The Tehachapi Loop

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Jim Dick

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We finally left Inyokern and started heading to Discovery Bay. On the way we stopped for a night in Tehachapi. We drove to the Tehachapi Loop to witness the train traffic that is almost constant.

For those of you that don't know about the Tehachapi Loop, it is an engineering marvel that allows trains negotiate the Tehachapi Pass. The elevation rise from the valley to the top of the pass is 4000'. The section from Caliente to the summit is 2735' long. The maximum rise allowed is 2.2%. East of Keene, CA the section requires an 80' rise which is more than that allowed. William Hood, a civil engineer, solved the problem by creating a loop to allow the track to rise sufficiently in the confined space available. The length of the loop is 3799' with a typical diameter of 1210'. There is a 77' rise in the loop.

With such long trains today it is easy to find trains that will enter the tunnel from the east and cross over itself while traversing the loop. There are approximately 40 trains a day that pass through the loop. We were fortunate to see several during our brief visit. I thought it would be neat to live at Loop Ranch, which is in the center of the loop. After witnessing the first train pass through I decided that, even though I love trains, I would not want to live there. As the train traverses the loop the wheels make un ungodly screeching sound that forced me to turn off my hearing aids! It takes around 5 minutes for a normal train to make the complete loop and pass behind the mountain.

I have attached some pictures of a train traversing the loop as well as a panorama of the complete loop taken from the hillside above it. If you like trains this is a stop well worth the time as it is interesting to watch the trains as they head east and west. You can also view other locations as they pass in and out of the many tunnels along the way. There are 18 tunnels for a total of 8240' and 8300 degrees of rotation along the complete route.

 

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DougJ

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William Hood, a civil engineer, solved the problem by creating a loop to allow the track to rise sufficiently in the confined space available.

I'm not a train buff, Jim, but there is a similar rail loop in the mountains west of Calgary.  There is one or more vista stops in the area because, as I understand it, for a long set of cars, folks can see the locomotive emerging above the entrance where the rear-end cars are still entering.

Doug
 

Ron

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It has been years since I have seen that loop Jim.  You have peaked my interest.  Another must do on the list.  Great shots.
 

Jim Dick

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DougJ said:
William Hood, a civil engineer, solved the problem by creating a loop to allow the track to rise sufficiently in the confined space available.

I'm not a train buff, Jim, but there is a similar rail loop in the mountains west of Calgary.  There is one or more vista stops in the area because, as I understand it, for a long set of cars, folks can see the locomotive emerging above the entrance where the rear-end cars are still entering.

Doug

Sounds like another stop to put on the list! :)

 

Jim Dick

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Ron said:
It has been years since I have seen that loop Jim.  You have peaked my interest.  Another must do on the list.  Great shots.

Ron,

If you go, get off at the Keene exit. There will be signs to show you the way to an overlook with a couple of plaques commemorating the feat. There's room to park a half dozen or so cars. The best viewing is slightly further up the hill. You will see a path leading across the hillside. Follow that out and you will be overlooking the whole loop. Take a short walk to the top of the hill and you will see the trains on the other side.

The land the path is on is for sale but it's obvious many people have taken this walk. There is a house at the base of the hill on the other side only a 100' or so off the tracks. They must REALLY love trains! ;D ;D

 

BernieD

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Jim

Thanks for those pictures. We have been at the Loop twice now and are snake bit, there were no trains both times. The first time was duing the forest fires a couple of years ago and the trains were stopped at Bakersfield. We must have caught a dead spot the second time because we waited for over a half hour and no trains went thru. Went back to Tehachapi for lunch and once came thru every 10 minutes :-\ :-\
 

Jim Dick

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BernieD said:
Jim

Thanks for those pictures. We have been at the Loop twice now and are snake bit, there were no trains both times. The first time was duing the forest fires a couple of years ago and the trains were stopped at Bakersfield. We must have caught a dead spot the second time because we waited for over a half hour and no trains went thru. Went back to Tehachapi for lunch and once came thru every 10 minutes :-\ :-\

You're welcome. Sorry you missed the trains. There was a steady stream waiting to pass while we were there. One westbound train even moved into the loop and then stopped for eastbound traffic to pass. We no sooner left and another train came trough going westbound. We could see several trains along the route at sidings waiting their turn. Here's another shot of the train in the loop.

 

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Lorna

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Jim
Were there trains with more than three engines.  The reason I ask is that when we stayed at Donnorma in Surprise we used to see trains coming through with seven engines frequently and Ned saw one with 10 engines one night.  They spent all day making up this train at the car storage area near us on Hwy 60 (Grand Ave).
 

Ron

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Thanks for the info. ?Sounds like we better make sure Bernie isn't there when we go. ;D ;D ;D WOuld be nice to have trains to watch. ;D
 

Ron

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Lorna said:
Jim
Were there trains with more than three engines.? The reason I ask is that when we stayed at Donnorma in Surprise we used to see trains coming through with seven engines frequently and Ned saw one with 10 engines one night.? They spent all day making up this train at the car storage area near us on Hwy 60 (Grand Ave).

Normally there will be two to five engines pulling a train.  Sometimes they will add a pusher going over a pass.  Sometimes they attach extra engines to transport them to a maintenance area or reposition them.  Probably on 4 or 5 engines out of the ten were actually operating.
 

thebrits

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Great pictures as usual, Jim.

We haven't driven the Loop as we've usually got the trailer attached when we drive the pass on the way to Las Vegas.  One day we plan to stay over at Tehachapi just to see the trains.

 

BernieD

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Ron said:
Thanks for the info.  Sounds like we better make sure Bernie isn't there when we go. ;D ;D ;D WOuld be nice to have trains to watch. ;D

I agree, we think we are the kiss of death in seeing trains at the Loop ;)
 

Ron

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BernieD said:
Ron said:
Thanks for the info.? Sounds like we better make sure Bernie isn't there when we go. ;D ;D ;D WOuld be nice to have trains to watch. ;D

I agree, we think we are the kiss of death in seeing trains at the Loop ;)

Maybe if other members of the framily were with you the kiss of death would be overwhelmed and you would get to see the trains.
 

BernieD

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Maybe if other members of the framily were with you the kiss of death would be overwhelmed and you would get to see the trains.


OK, lets plan on going together ;D ;D
 

Ron

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BernieD said:

Maybe if other members of the framily were with you the kiss of death would be overwhelmed and you would get to see the trains.


OK, lets plan on going together ;D ;D

What and be exposed to the KOD? ;D ;D ;D  Seriously it maight just be a good theing to do next year.
 

Ron from Big D

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Great information Jim.  Shirley and I came through there twice, going and coming from California after we left you a QZ.  Neat area.

Ron
 

Lou Schneider

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Usually there are only 3 or 4 engines at the most at the front of the trains going over the loop. ? If the train is heavy and they need more power, they put additional engines in the middle of the train. ?This keeps the concentration of power low enough so the train isn't pulled sideways off of the loop.

The Tehachapi loop is a real bottleneck.? The only other way to go from L.A. to or from the rest of CA is to use the Pacific Coast Route (single track and slow) through Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo or go up to Salt Lake City then head west over Donner Summit or the Feather River.

I was passing the loop on Highway 58 a few years ago and saw a bunch of activity on the tracks just past the tunnel on the eastern end of the loop. ? Seems the engines in the middle of a heavy train lost power and the train snapped like a rubber band, derailing a lead engine and a half dozen cars on the curve east of the tunnel.

The house on the hill is (was?) the home of a train buff and he had a webcam monitoring the tracks. ?Unfortunately, it was pointed in the wrong direction and missed the derailment.

I wound up watching the recovery efforts for a while. ? It's amazing the amount of manpower the railroad can muster when something blocks a main line. ?They had the derailed cars cut free and pushed out of the way within a couple of hours, including towing a couple out of the tunnel. ? The derailed engine was pushed free of the track, set aside for later work. ?Then they brought in pre-fabbed 40 ft. sections of track on flatbed trucks and rebuilt the right of way.

I think the line was closed less than 24 hours.
 

Jim Dick

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Lorna said:
Jim
Were there trains with more than three engines.  The reason I ask is that when we stayed at Donnorma in Surprise we used to see trains coming through with seven engines frequently and Ned saw one with 10 engines one night.  They spent all day making up this train at the car storage area near us on Hwy 60 (Grand Ave).

On this trip west I have seen trains with 7 engines but no more. On the loop I understand they do not use more than three or four engines up front. If they need more they put them in the rear as pushers. Apparently they will exceed the coupler capacity if they try to pull it all from the front.

 

Jim Dick

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thebrits said:
Great pictures as usual, Jim.

We haven't driven the Loop as we've usually got the trailer attached when we drive the pass on the way to Las Vegas.  One day we plan to stay over at Tehachapi just to see the trains.

It's worth the stop. Be sure to walk the path I described to get the best view.

 

Jim Dick

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Hi Lou,

I was sure they didn't put more than three or four engines up front but I thought I read it was due to excessive load on the couplers. Either way it's not a good thing to do. :) There is still a camera on the track. Looked at it yesterday but it wasn't in a great spot. Only showed the engines coming out of the loop.

 
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