Union Pacific's
Operation Lifesaver Special

The Union Pacific Railroad has assembled a 9 car passenger train that is touring the Western US from September 13 through October 4, 1999.  This train is staffed with Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OLI) presenters and brings the grade crossing and railroad safety messages to groups such as driver's education classes, law enforcement agencies and emergency responders.  At selected cities along the route, groups can board the train for a ride up and down the line in one of four UP coaches or a dome car.

On Sunday, September 26, 1999 I was invited to ride with CORP Engineer and OLI Presenter Jim Armstrong as he began a four day tour from Dunsmuir to Portland giving presentations along the line.  For me the ride was from Dunsmuir to Mt. Shasta and back -- a section I'd been over on Amtrak, but never during daylight.

UP Operation Lifesaver at Dunsmuir With a couple of sets of helpers looking on, the Union Pacific Operation Lifesaver Special boards passengers in historic Dunsmuir, California.  Power for the train was a single SD-40-2 on the West end and two SD-40-2's on the East end.  Aside from looking clean and freshly painted, the power is from the freight pool.
OLI presenter and monitor Inside the coach Portland Rose Richard Mather presents the Operation Lifesaver messages to the passengers as the train moves up the Sacramento Canyon.  The television monitor on the left is displaying live coverage of the view from the cab of the locomotive pulling our train.  Richard explained that on the previous day in the Redding area several incidents of motorists ignoring crossing lights and gates were observed.  The OLI program includes law enforcement officers watching the train and citing motorists who ignore the warning devices.
OLI Special at Cantara Loop Richard and Jim continue the presentation as the train grinds up through the Sacramento River canyon.  Here the train is crossing the river in the middle of Cantara Loop. 
Pig Train passes OLI Special at Mott The single track line, the Shasta Route of the former Southern Pacific, sees many freight trains each day and this Sunday was no exception.  A non-revenue move such at the OLI Special would not be allowed to hang up the passage of freights and into the "hole" we went at Mott to await two freights.  The first, a hot intermodal "Pig" train charges uphill past our halted train.  Shortly after it passed, a manifest headed down past us in the opposite direction.  Our crew seemed a bit upset that we had to wait for two freights.  Yours truly could think of no better place to be than on a train in the mountains and this lull gave him a chance to explore the 1950 era streamline equipment that made up the Special.
Special at Mott On the second run of the day, the Special hits the grade crossing at Mott, California with a full set of lights and gates protecting motorists.  FRA requires a minimum of 20 seconds between when the lights first start to flash and when the front part of the locomotive starts across the highway.  Railroads typically strive for 30 seconds and modern crossing equipment record actuation times and train speeds.
Loading passengers at Mt. Shasta City A good crowd of riders gather to board the Special on the second run into Mt. Shasta City.  UP did an excellent job of providing colored tickets coded to particular cars.  Most folks rode in the coaches pictured nearest the camera, but a few lucky souls got to ride in the dome coach Challenger. 
OLI Train at Mt. Shasta City Loading the last of the riders, the train sits on the passing siding at Mt. Shasta City.  That's Black Butte looming in the background.  Note the FRED on the coupler of the locomotive: required since this would be the end of the train on the uphill runs. Immediately behind the SD-40-2 is the power car providing electrical power for the entire consist.  This enables virtually any locomotive, steam or diesel, on the UP system to pull passenger trains such as this one.
Westbound Manifest at Mt. Shasta City Once again the OLI train must wait for a freight.  This manifest lead by an SD-60M and some older 6 axle EMD brethren has a mixture of lumber loads from Oregon, assorted other loads and a long string of empty chip gons.  In the spirit of the day, it's passing the lights, bells and gates protecting a Mt. Shasta City grade crossing.
Operation Lifesaver Special departing Mt. Shasta City Shortly after the freight clears town, the dispatcher in Omaha throws the switch for the siding and clears the Special for its run back down the hill.  With two blasts from the air horns, it creeps slowly towards the intersection making sure the gates are down well before it enters the crossing.  This last picture with Mt. Shasta in the background pays tribute to the fine men and women of Operation Lifesaver and  the Union Pacific Railroad who made this Special train possible.

All pictures and text Copyright 1999 by Larry Tuttle

Thanks to the Union Pacific Railroad, Operation Lifesaver Inc., Jim Armstrong and Dick Mather

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