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Marathon to Marfa Texas

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Marathon to Marfa Texas
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, June 12, 2010 9:01 AM

I have been a rail buff for more than 60 years.  Having grown up in Altoona, Pa., an interest in trains seems to have been injected into my DNA.  I have also been a serious bicyclist for more than 35 years.  I ride more than 4,500 miles a year.

A great place for cycling and watching trains is along U.S. 90, which parallels the UP's Sunset route in west Texas.  I like the stretch from Marathon to Marfa, with Alpine being approximately half way between these two locations.  It is approximately 60 miles.  Alpine is a crew change point for the UP and Amtrak.

The roads have wide shoulders, which are important for safe cycling, and relatively little traffic.  The scenery is awesome, and the train watching is great. 

On my trip to Alpine last week I checked out the Sunset Limited on three occasions.  I like to go to the Alpine station and watch the crew change.  Also, now each train is being met by the U.S. Border Patrol.  The patrol officers are walking through the train looking apparently for illegal immigrants and drugs.  I saw them pull a rough looking character off one of the Sunsets and put him in the back of a patrol car.  He was cuffed.

The UP runs numerous trains along the Sunset route.  On my ride from Alpine to Marathon and back on Tuesday I counted six trains.  Four were eastbound and two were westbound.  All but one of them was a stack train, and they all had distributed power.  On Wednesday I saw another six or seven trains between Alpine and Maratha.  Interestingly, two of these were westbound trains with empty stack cars.  Presumably, the UP was repositioning the cars to the west coast, suggesting that it had, at least, more eastbound containers than westbound containers.  I also noticed that the UP had approximately 75 to 100 flat cars stored on one of the passing tracks just west of Marathon.  Most of them were TTX cars. 

Anyway, if you want to see some beautiful country and watch heaps of trains, Marathon, Alpine, and Marfa or anywhere in between is a great place to do it.  And if you happen to be a cyclist, be sure to take your wheels with you.

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