Over Our Back Fence

The backyard of our home overlooks the BNSF mainline as well as the lead track to the nearby Dupont yard. Here we have a superb vantage point for catching all the action, from through freights and passenger trains to local switchers. When the bells sound at the Big Break grade crossing, our son Benji usually grabs Dad and we scramble over our retaining wall and up to a small platform we constructed near the fence, usually moments before the train rolls by.

I have shot far more video tape than still photos at this location, but in recent months I have tried to rectify that. The guys from the Pittsburg road switcher and the UP Steel Train probably are all sick of me poking cameras their direction, and popping up at every conceivable location near our home for a photo op. If they ever happen upon this page I hope they will appreciate the resulting images and accept my appreciation for safely operating these mega pieces of machinery that have become almost as much a part of our lives as theirs.

Heading back to work after a brief lunch stop by the 1st Pittsburg road switcher crew, ATSF 2294, a GP9U, still wears the paint of BNSF's predecessor in this photo taken in February 1998. This was one half of a two-engine consist. The other half appears in photo #2. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

The other half (better half, in my opinion) of the aforementioned 1st Pittsburg consist. This little GP30U was a regular around the Delta for several weeks during early 1998. It was easily indentified by its clean, new paint job. I was sorry to see it leave and presume it has either been reassigned or renumbered. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

Simply stated, the GE Dash-9 is an awesome piece of machinery. BNSF acquired a bunch of them in the Santa Fe merger and will add hundreds more by the turn of the century. They look powerful even when they are barely moving, as happened to be the case here. The BNSF 4711 was the trailing unit on an eastbound stack train on a rainy day in early May 1998 when the power was cut off at Dupont briefly to do some work. As the locomotives returned to the train, they crawled by our fence at a leisurely 20 mph, allowing me to catch this shot with my little box camera. This is one of my favorite photos. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

Same photo, different crop. I wanted to come in tight on the crewman and the data printed just below the nose herald. I scanned the 5x7 print at 400 percent on my UMAX S-6E and then cropped it to fit a 640-pixel wide screen, or about 1/16th its original scanned size. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

On a warm Sunday morning in August 1998, the BNSF 6502, an SD45-2U, rolls off the Dupont yard lead back to the main after an unsuccessful attempt to use the wye at Dupont (the gate was locked). The engine was forced to back up for five miles to its work site in Knightsen. This is looking east along our fence rail. That's our son Benjamin at left. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

With GE 8-32BWH unit 2051 on the point, Amtrak California's San Joaquin Train 716 heads east through the grade crossing at Big Break Road. I shot this about an hour after the BNSF 4711 (#3 and #4). Maintenance of Way crews were doing some work a couple of miles west of here, so trains passing us this day were going considerably slower than normal, allowing me to capture some decent shots with our inexpensive box camera. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

Even for a railfan, an endless parade of warbonnets, pumpkins and Amtrak passenger trains becomes dull if that's all you can ever hope to see. Fortunately, Union Pacific operates its "Steel Train" on trackage rights over the Stockton Sub between Stockton and Pittsburg. Thanks to a series of mergers one can see such foreign power as UP, Southern Pacific, Rio Grande and, on this day in mid-June 1998, a St. Louis Southwestern heading up the daily run out to the USS-POSCO steel plant in Pittsburg. I took the liberty of Photoshopping out the distracting line poles that are evident in the shot of BNSF 6502 above. BNSF followed my lead and has since removed the offending poles, thus eliminating the need for future software tricks. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

It's January 1999 and there's some new varnish running on the San Joaquins. Amtrak 461 is on the point of Train 713 this afternoon. It's one of several F59PHI units acquired by Amtrak West for service on the San Diegan route. A power crunch in Oakland has brought this less-than-six-months-old unit north to run on our tracks for a while. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

Are we coming or going? Actually, this is the head end of Train 713, which is running in cab-forward mode on this particular day in January 1999. Cab cars are a rare sight on the San Joaquins these days, mainly used by the Capitols line between San Jose and Sacramento. However, several were spotted during the last two weeks of January while the BNSF conducted a track maintenance blitz between Fresno and Bakersfield, which put the Bakersfield wye out of action and forced Amtrak into some unusual arrangements on its trains. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

ATSF 800 is a GE 8-40CW. Admittedly this isn't a great a shot; I was experimenting with our new camera in October 1998 and managed to capture the action right as the locomotive ducked behind one of several signs located along the right of way. The Dupont yard lead may have been designated an "equipment repair spot," but I have yet to see anyone repairing equipment here. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

Hey... uh, guys... could someone close the door! On Dec. 5, 1998, a westbound vehicle train derailed at Hillyard and tied up traffic back to Stockton for several hours. ATSF 649 was on the point of one of the trains delayed by the cleanup. Because of a series of odd circumstances, this train was ultimately coupled onto the head end of another train waiting at Oakley, which resulted in an impressive eight-engine consist pulling a train nearly a mile-and-a-half long. This engine passed our place at least three times inside a half hour. The door remained open the entire time. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

It's a cold and quiet Sunday morning on Jan. 24, 1999, and a pair of light engines have descended on the Dupont siding to collect a string of empty piggyback cars for transport east to Stockton. ATSF 526, a GE 8-40BW, leads the way as the crew does a reverse move into the Dupont yard. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

We get a closeup look at LMX 8573, a B39-8, as it passes right in front of us with the string of empty pigs in tow. Now the fun is about to begin... Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

As the train creeps its way onto the main, folks begin to get antsy. These kids are just itching for a chance to hop over those slow-moving cars so they can continue their journey to the nearby shopping center. I have no doubt they would have done it had it not been for the presence of the conductor and brakeman who were both riding shotgun on the end of the cars. This fellow is a good sport and makes sure the kids are allowed to cross safely when the train stops before yet another reverse move. This turns out to be the bare table train from hell. Air brake problems and sheer length prevent its timely exit at Orwood siding resulting in the delay of at least three freights and an Amtrak passenger train. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

The skies over Oakley are still cloudy on this early spring day in April 1999 as AMTK 2009 heads past our fence on a a westbound run of the San Joaquin. I set the shutter at 1/500th second to freeze the action as the head end passed the camera doing close to 79 mph. That's the Raley's shopping center in the distance. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

A 9-44CW and an SD60M ... now that's a lot of power to be ambling through the siding near the abandoned Du Pont yard! It is April 8, 1999, and this dynamic duo has just collected a string of baretables for transport south to Los Angeles. In a moment this train will exit Track 406 and head east on the mainline. Such trains are becoming a routine sight now that BNSF stores its empty container cars in the west end of the Du Pont yard. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Please send e-mail to Glenn or Roni Gehlke.

Proceed to Milepost 1147.2 on main track. Hold main track at last named point. Over.

This page was last updated Tuesday, August 3, 1999 at 23:35 hrs.