Siskiyou Grande

It was one of those rare late fall days where the sun was actually shining in Oregon.  It was also late autumn for the Southern Pacific's control of the Siskiyou Line for in less than a month, the Central Oregon and Pacific would assume control of these rails.  Bud Shirley and I had gone to Grants Pass for some now forgotten reason and had the scanner on the SP road frequency as we cruised about.  Soon we picked up traffic about the west man needing to hold east of town since the east bound was switching in the yard and, as the Grants Pass switcher was also there, there would not be room for all the trains without tying up a grade crossing or six.   This was during the time that the "south end" of the Siskiyou Line was closed down and all freight in and out of the Rogue Valley going through Eugene.  Bud and I debated about catching the action in the yard, but, instead opted to try to find where the west bound was holding east of town.   Neither of us were familiar with the line east (well, compass west and north -- you know the SP) of Grants Pass, but we soon found ourselves bumping along a rutted dirt road avoiding small lakes that would easily swallow my Datsun pickup.  Finally the road gave out completely at the top of a little knoll (there was a slid trail to the bottom, but nothing I was about to try in 2-wheel drive).  At the bottom of the knoll was a private grade crossing, and just past that, the EUMEM (Eugene Medford Manifest) was parked.  Low and behold a Rio Grande tunnel motor was leading and it looked like it still had a complete light package.   To top it all off, there was a stragetically placed semaphore signal between the hill we were on and the train -- a picture opportunity if ever there was one.

We  wandered around for a bit taking in the scene and trying out photographic angles, lenses and light combinations.  I decided the sun would be better from the hill on the opposite side of the tracks and staked out a position there.  Pretty soon, we heard on the scanner that the east man had finished his work and was in the clear.  In short order the lower headlight and ditch lights lit up and with a couple blasts on the air horn, EUMEM was rolling.

As fine as sight as that was, we knew there was still another train to come.  The view back towards town was pretty so-so and the sun was going be be bad, so we headed up the hill (railroad east) around the bend in search of another good "spot" to shoot the eastbound.
East of Grants Pass, the line is on a 1.5% grade and on the side of  a hill overlooking town.  Plus, it curves to the (compass) west allowing better lighting.  Again, there is a cut through the granite affording an excellent (and safe)  place to watch and photograph the manifest.  In short order, the eastbound was charging uphill towards us with several loads of wood chips behind the power.
Around the curve it comes, pulling hard: a pair of tunnel motors spliced by a GP-60. 
Nice shot of a still fairly clean GP-60 as the train roars uphill.  SP rated the GP-60 with about the same tractive effort as tunnel motors (SD-40T-2's and SD-45T-2's) on the Siskiyou Line; it's modern controls and anti-wheel slip equipment making up for its two less axles.  This site was once called Granite and included a siding next to the hill on the far side of the train.  Decomposed granite was loaded here. 

In 1997, I was privileged to ride over this section of track in the cab of a CORP train with Bud, now an engineer, at the throttle.  We both remarked about this day back in 1994 and how it could never be repeated.  Of course, the SP is gone from this line and merged into the Union Pacific.  The tunnel motors have lost their "complete" set of lights and are turning up yellow.   Even the semaphore signals have been removed as CORP strives for a more economical, efficient operation.

All Photos by and Copyright 1998 by Larry Tuttle
 Return to the SP+D&RGW Page
 Return to Alpha Rail Net