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Arizona train watching sites

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Arizona train watching sites
Posted by nhtraveler on Friday, February 22, 2008 1:32 PM
Spending the month of March in Arizona and would like to know the best area for viewing trains.
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Posted by chad thomas on Friday, February 22, 2008 2:12 PM

 nhtraveler wrote:
Spending the month of March in Arizona and would like to know the best area for viewing trains.

It depends on what your into. I like high volume mainlines myself. Williams Jct. just east of the town of Williams has always been a favorite of mine. This is where the Peavine line to Pheonix splits away from the transcon. Be carefull there this time of year as cold temps and snow are common.

Further south on the Sunset I like Gilla Bend. Although there are many spots on both transcons.

 

Williams Jct.

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Posted by Beach Bill on Friday, February 22, 2008 2:53 PM

I visited Flagstaff for three days last October.  I stayed in Flagstaff, where there are plenty of motel choices on the old "Route 66" area near the passenger station.  The trains whistle the crossings even in the night and train frequency is usually about every 30 minutes on the BNSF Transcon.

I went west one day and started at Williams (Grand Canyon RR southern terminus is there), Williams Junction, and at the top of the grade at Maine.  I-40 runs parallel to the tracks on the north side of the RR as far as Williams, and heading south at most any exit will get you to the tracks quickly.  I liked the site at Maine, especially in the afternoon.  Westbounds into the afternoon sun were getting to the top of the grade with wonderful mountain scenery in the background.  There were signals visible that gave warning of eastbounds coming up behind me, but they "popped" over the hill without as nice a view as looking east.

The other day I went East on I-40 from Flagstaff to Darling.  The Interstate is south of the tracks in this area, and there is nice overpass over the tracks at Darling.  There is a branch to a gravel/cinder mine that joins there, so local traffic is possible.  Following that same road back to the west offers several photo sites before it crosses the tracks again as Cosnino.  There is a nice "S" curve at Cosnino, visible from just north of the crossing.

I also was able to catch the Apache Ry in Holbrook just before Noon (most of their line is not visible from any roadway).      North from Flagstaff and then NE through the Navajo Nation toward 4 Corners will take you to Black Mesa, where the electrified Black Mesa and Lake Powell runs parallel to the road for many miles.  I caught them at the coal loader at Black Mesa, with the former N de M motors pulling forward at walking speed and making for easy photography.

I didn't do anything foolish in my positioning while in the area.  Near Cosnino, I was just squaring up for a westbound when a Deputy pulled in behind my car - which was pulled safely well off the road and bearing South Carolina license plates.  He said "taking pictures?";  I said "yes, if I may", and he got back in his SUV without further contact.   It appeared that the folks there in the Flagstaff area were pretty used to railfans.

If in Flagstaff, there is a low drivered Southwest Lumber Mills 2-8-0 on display just east of the Flagstaff Amtrak station, and a Southwest Lumber Mills 2-6-6-2 (originally Hammond Lumber Co., Baldwin 1929) on display at the Fort Tuthill Fairgrounds about 1.5 miles north of that same station.  Several steam engines in various states of repair at the Grand Canyon RR terminal in Williams, including a Pacific Coast Shay sans some of the connecting rods.

I had a great time with the high-volume transcon traffic.  The scenery can vary in Arizona in just a few miles.  West of Flagstaff it is tall pines;  east of Flagstaff is high desert.  Enjoy.

Bill

With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost. William Lloyd Garrison
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Posted by Bruce Kelly on Friday, February 22, 2008 4:11 PM
If you're going to be in southern Arizona (usually very nice during March), UP's ex-SP Sunset Route between Gila Bend and Maricopa is one of my favorite places. A nice back highway follows the railroad the entire way; quiet and lightly-traveled, unlike the stretches of the Sunset Route along the interstate elsewhere in Arizona. Where this route crosses the Maricopa Mountains you have nice scenery and plenty of curves between the summit at Estrella and the next siding west at Shawmut. Eastbounds fight a 1% grade. East of Tucson, you have separated main lines (ex-SP, ex-EP&SW) with the famous Cienega Creek over/under shot, two horseshoe curves, and more of that nice desert scenery on the climb up to Mescal. East of Benson, take the Sibyl exit and when you reach the crossing, there's great shooting east or west of there.
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Posted by selector on Saturday, February 23, 2008 10:19 AM
Near Kingman and along Rt 66 toward Oatman should provide some great visuals.  Not a half-bad drive, neither.
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Posted by Railway Man on Saturday, February 23, 2008 11:58 AM

 Bruce Kelly wrote:
If you're going to be in southern Arizona (usually very nice during March), UP's ex-SP Sunset Route between Gila Bend and Maricopa is one of my favorite places. A nice back highway follows the railroad the entire way; quiet and lightly-traveled, unlike the stretches of the Sunset Route along the interstate elsewhere in Arizona. Where this route crosses the Maricopa Mountains you have nice scenery and plenty of curves between the summit at Estrella and the next siding west at Shawmut. Eastbounds fight a 1% grade. East of Tucson, you have separated main lines (ex-SP, ex-EP&SW) with the famous Cienega Creek over/under shot, two horseshoe curves, and more of that nice desert scenery on the climb up to Mescal. East of Benson, take the Sibyl exit and when you reach the crossing, there's great shooting east or west of there.

Construction on the 2nd main track is now underway from Estrella east to Maricopa and thus not very accessible.  Estrella west is as you remember it.

RWM 

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Posted by rogruth on Saturday, February 23, 2008 9:57 PM
I haven't been to Gila Bend in over fifteen years.At that time SP was running around fifty trains a day,mostly intermodal.If you are in the Phoenix area and are interested in model trains,don't miss the McCormick Rail Road Park at Scottsdale.They have model railroads in all popular gauges,full size display of locos and rolling stock and 5"Question [?]gauge live steam.The live steam schedule of operation is posted.The park is open all year but the live steam does not operate in the summer.There is also a small museum at Chandler.
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Posted by nhtraveler on Friday, February 29, 2008 2:50 PM

Appreciate you reply and will certainly try and spend some time in that area.

Enjoyed your photos.

 

Thanks

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Posted by nhtraveler on Friday, February 29, 2008 2:55 PM

Bruce; 

Appreciate your reply.

Will be heading down in that area during our stay so will take advantage of your information.

 

Thanks

Wayne

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Posted by Bruce Kelly on Wednesday, March 5, 2008 9:25 AM
One more thought. If the purpose of your visit is more family or business oriented in the Phoenix area, and your free time for railfanning will be limited, there's an area with nice desert scenery close to the outlying suburbs. On the north side of Coolidge, UP's ex-SP Phoenix line crosses a large bridge and winds its way up around a small hill on about a 1% grade, with plenty of saguaro cactus. Further north, Magma Junction still looks like the remote desert crossroads it's been for decades, but housing developments are slowly creeping toward it from both sides. Get your shots now. You can nicely frame a broadside of a southbound train there with Superstition Mountain in the background. Traffic is nowhere near what it is down on the Sunset Route main through Maricopa and Picacho, but you do get at least a manifest or two each way daily, plus vehicle trains. Years ago there was a Coolidge Turn out of Tucson that worked up the line; don't know what kind of local service it gets now.
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Posted by diningcar on Saturday, March 8, 2008 9:59 AM

I think you would like Winslow where BNSF has a crew change. Two locations: 1st is at the La Posada Hotel and Amtrak depot. This restored Fred Harvey hotel itself is worth two hours and it is next to the three main tracks with signals to the east. 2nd is the old Route 66 overpass at west end of town. Very little auto traffic because I-40 has it all. Looking west is a double track view of about five miles with signals and a dip in gradient which gives an extra dimension to photographs. Looking east is the crew change location where eastbounds are stopping and westbounds are accellerating toward you.

Jack - Prescott, AZ

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Posted by chad thomas on Thursday, March 13, 2008 1:20 AM

Here is a new webcam covering the BNSF transcon in Flagstaff that my dad just told me about.

http://www.flagstaffwebcam.com/Route66-webcam

 

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Posted by G Mack on Monday, March 17, 2008 5:12 PM
 diningcar wrote:

I think you would like Winslow where BNSF has a crew change. Two locations: 1st is at the La Posada Hotel and Amtrak depot. This restored Fred Harvey hotel itself is worth two hours and it is next to the three main tracks with signals to the east. 2nd is the old Route 66 overpass at west end of town. Very little auto traffic because I-40 has it all. Looking west is a double track view of about five miles with signals and a dip in gradient which gives an extra dimension to photographs. Looking east is the crew change location where eastbounds are stopping and westbounds are accellerating toward you.

Jack - Prescott, AZ

I was in Winslow, AZ this past January and agree that it is well worth a stop. The La Posada Hotel is a beautiful building that has been renovated. You can sit outside at trackside and watch the trains and when you are in need of refreshments, they have a good dining room and a well stocked bar. It is also a short drive west to Flagstaff and all the good locations around that area.

Have a fun and safe trip!

Gregory

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Posted by UChicagoMatt on Thursday, April 2, 2015 4:34 AM

Posada Hotel remains unchanged.  Among the best places to watch, photograph, and enjoy trains all while enjoying a beer.

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Posted by UChicagoMatt on Thursday, April 2, 2015 4:41 AM

Much of the old Sunset Route is now double-tracked. However, through the Maricopa Mountains there remains original SP curvature supplanted by new, arrow-straight tangents. East of Gila Bend the original line has an abandoned segment in the climb up. Just over the summit the original and new lines split with all kinds of photo ops with sharp curves on the old line. You can stand between the tracks,  separated by 100 yards. Keep the car near the road and walk the dirt road. Easily seen on Google maps. Bring a zoom for the new main's curves.

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Posted by UChicagoMatt on Thursday, April 2, 2015 4:47 AM

Bruce Kelly

 

 

 

One more thought. If the purpose of your visit is more family or business oriented in the Phoenix area, and your free time for railfanning will be limited, there's an area with nice desert scenery close to the outlying suburbs. On the north side of Coolidge, UP's ex-SP Phoenix line crosses a large bridge and winds its way up around a small hill on about a 1% grade, with plenty of saguaro cactus. Further north, Magma Junction still looks like the remote desert crossroads it's been for decades, but housing developments are slowly creeping toward it from both sides. Get your shots now. You can nicely frame a broadside of a southbound train there with Superstition Mountain in the background. Traffic is nowhere near what it is down on the Sunset Route main through Maricopa and Picacho, but you do get at least a manifest or two each way daily, plus vehicle trains. Years ago there was a Coolidge Turn out of Tucson that worked up the line; don't know what kind of local service it gets now.

 Cool ex-CB&Q Silver Horizon dome observation now at Maricopa station. 

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