or news on the fate of the former SP's West Phoenix Line (Phoenix-Welton Jct).  Over the years there has been speculation that the UP would eventually revive the line.  That speculation is not completely unwarranted since the UP has never moved to dismantle the line.

 

I tried "Googling" for information on this and the last things I could find on the subject were at least 5 years old.  Can anybody give us an update?

 

Regards,

Fred M. Cain,

Topeka, IN

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Posted by mudchicken on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 6:40 PM

It remains mothballed. Discontinuance of Service in its present form started 12-23-2002 (AB33-178x)

It sits. Nothing new has been filed with STB since and nothing new can happen until STB approves.

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
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Posted by K. P. Harrier on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 11:14 PM

Fred M. Cain (9-12):

Hi, Fred!

It’s been a few years since we have post contacted each other.

In reference to your inquiry, I think it is safe to say Union Pacific, and the other railroads, are very preoccupied with meeting the Positive Train Control (PTC) installation deadline, which looms in less than a year and a third!

UP seems (“seems”) to be doing quite well in this, and most likely will complete the PTC installations before the deadline.  Even so, thorny problems have arisen, like at Tehachapi Loop in California.  UP actually had to suspend the newly activated PTC for the loop until the problem was resolved, though for the rest of the Pass PTC worked fine.

The mothballed western portion of the Phoenix Line, if compared to other UP mothballed lines, probably won’t see through trains again for twenty years, if ever.  And, my gut is Amtrak would not want the extra whopping expense of taking the long way around, through Phoenix.  So, the cards are stacked against the Phoenix Line being a through route again.

It should be noted also that Intermodal has been reported as stagnate for years.  So, the glorious, wondrous future increase of traffic may only be a pipedream.  In that light, the Phoenix Line being used again for heavy, slow trains to keep the hotshot short route via Maricopa fluid just won’t happen.

There ARE, however, unconfirmed reports that signal upgrades (i.e., targets to color lights) are now taking place on the Sunset Route in Arizona in conjunction with PTC activations.  The old signals on the Phoenix Line west of Phoenix were upgraded in the last few years, though that particular territory likely is exempt from PTC.

Take care,

K.P.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 7:54 AM

K.P.,

Thanks for your response!  I have to say that it has never made good sense to me that the You Pee (and the SP before it) would be content with sending traffic from Phoenix to points west (and northwest) around two sides of an isosceles triangle (Phoenix-Picacho-Gila-Welton) to go west. It almost makes me wonder if the UP hasn't just given up on the market in that corridor and let the truckers have it.

I realize that the Phoenix-L.A. corridor is just a bit short for intermodal or other rail movements but it seems like there could potentially be a lot of traffic in the Pacific Northwest-Phoenix corridor.

Years ago, after the UP took over the SP, I wrote a letter to UP's corporate headquarters and encouraged them to keep the west Phoenix line for the following reasons:

First, this would make a great case for "paired" trackage with the Gila line generally running in one direction and the Phoenix line in the other.

Second, it would be a great higher speed intermodal route from Phoenix to points west/northwest.

Third, it could someday be developed into a passenger route if the states and/or the federal government would help support that.

 

And finally, if the tracks are ripped out, it would be at the least astronomically expensive if not downright impossible to ever restore the line.

I got a nice response back.  On my first point, they told me that they were leary about running a lot of mainline traffic through downtown Phoenix.  Not sure why.  That gets done in just about every other American city.  Probably they don't want to get a black eye in public relations from "NIMBYs" in the Phoenix area.

 

On the direct route proposal, they seemed to be content to go the long way 'round through Picacho.  He did tell me that there is potential for a higher speed passenger route but that no one at the state or federal level is providing assistance for that and no assistance is on the horizon.

Finally, on my last point he told me that that makes good sense and because of that they have "no plans" to dismantle the line in the foreseeable future.

 

So, I guess for now the line will just stay out there and rust.  I think I heard somewhere that during the "great recession" the UP used much of the line to store equipment on.  Also, they did some trackwork from Phoenix to as far west as Arlington.  So, there is still some life there.

You mentioned old signals getting upgraded west of Phoenix.  Did you actually mean EAST of Phoenix?  Good to know that the line is still signaled.  I should try writing to the UP again and see if anything has changed.  I sent them an e-mail on the subject about a year ago.  They did not respond.

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

 

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Posted by diningcar on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 9:58 AM

Regardingthe signal system west of Phoenix I believe you will find that all of the copper wiring and other saleable items have been stolen and sold, perhaps even some track materials. It will take a complete rehab, including the subgrade, to reestablish service on this line.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 10:38 AM

I'm with you on the signal system although I don't know how much of it was "stolen".  I'd be inclined to suspect that the UP (possibly even the SP before it) had it salvaged.  As to track materials, do we know that for sure or are we speculating there just a bit?  I am at a loss to go out and look 'cause I no longer live in Arizona.

 

However, I DID find this:  https://www.up.com/media/releases/0121_socen_az_speed.htm So, we know that the UP has invested rather heavily into Phoenix although this is all EAST of Arlington.  But isn't Arlington nearly half way between Picacho and Welton?  That gets me back to the logic of sending traffic over such a circuitous routing.  Seems like at some point they might want to consider opening the rest of it.

 

For what it's worth, I sent the UP another e-mail.  We'll wait and see if they respond this time.

I was living in the Phoenix area in the 1960s and '70s.  The old SP used to run "Beet trains" from somewhere in California to a sugar factory on the Chandler branch.  They used the west Phoenix line.

I rode over the Phoenix line on Amtrak in the late 1980s a couple of times.  At that time there were still some lower quadrant semaphores between Arlington and Welton but, of course, those are long gone.   Believe me, it was a rather bumpy ride!

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

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Posted by diningcar on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 11:03 AM

ARLINGTON IS 6-10 MILES WEST OF BUCKEYE. THERE HAS BEEN SOME INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPEMENT IN THAT VICINITY.

THE BNSF LINE FROM WICKENBURG TO PEORIA IS SHOWING GROWTH AND BNSF BUILT A NEW (SECURE) AUTO UNLOADING SITE JUST WEST OF THE AGUA FRIA RIVER THAT HAS CAPTURED THAT BUSINESS FOR THE PHOENIX MARKET. 

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 11:44 AM

Well, will wonders never cease?  This guy at the UP got back to me right away this time.  He is the director of ports and also oversees public relations for the State of Arizona.

He told me that while portions of the Phoenix line are currently out of service, their current intent is to keep the line for future transportation and development needs.

So, the likelyhood is that the UP does, in fact, have a plan for the future of the line but that information has yet to be released to the public.  After all, the UP is a private, for-profit corporation so that is their right to do so.

The West Phoenix line may come back as important line in the future - or not.  We will just have to wait and see.  In the meantime it continues to sleep in the Arizona desert - and gather rust.

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

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Posted by K. P. Harrier on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 12:26 PM

Fred M. Cain (9-13):

Let me tell you a very, very true story.  It was around 1986, and I was by a version of Southern Pacific’s CP SP538 in Colton, CA.  A hot eastbound on Main 1 was stabbed by a malfunctioning control point, so a crewmember disembarked and manually threw the switches to crossover, and the flagged train continued east on Main 2.  It only had two engines, and probably a quarter of a mile of intermodal cars.  I presumed it was the new, hot train from Los Angeles all the way to Phoenix with just one crew!  If it was, obviously it went over the western Phoenix Line you spoke of, Fred.

What is the point in this?  Because the new, hot train didn’t last very long, even with the blessing of labor with the use of only one crew, there is NO money to be made Los Angeles to Phoenix, even if you throw in the skimpy Pacific Northwest traffic as well!  That IS the hard reality!  For good reason, then, the savvy (“savvy”) Union Pacific mothballed the western part of the line.

As far a commuter trains on the western part of the Phoenix Line, I checked my crystal ball, and in 2417 A.D. the Phoenix city limits include Yuma and the Colorado River, and the western Phoenix Line is two-tracks and commuter trains run every ten minutes, and skyscrapers abound everywhere!  The vision was spectacular!  Now, if you believe that hogwash, maybe you and I can search for fountain of youth pills, and then we could wait together for the year 2417 …

On this one, I will trust UP’s judgment on the mothballed western Phoenix Line, and you should too, unless you happen to have some fountain of youth pills!  In this case I would love to take you (and your wife if you have one) out dinner and you can tell me where I can purchase a supply of the fountain of youth pills …

As far as the signal upgrading, what I said – WEST – was correct.  I have not checked out east of Phoenix, but more than likely that part of the Phoenix Line was signal-upgraded too.

Have a great day, Fred, after you stop spinning from reading this reply post,

K.P.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 12:34 PM

K.P.,

So, you're telling me that there are actually active and possibly "upgraded" signals on the West Phoenix line west of Phoenix then?  Now, if that's true that's a REAL puzzle!  Surely there isn't more than a single daily local turn that ventures from Phoenix out to Buckeye and occassionaly all the way to Arlington.  I can't understand how that would warrant an automatic block system.

No, if what you're saying is accurate, there is definitely something going on here that we don't know about.  I know that the state has tossed the idea around of Buckeye-Phoenix commuter rail but I thought that was still a long way off.

I don't really know what to speculate here but, like I say, it's a puzzle.

Regards,

Fred M.Cain

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Posted by K. P. Harrier on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 2:01 PM

Fred M. Cain (9-13A):

Yes, Fred, there actually are NEW Automatic Block Signals on the west side of Phoenix, west past Buckeye way out there!

But, one should not read into that what is not there.

The new signals are just to replace the old signals that probably lack parts, etc., because of their age.  70 years ago a number of SP passenger trains rode over this Phoenix Line, which had ABS and short sidings as today.

Now, UP owns the line, but why wouldn’t they just remove the signals altogether?  Simply put, there is a long and expensive process to get GOVERNMENT permission to make a line dark or signal-less.

I recently visited Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority’s old Santa Fe “Second District” in the Glendora area.  If you visited that old Santa Fe Super Chief route you would marvel at the ABS signals still in place for a local a day!  Again, it is an expensive proposition to make a line dark.

So, please don’t read too much in the new signals on the Phoenix Line.  They are just a continuation of the old days, and the railroad probably sees it as more expensive to eliminate the signals than just upgrading the old ones.  An odd quirk in railroading!

K.P.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 2:17 PM

K.P.,

Hey, thanks for the picture!  Nice shot !

I'm not so sure if this is a "quirk of railroading" or government over-regulation.

Yes, I read an article on the former Pasadena sub block signals and was amazed.  Crazy!

However, it's very, very hard for me to not read something into the signals.  There are three facts here that seem to point to something in the future.  First, the fact that the Union Pacific has not moved aggressively to salvage the line.  And in a state where they're probably paying property taxes on it at that.

Second, there is the response that I got back from that gentleman that I shared with you today.  And now, these singals.

I have a half a notion to ask the guy about the signals too but I hate to make a nuisance out of myself.  I'm sure he's busy and has better things to do than to get questions from an old SP fan.

I hope Fred Frailey takes notice of this thread.  I think he was always an SP fan, too.

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

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Posted by Falcon48 on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 3:17 PM

It's been nearly 10 years since I retired from UP, so my views may not represent current UP strategy.  But my experience is that, ever since the UP service crises of the late 90's and early 2000's, UP has been VERY reluctant to permanently give up lines that could potentially represent additional capacity, even though there doesn't appear to be any near term need for them.  UP's current CEO - Lance Fritz - alluded to this policy in a recent talk at Northwestern University

The best example of this policy is the Tennesee Pass line in Colorado, most of which hasn't been used since 1998, but is still in place.  Of course, it would have to be completely rebuilt before it could be used again, but this could be done without any NIMBY opposition because  wouldn't require any affirmative regulatory approval (since it has never been "abandoned"). 

The Phoenix-West line is another example of this. It has never been fully abandoned, which was deliberate and not an oversight.  Some years ago (off the top of my head, I don't remember exactly when), UP obtained FRA approval to discontinue the signal system on this line, to permit it to be reopened without restoring the signals.  It never happened, but that doesn't mean it won't someday in the future,  Obviously, UP is keeping this as an option.

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 4:21 PM

Falcon48
The best example of this policy is the Tennessee Pass line in Colorado, most of which hasn't been used since 1998, but is still in place.  Of course, it would have to be completely rebuilt before it could be used again, but this could be done without any NIMBY opposition because  wouldn't require any afirmative regulatory approval (since it has never been "abandoned").  The Phoenix-West line is another example of this. It has never been fully abandoned, which was deliberate and not an oversight.  Some years ago (off the top of my head, I don't remember exactly when), UP obtained FRA approval to discontinue the signal system on this line, to permit it to be reopened without restoring the signals.

Would I be correct in believing that they did the same with the signal system on the Tennessee Pass line

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 9:34 PM

I remember in an earlier thread on this line, that UP did not favor it as a thru line because of a number of tight 90 degree turns in the Pheonix area.

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Posted by Falcon48 on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 10:35 PM

Electroliner 1935
 
Falcon48
The best example of this policy is the Tennessee Pass line in Colorado, most of which hasn't been used since 1998, but is still in place.  Of course, it would have to be completely rebuilt before it could be used again, but this could be done without any NIMBY opposition because  wouldn't require any afirmative regulatory approval (since it has never been "abandoned").  The Phoenix-West line is another example of this. It has never been fully abandoned, which was deliberate and not an oversight.  Some years ago (off the top of my head, I don't remember exactly when), UP obtained FRA approval to discontinue the signal system on this line, to permit it to be reopened without restoring the signals.

 

Would I be correct in believing that they did the same with the signal system on the Tennessee Pass line

 

This is strictly from memory which (given my declining years) could be wrong. But my recollection is that UP did get signal removal authority on the segment of the Tennessee Pass line from Gypsum to Minturn because they intended to make limited use of this segment (I'm not sure whether they ever did). 

I'm not aware that UP ever got signal discontinuance authority between Minturn and Parkdale. But they didn't need it if they had no immediate plans to operate trains over this segment (to my knowledge, this segment has seen no train service since 1998). 

Between Parkdale and Canon City (the segment owned by RGX and used by the Canon City & Royal Gorge tourist road), UP and RGX got FRA authority to discontinue CTC and go to ABS in connection with transfer of dispatching responsibility from UP to RGX.  

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Thursday, September 14, 2017 6:27 AM

Falcon48
 

The Phoenix-West line is another example of this. It has never been fully abandoned, which was deliberate and not an oversight.  Some years ago (off the top of my head, I don't remember exactly when), UP obtained FRA approval to discontinue the signal system on this line, to permit it to be reopened without restoring the signals.  It never happened, but that doesn't mean it won't someday in the future,  Obviously, UP is keeping this as an option.

 

Falcon,

So, they did, in fact, receive permission to remove the ABSS on the West Phoenix line, then.  However, as was posted yesterday by "K.P." we actually have some evidence that they have replaced some of the signals with new, UP style "Darth Vador" type.  I find this most curious.

This brings me to another question.  I wonder how far west on the West Phoenix line the new signals go.  Have they installed any west of Arlington or are they only east of Arlington?

I know that the huge nuclear power facility has an access at Arlington so could it be this is for some kind of security even though the traffic levels clearly do not warrant signals?

This brings me to somewhat of an irony.  I was told years ago that the UP is reluctant to run long road freights through Phoenix.  Well, when the need arises to haul nuclear waste from the nuclear plant to the on again-off again-on again Yucca waste site in Nevada, the logical route would be Arlington-Colton-Barstow then over the SL&U route to the the waste site access line.

With the west Phoenix line out of service, they would have to haul this dangerous hazmat right smack dab through Phoenix!

I am familiar with the so called 90 degree curves that were mentioned.  There is one on the immediate east side of where the old SP Mesa depot once stood and one about a mile timetable east of the Salt River bridge in Tempe.

Back in the day, I saw SP run some HUGE road freights over the line (The one daily Phoenix-Tucson road freight could sometimes approach 150 cars!) and there never was a "stringlining" incident that I'm aware of.

But to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever tried to run a two-mile long stack train over the line - or have they?

After the old SP took the line out of service in the '90s, I know that it was used at LEAST once for through freight following a bad derailment on the Gila sub.  That might still be happening either during a derailment or simply when the Gila line experiences heavy track work.  Does anybody know?  If that were the case that might also explain the signals.

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

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Posted by Falcon48 on Thursday, September 14, 2017 2:53 PM

Well, again, I don't have access to any files, so I'm only speaking (writing) based on my recollectioins, which may not be entirely accurate given the passage of time and my advancing years.  But I believe that the Phoenix-West line is in service some distance beyond Phoenix proper.  The signal removal authority only covered the out of service segment (that UP, at the time, was thinking of restoring to service).   

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Posted by Falcon48 on Thursday, September 14, 2017 3:06 PM

I found a copy of the FRA notice covering te Phoenix-West signal discontinuance on the "regulations.gov" website.  The docket number is FRA 2004-18894.  The limits of the signal discontinuance are Wellton AZ (MP 770.8) to Arlington AZ (MP 861.3). 

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Friday, September 15, 2017 6:06 AM

Falcon,

Thanks for your help in helping me solve this little mystery.  I suspect that the UP still intends to restore service on the Welton-Arlington segment at some point sans signals but it's just that they have bigger priorities right now that will need to be addressed first.  I base that assumption on the response I got back from the P.R. rep in Southern California who oversees P.R. for Arizona.

We'll just have to wait and see.

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

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Posted by diningcar on Friday, September 15, 2017 8:05 AM

THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED MAY GET GOOGLE MAPS SATELITE AND VIEW WHAT TRACKAGE APPEARS TO BE IN SERVICE TO THE POWER PLANT AND JUST BEYOND.

THIS APPEARS TO END ABOUT 3/4 MILE WEST FROM S 355TH AVE.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Friday, September 15, 2017 10:00 AM

 

D.C.,

 

Thanks for that.  It’d be neat if we could get more info on the line and find out exactly *WHAT* (if any) UP’s intentions are.  When I was Googling for it, I stumbled across something about a new grain facility in the Buckeye area but now I can’t find it anymore.  If that is true, it could possibly point to a traffic increase.  Also, the UP supposedly has a COFC facility known as a “paper ramp” out on the west side of Phoenix.  One has to wonder how much longer they will be content to send that traffic around a circuitous route through Picacho and Gila.  If, that is, they even decide to keep it.  I was under the impression that new, huge intermodal facilities are in the works in both Tucson and  the Picacho areas.  So, they might decide to close Phoenix and rubber the stuff from one of those facilities.

I can also relate some additional trivia about the Phoenix line that some of you already know and others might not.

 

At one time, the Phoenix sub proceeded geographically due south from Mesa, through Chandler then turned southeast about 5 or ten miles south of Chandler running across the Indian reservation through a place called Olberg.  A few miles east of Olberg it rejoined what today is its current alignment on the north side of the Gila River bridge.

 

When I was a very small boy we drove to Phoenix one day.  This old portion of the Phoenix sub ran right along Arizona 87 for several miles.  I can distinctly remember seeing automatic block signals along there. (Lower quadrant semaphore types).

 

In the early 1960s the SPT Company built a new line from the north side of the Gila bridge geographically northward up to Magma on the Hayden branch. This was probably one of the last pieces of major railroad construction in Arizona.  The Magma-Mesa segment of the old Hayden branch was then upgraded with an automatic block signal system and welded rail.

 

The old line became a stub end branch that ended at a place that the SP called “Dock” about 15 miles or so southeast of Chandler.  From Dock through Olberg to the connection with the new line the track was dismantled.

 

As I mentioned once before, there was a huge sugar plant south of Chandler that would receive unit load trains of sugar beets that came in from California (I’m not sure from where).  I saw the beet trains roll through Tempe a few times in wooden cars with friction bearings. 

 

From the sugar plant on down to Dock the line was used on an “as needed” basis. Not sure what was at Dock to support the line but sometimes I’d see that the rail heads were shiny so they did go down there.  That was in the mid to late 1970s.

 

It’s been many years since I’ve been to Arizona so I don’t know what this looks like today.  I suspect it’s all been abandoned since then.

 


Regards,

Fred M. Cain

P.S.  NOPE ! Take it back!  Just checked the Google satelite for the area and the tracks still go to "Dock".  There is a long run-around siding there and just west of the siding there is a spur that goes into what looks like an LP Gas facility. I wasn't sure but I thought I saw a tank car spotted on the spur.

-FMC

 

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Posted by K. P. Harrier on Monday, September 18, 2017 8:33 AM

Fred M. Cain (9-14 in reference to Falcon48):

Your question about the new style color light signals and where west they stopped being installed on the Phoenix Line (west out of Phoenix), it was in that Arlington area.  Even though it appears a go-thru train could use it now, it seems UP didn’t erect any signals west of Arlington, i.e., a westbound red signal protects the new dark track to the west, and a green (if on) governs trains (if any) coming east out of the new dark area to the west.  The timetable, I believe, STILL shows ABS signals west of even the Hyder siding, but I believe those signals aren’t really there.

The whole western Phoenix Line seems to be intact, and theoretically, could be used if necessary.  The timetable specifically indicates, though, that an “out of service” track movement must be under the authority of, NOT the dispatcher, but maintenance-of-way and the track must be inspected first.  At least that was the way it was in the past.

As was said in a previous post, the signals are present because they are mandated by the government.  West of Arlington and the power plant, there are NO industries, so no train should be out there.  Then there is the actual out of service track way out there.  Finally, on the far west end, in the Roll area before the line rejoins the Sunset Route in the Wellton area, that track IS in service.  For your information, Fred, I was actually on site by that track near Roll (6th Street) yesterday, Sunday, September 17, 2017, and the signals ARE still in place and in service!  However, there was an incredible surprise about those in service signals!  I plan on conveying the situation and photos soon in the “Sunset Route Two-Tracking Updates” thread (within a few weeks).

It is very, very unlikely that a “through” freight or freights would use the Phoenix Line and traverse over the out of service section.  Such may occur if a train was so hot that if the train didn’t get though on the Sunset Route millions of dollars would be at risk, but such trains are exceptionally rare.  Most shipping customers just live with the possibility something unfortunate may happen and that their shipments might thus be delayed day or two.

As far as the sharp 90 degree curves on the east side of Phoenix, seeing them is a bit misleading.  If you airplane-flew over a train on one of those curves, the curve would appear to the eyes much more swooping than it looks on the ground.  Those curves definitely are NOT like HO 18-inch radius curved track sections!  The biggest threat is an engineer mishandling the engine’s controls.  At another location NOT on the Sunset Route, I once years ago came upon a similar but two-track curve with a bunch of auto-racks pulled off unto their sides.  Obviously the engineer gunned it and the laws of physics exposed his foolishness!  Normally, though, such curves – like on the east side of Phoenix -- consistently are trouble-free train handling-wise.

Take care,

K.P.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Monday, September 18, 2017 9:21 AM

K. P. Harrier

Fred M. Cain (9-14 in reference to Falcon48):

For your information, Fred, I was actually on site by that track near Roll (6th Street) yesterday, Sunday, September 17, 2017, and the signals ARE still in place and in service!  However, there was an incredible surprise about those in service signals!  I plan on conveying the situation and photos soon in the “Sunset Route Two-Tracking Updates” thread (within a few weeks).

K.P.,

Oh NO ! ! !  Don't tell me!  Not semaphores!  Surely not.  Semaphores are powered by lead-acid batteries that have to be periodically recharged or they go "haywire".

Semaphores were STILL in service between Arlington and Roll in 1989 when I rode over the line on Amtrak for the last time although they had been respaced with some of them several miles apart.  The rest of the semaphores on the Phoenix sub were all removed by 1976. 

But hey!  Thanks for all your help, information and photos!

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Monday, September 18, 2017 2:12 PM

 

For whatever it may be worth, I thought I’d share some of my own personal memories of rails in the Phoenix area from my youth.

 

I was in high school in Scottsdale during the late 1960s and continued to live in the area up until 1980.  I did a lot of exploring in the area – some of it on my bicycle - and I can share some of my recollections to this page:

 

The first railroad to make it to Phoenix was the Maricopa & Phoenix RR which evidently opened in 1887.  A few years later, probably 1895 it was acquired by the Southern Pacific.  It was effectively only a branch line that connected with the Sunset Route at Maricopa and went north to Tempe and Phoenix.  Much of it was abandoned in the 1930s, I think, after the SP opened their new Picacho-Coolidge-Chandler-Mesa-Phoenix-Welton route.

 

Concerning the Maricopa & Arizona, I believe that the former SP West Chandler Branch was a cutback from the original M & P line.  Before the present day Arizona State Route 347 was built, the Maricopa Road was actually a two-lane county highway and I was always under the impression that the road was built on top of the abandoned M&P right-of-way.  I’m pretty certain of that but can’t prove it or say for sure.

 

In Tempe there were once not one but TWO rail bridges over the Salt River which can be seen in this very old photo:  http://cdn.loc.gov/service/pnp/habshaer/az/az0200/az0253/photos/009554pv.jpg

 

Concerning the two bridges over the Salt River, back in the late ‘60s and ‘70s I thought I could see where the abandoned bridge piers used to be for the other bridge.  It kinda looked to me like the spur that went into the Hayden Flour Mill was actually built on the roadbed that once led to the bridge approach.

 

I searched long and hard for evidence of this line and bridge on the north side of the Salt River but could never find any.  Evidently it had all been obliterated probably when the new U.S. 60 was built through there.

 

However, the rails were still in place heading east from the Flour Mill and continued east crossing over Scottsdale/Rural Road.  At one time there was actually a switch in the vicinity of Rural Road with a spur that led a mile east to a cement plant while the other line headed in a southeasterly direction and back to the SP’s Phoenix line at a location called “Normal Junction”.  That line was long since gone by the late ‘60s and a public street (Terrace) had been built over part of it.  At the end of that street you could still see a short section of abandoned right of way between Apache Blvd (U.S. 60) and Normal Junction.  Also, on Spence Ave., which was only a sleepy, little-used residential street at the time, there were still rails imbedded in the asphalt where a grade crossing had once been.

 

However, the spur heading to the cement plant (which was located on the west side of McClintock Road), was still in service in the late ‘60s and on throughout most of the 1970s.  It looked to me like they received covered hopper loads of cement once or twice a week that came off the AT&SF since the cars always seemed to have Santa Fe reporting marks.

 

About a quarter mile west of the cement plant was another rusty spur which came off the cement spur and headed north, crossed University Blvd and went into the Arizona Public Service (APS) power plant.  It saw highly infrequent use until the early to mid-1970s when there was a natural gas shortage.  APS began receiving unit train loads of heavy bunker fuel oil.  That was quite a sight to see a local switcher head up the steep grade east of Mill Ave and on to the plant over those old, spindly rails with all those 100-ton tank cars!  This lasted for several years on a sporadic basis until that ended.

 

I once saw an old map of the Salt River Valley and it clearly showed TWO rail lines between Tempe and Mesa.  They converged at Normal Junction and then diverged again with the line to the north running parallel to the SP’s Phoenix line about a half mile or so to the north and on out to Mesa.  Any evidence of that northerly parallel line was long, long gone by 1967. I assumed that the right of way was obliterated when U.S. 60 (Apache) was widened.

 

In Mesa there was a short spur that ran east from the Mesa SP depot then headed north.  It crossed Apache and went up to some kind of a facility – could’ve been another mill, I’m not sure. It was abandoned by 1967 but the track was still there.  I surmised that this was also part of that parallel line (which was, in all likelihood the western end of that AT&SF branch line to Hayden which was rendered surplus after the SP bought it and built their new line from Mesa to Phoenix).

 

Most of this stuff I’m relating is all gone today.  Part of the line to the cement plant was used to build the new light rail line with.  Also, the U.S. 60 designation was relocated onto the new Superstition Freeway so even that is no longer in the immediate vicinity.

 

 An additional Phoenix memory I’d like to share is that up until 1976, the entire Phoenix sub from one mile timetable east of Mesa all the way west to Welton was protected almost entirely by classic SP lower-quadrant semaphores.  They were nearly all one mile apart so there was a LOT of them!  In 1976 the SPT Co replaced and respaced them with new tricolor lights.  Remember that back in the old passenger train days, the SP would frequently run trains in multiple sections therefore the need for the close block signal spacing.  During times of peak travel this was still done on rare occasions as late as 1966.

 

One final memory although it is non-rail.  Up until the around 1970, what had once been the M&P right of way had a magnificent, multi-arm, open-wire telephone line running alongside it.  It ran right along the Maricopa Road (what was presumably once the M&P ROW) to West Chandler where it followed the WC branch to the junction with the Phoenix sub on the south side of Tempe.  I don’t believe it was a railroad telegraph line but most likely an AT&T long line. I was saddened to see it wrecked out and junked.  L

 

-Fred M.  Cain

 

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
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Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, September 18, 2017 9:23 PM

FWIW, BNSF has a position open for a new Business Development Manager for Phoenix.     As for myself I think it rather sad a city that size is only served by two branch lines and neither railroad really seems to care all that much.

  • Member since
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  • 50 posts
Posted by Fred M Cain on Tuesday, September 19, 2017 7:08 AM

CMStPnP

FWIW, BNSF has a position open for a new Business Development Manager for Phoenix.     As for myself I think it rather sad a city that size is only served by two branch lines and neither railroad really seems to care all that much.

 

 
I agree.  It IS a sad state of affairs.  Some of this has to do with the way that the railroads do business nowadays.  Nearly all the high-dollar freight is moving in containers transported by double stacks and the railroads just go for the long-haul.
 
So, if they can transport containerized freight from Chicago or Seattle to some kind of an "inland port" say, in the Picacho or Tucson area, they can just "rubber" the freight the last 50-150 miles or so.
 
I have a real problem with this strategy 'cause it puts too many big trucks on the roads near big intermodal terminals.  The solution in my honest, humble opinion is to bring back loose car, boxcar freight.  Trouble is, we have to first find a way to make that profitable again.  I believe with the right work rule concessions AND the application of new technologies, such IS possible.   But I don't know if it will ever happen.   If it ever does, the Salt River Valley would be  a good place to have boxcar traffic come back.
 
Regards,
Fred M. Cain
  • Member since
    July, 2008
  • From: Marietta, GA
  • 809 posts
Posted by rdamon on Tuesday, September 19, 2017 7:25 AM

There is a yard in Suprise off the BNSF for Auto unloading.

 

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Northern New York
  • 17,167 posts
Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, September 19, 2017 8:10 AM

rdamon
There is a yard in Suprise off the BNSF for Auto unloading.

Interesting.  In the current satellite image, there's a loco in what appears to be ATSF paint "buried" at the southeast end of the unloading leads...

Also interesting is that virtually all of the vehicles in the lots appear to be either white, silver, black, or red, with an occasional blue thrown in.

LarryWhistling
Resident Microferroequinologist (at least at my house) 
Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
My Opinion. Standard Disclaimers Apply. No Expiration Date
Come ride the rails with me!
There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

  • Member since
    July, 2008
  • From: Marietta, GA
  • 809 posts
Posted by rdamon on Tuesday, September 19, 2017 8:49 AM

I was just there a few weeks ago and saw a Black and Orange chopped nose GP7/9 working the yard ..  Was going by at highway speed so I did not get a picture  :)

 

But google got one ... Looks like they have three units there

 

 

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