What's Your Favorite Out Of The Way Railfanning Spot?

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Posted by SAMUEL C WALKER on Tuesday, February 26, 2019 2:25 PM


My favorite out-of-the-way is a bluff that over looks the east end of the PRR/NS Spruce Creek Tunnel.    You turn into a back road at Barrie, park at a trail entrance, then hike back on the trail for about half a mile.   I take a lawn chair along sometimes if I'm going to be there for more than an hour or so.   I also get to watch the creek, lots of birds, often see wild turkeys, even occasionally an otter.    Sometimes I take my latest Trains with me to read between trains.    You can hear the west bounds for some time before they come by you but the eastbounds usually only make noise for about a minute before they come out of the tunnel.  There's also plenty of shade to beat the heat in the summer.    The Fall is spectacular when the leaves are changing.


CHeck out the book Tomas Moran The Field Sketches, 1856-1923. From what you described the combination of Allegheny Mountain scenery combined with the Juniata River and the nearby confluence of Spruce Reek tells me you appreciate the whole of it. Thomas Moran was a famed landscape artist. He was a Philadelphia who roamed the Juniata and the Connemaugh River valleys sketching. This was in 1864. Hmany of his sketches will probably recobnized bby someone who has scrambled over and around the landscape in the vicinity of Spruce Creek, PA

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Posted by mbv9415 on Wednesday, February 27, 2019 9:55 PM

Growing up, loved the Emsworth Locks on the Ohio River. Conrail's PFW&C main line between Pittsburgh and Conway. From the observation deck i could watch the tugs and the trains. The tracks actually split here so you could stand on a road between them (and be safe and legal). The locks observation deck was up high enough to put you above the fences and at eye level with the engine crews. Post 9-11 they closed the observation deck.

Current favorite is Platte River SP near Louisville, NE on the BNSF Creston main. Line is single track here, following the bluffs. Have to hike through the woods to get here. Best spots on a sandbarso you can pan the trains along the river. Quiet area, but can here the trains blow at the road crossings in South Bend and Louisville, so you always have time to get ready. 

Peace through superior firepower
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Posted by PETER H ORMSON on Thursday, February 28, 2019 7:25 PM

if you want very cool, up close non-stop transcon action sit under the portal at the harvey house in belen nm.  you can also ride the railrunner down from abq.  the station is across the tracks.  the station has a micro brewery, too!

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Posted by plainviewpaul on Friday, March 1, 2019 8:49 PM
Vaughn, NM, where the BNSF Transcon and UP (former Golden State line) cross.
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Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, March 2, 2019 12:32 AM

So I actually had two during two parts of growing up.   First I had a good friend who via his backyard had the Milwaukee Road Southbound Twin Cities Mainline going through his backyard in Brookfield, WI.    An additional plus he also had the CTC Signal with ladder on the back.........which we climbed once or twice while trains sped by until a signal maintainer lectured us why that was not a good idea.   Lots of good times then.

Then my first ungodly hot night in Fort Benning, Georgia, nodding off to sleep, and wondering what the hell I got myself into and if I would make it to graduation...... then a slow rumble which got louder and louder followed by multi-chime air horns, running over to the narrow Sand Hill barracks window to catch a glimpse of three Southern Railway high nose hood units pulling a slow manifest freight.   Big smile on my face.   What were the chances of landing a barracks with a view of not only the railroad tracks but next to a post railroad crossing so I could hear the horns as well????!!!!.    Still have a facebook buddy that was with me that night whom was at another window, only other guy up looking out the window........ah, another railfan!   He lived along the Milwaukee Road as well in Washington State next to that hill where the Milwaukee F units were used as helpers.   We exchanged info throughout the Army Infantry training program on Milwaukee Road operations (heh-heh) when we could communicate.    He is an accomplished writer now.

Back in August 1982-Dec 1982 about 6 trains a day used that line, no idea where it went or where it originated just that it went by my barracks and into Columbus, GA.   Video clip of part of a siding of the line today with NS units delivering tanks for the new Manuever Center of Warfare (actually moved the tanks from Fort Knox, KY as now the Armor Center is at Ft. Benning).   Note the well groomed mainline to the right of the weed grown siding or rail yard in the video.


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Posted by CRIP 4376 on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 5:15 PM

My favorite spot is my own backyard.  We have 4 acres immediately adjacent to the BNSF Chicago to Denver main.  If I want to stay up for 24 hours, I can see thousands of coal hoppers a day without leaving the house.  Amtrak goes by in 7 seconds.  I am slowly cleaning out the junk trees and overhanging branches on my side of the fence.  There is a siding on the north track which provides the opportunity to take detail photos of cars when trains are parked there.  On the west end of the property, I am slightly above the track, in the middle I am even with the track and down by the creek I have to look up.  The creek can be scary.  One derailment and I am dead.  I spend no money on gas to get there, snacks are easily available and there is always a bathroom available.  This is where 5632 spent part of its final days, the Pioneer Zephyr flashed by on its maiden run and real Zephyrs went by several times a day.  The only thing that is the same today is the track gauge.

Ken Vandevoort

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Posted by BLS53 on Saturday, March 9, 2019 7:11 AM


Don't know if it qualifies as  little known, as most fans in the area are aware of it. But it's Gorham IL on the UP Chester Sub, where the UP's St. Louis and Chicago lines join to head south. A little village of a few hundred people. A small picnic area is adjacent to the tracks. On weekends, it may draw a dozen fans. During the week, I'm usually there alone. The main attraction is it's the only point in far southern Illinois, to see a reasonable amount of fast intermodals.

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Posted by Nortley on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 12:21 AM




Eastern Oregon’s Horseshoe


Another Railfanning Spot




            It may be more accurately called a railfanning strip.  UP crosses the Snake River into Oregon on a three span steel truss bridge, and immediately starts up the Burnt River canyon.  Soon the train rolls into Huntington, once a division point and still a vestigial railyard, and from Huntington the train will continue to climb the Burnt River to Durkee, where the Burnt River diverges and the tracks continue up Alder Creek, then up out of the Snake River valley and into the Powder River valley, through Baker City, Haines, and North Powder, where the train climbs out of the valley and passes into Pyles Canyon, which takes us into LaGrande.  The train has been climbing for most of the run, but now comes the climb which will get all that freight over to the easy running of the Columbia River valley.  That is, the Blue Mountains.  From 3025 feet at Hilgard to 3705 feet at Meacham  may not sound like much, but it is a steep twisty grind, and the seasons add to the challenge.  From the Snake River to Meacham is a train chasing run of about 120 road miles, and except for a few blocked views most of the track is visible, and usually not far from, public roads, highways, and freeway.  Outside of the towns, the scenery ranges from ranch to sagebrush to forest and mountains, and wherever the train may be, there is a fine backdrop.  Within this railfanning strip, I do have a favorite railfanning spot, and it is within 5 miles of a state highway in one of the few places where the track disappears from the highway for any distance.  It is the hill overlooking the horseshoe between Durkee and the site of Oxman.  To ease the climb west, OWR&N engineers laid a horseshoe up, then further up and out of a valley which branches off the route.  A westbound train disappears about 260 feet above where it first came into view, as it climbs out of the other side of the valley.  Save for some patches of trees and a couple of cuts, the entire approach, 180 degree curve, climb out, and exit stage left into the sagebrush is entirely visible.  The viewpoint is on public land and reached by public road.  Take old Oregon Highway 30 east from Baker City, in 30 miles or so you will be approaching Durkee.  North of (before) Durkee is a crossroads,  Take Hindman Road, to the left(east).  Follow this road, stopping at the grade crossing, to Iron Mountain Road.  Simply follow Iron Mountain Road for about 2 ½ miles until you see the Horseshoe down below.  Here you are.  You may also continue on Hindman road, which dead ends inside the horseshoe.  You’ll be at track level, and there is one crossing.  It should be mentioned that Iron Mountain Road is steep, narrow, rough, rocky, and subject to seasonal fun such as mud, ice, or dust.  There are no services, stores, or gas between Baker City and Huntington, so hit the road taking what ever you’ll want.  The climb up Iron Mountain road gives a great view of Iron Mountain and a glimpse of Oregon’s desert country.  It is an adventure, and a tiny bit of challenge, but pack a couple of friends and a cooler into an SUV and it’s a great place to spend a day watching trains.


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Posted by KEN G MARX on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 12:31 PM

I like any spot to watch trains and don't have a favorite remote except a spot where I want to have my ashes scattered near the cross over at Williams Loop.

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Posted by Cincy Guy on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 1:40 PM

Please tell our readers what STATE you are referring to.



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Posted by rmccallay on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 1:50 PM

Cincy Guy

Please tell our readers what STATE you are referring to.


To whom are you asking the question?  I think each post mentions the state, but perhaps I have missed one.



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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 6:12 PM

Williams Loop.is a specific location in California on the former Western Pacific RR, now Union Pacific. It is similar to Tehachapi CA where the tracks loop over themselves. You can find it on GOOGLE MAPS. 

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Posted by plainviewpaul on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 9:59 PM


Stratford, TX where the UP (former RI Golden State Route) crosses the BNSF Denver to Amarillo line. Not quite as busy now with diminished BNSF coal trains but still has all of the BNSF Denver to AZ and CA traffic that formerly went over Raton Pass. And of course the UP trains from KC to El Paso and west.

Stratford is about 80 miles north of Amarillo and has a population of 2000+- so there are good motels and restaurants. 



Another good Texas Panhandle spot is Dalhart.  UP Golden State line crosses BNSF Denver to Amarillo line that is the old FW&D route.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 7:29 AM

Based on what Dad told us when we were growing up, Dalhart is not just off the beaten path, it's the far side of nowhere.  It's where he was stationed for navigator training in early 1944 (San Marcos AAF).

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by BOB WITHORN on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 12:18 PM

West of Durand, Mi. a few miles where the CN begins the climb to Bancroft. Dbl. track old iron single lane bridge on a gravel road. No place to really park. Great view as they blast under west bound or coast under east bound.

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Posted by catpoppa on Saturday, May 4, 2019 9:44 AM

i always go there when i visit my son who lives about a quarter  of a mile away


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