Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Sierra Snow Train Pictures

Here's a selection of the photos I took on the train trip from Reno to the Bay Area last Saturday. Click through any of them to go to the full set.

Rotary at Truckee

Approaching Truckee, on the service tracks was parked one of the ex-Southern Pacific rotary snowplows. I understand that UP finally had to break out the rotaries this year, but I didn't get to see any pictures or video, which is a shame.

Lower Stanford's Curve

West of Truckee, the railroad turns south to start the climb up "Stanford's Curve," a large horseshoe curve that allows it to gain the substantial amount of altitude it takes to get over the summit. In the upper right, you can make out a line of railroad cars. That's a freight train that was coming down the mountain as we were going up on the double-tracked railroad. (Except for single track at the summit tunnel and one other section farther west.) That's where our train would be a little while later, after we passed the freight.

Stanford's Curve

Here we are actually going through the big horseshoe. With every turn of the wheels we start seeing more snow on the ground.

Sierra Snow

This is approximately the stretch where that freight train was in the earlier photo. You can just make out the lower track below.

Donner Lake

After passing through a tunnel, there are these wonderful views of Donner Lake.

Snowshed Ahead

You have to be quick to get the photos, though, because the train then ducks into a concrete snowshed (visible from Interstate 80 across the lake).


One of the challenges of taking photos from the train is that the trees are blocking the long vistas in many cases.

Early Closure

The train then went into the "Big Hole," the long tunnel under the summit. I was in the observation lounge during the tunnel transit. One woman sitting near me was very nervous about the tunnel. This tunnel doesn't worry me. The Sierra granite here is some of the hardest rock in the world and is highly unlikely to collapse. The rock is so hard that there's no need to line the inside of the tunnel.

Exiting the tunnel we saw several ski areas. Soda Springs appeared to be open, but this one was not, which surprised me.

Spring Snow

There was a lot more snow on the west slopes as we descended down the mountain.

Snow Cornices

Impressive snow cornices sparkled in the spring sunshine.

Zephyr View

I wasn't the only one snapping photographs.

Out of the Snow

Finally we descended below the snow zone.

Colfax Station

At Colfax (2500'), spring was well under way and edging into early summer.

High Water on the American

Between Roseville and Sacramento, the track crosses the American River, and wow was there a lot of water in it. All of the rivers and bypasses were very full. I hope the snowmelt doesn't overwhelm them. This is one of those years where you wish you had a lot more storage capacity in the mountains so we could hold this water for the next drought. In any event, I hope some of it will recharge the groundwater supplies.

Emeryville Station

Beyond Sacramento (where I briefly stepped out for a bit of fresh and not yet too hot air), I chatted for a good long time with our car attendant, swapping stories of train travel and giving her some information about this part of California that she (based out of Chicago) didn't know. But all good things must come to an end, and in this case the trip ended uneventfully at Emeryville Station.

As I wrote earlier, after getting dinner at Emeryville, I caught a Capitol Corridor train to Fremont, collected my minivan, and drove home via Tracy and Sacramento.

I do very much enjoy this trip. I have yet to get tired of making it. If there was an easier way to work out the logistics (in particular, where would I park the Rolling Stone), I'd leave the RV in Fremont and commute back and forth by rail as needed.
Tags: amtrak, sierra nevada, snow, trains

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