The Union Pacific Railroad Crossing at Nipton, California

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(Fig. 01)
04/29/2015 Trip Notes: On a daytrip in search of the Lucy Grey Mine in the Lucy Grey Mountain Range, we used the town of Nipton, California as our starting point. Shortly after our arrival, as is with the case on almost every visit to this small California town, we got to witness the passing through of a very long Union Pacific freight train. On one of my previous trips, I got to photograph a stack train filled with box-cars. On this visit I got to see a tanker train with nearly 100 VMSX tanker cars (Figs. 05 & 06) Though I’m not sure what they were carrying, they are capable of holding 550-725 barrels of crude oil. We also observed a nine-car Loram LMIX 3410 Series Production Rail Grinder (Fig. 01). Go to the bottom of this post for more information on this piece of equipment. 
Nipton’s Railroad History: Nipton has its own unique history just like all the other dusty little towns in the Mojave Desert. Originally it was named Nippeno Camp and was a crossroad for two overland wagon trails that served various mines in the area. In 1885 Nevada Senator William Clark (namesake for Clark County) proposed building a railroad crossing the wagon trails to connect Los Angeles to Salt Lake City by rail. In the winter of 1904/1905 the railroad was completed and named the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad. The whistle-stop on the railroad was later renamed to from Nippeno Camp to simply Nipton. One of the highlights of any visit here is being able to stand but a few feet from today’s Union Pacific freight trains as they pass the siding (Fig. 02) that once served trains along the old San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad more than 110 years ago. There is something memorizing about big trains that makes you feel like a kid again. Headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, the Union Pacific Railroad is a Class I line haul freight railroad that operates 8,000 locomotives over 32,000 route-miles in 23 states west of Chicago, Illinois and New Orleans, Louisiana. The Union Pacific Railroad network is the largest in the United States and is serviced by 47,000 employees.

Today’s train had four engines in the front and two in the rear. As you can see from (Figs. 03 & 04), today’s engines are a far cry from those of 110 years ago. All of the engines on today’s train were variants of the SD70s, for which thousands were made in the early 2000’s. They may not be as common as General Electric models but they are certainly still out there in large numbers.The locomotive featured EMD’s 16-cylinder 710G3B engine and was rated at 4,000 horsepower although that was not its biggest selling point. The biggest selling point was new, radial trucks. Featuring the HTCR truck (high-traction, six-axle, radial) it could steer itself into oncoming curves instead of just following the rail which greatly reduced wear to both rail and truck/axle components. Not surprisingly railroads absolutely loved such a feature, which perhaps more than other reason made the SD70 series so successful. At a rating of 175,500 pounds starting and 137,000 pounds continuous the SD70 offers a 40%-60% increase in tractive effort over the SD60 model making it ideal for heavy drag service.
(Fig. 02)
(Fig. 03)
San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad locomotive #32, early 1900s
(Fig. 04)
(Fig. 05)
(Fig. 06)
Loram’s LMIX 3410 Series Production Rail Grinder: (Fig. 07) All track needs regular maintenance to remain in good order, especially when high-speed trains are involved. Inadequate maintenance may lead to a "slow order" (North American terminology, a "slack" or speed restriction in the United Kingdom) being imposed to avoid accidents. Track maintenance was at one time hard manual labor, requiring teams of laborers, or trackmen (US: gandy dancers; UK: platelayers; Australia: fettlers), who used lining bars to correct irregularities in horizontal alignment (line) of the track, and tamping and jacks to correct vertical irregularities (surface). Currently, maintenance is facilitated by a variety of these specialized machines.
Rail is the most valuable asset for a railroad. The wheel/rail interface of a railroad is a much talked about subject because of the cost involved in premature rail change outs. Typical problems encountered on all railroads include shelling, spalling, side wear, plastic flow, dipped welds, and corrugation and fatigue. Rail grinding is considered the most effective maintenance practice to control the effects of rolling contact fatigue, to restore profile, and to maximize value from the rail asset. Railroads everywhere are facing continued challenges of maintaining track in shortened work blocks and with limited resources. An effective rail grinding program is a key component to rail maintenance plan.  The substantial return on investment from rail grinding is well documented and includes: Loram’s Series Production Rail Grinder is the result of Loram’s intense focus on the latest technology for improving rail grinding Speed, Performance, and Reliability. The RG400 Series incorporates increased available horsepower, advanced grind control systems, more stones, and higher grind speeds, maximizing available track time and guaranteeing a cost effective production grind program. During grinding they can keep the sparks in the track bed. However, If they do escape, there is adequate firefighting ability on the machine, as well as more water available for firefighting. Some of grinders carry up to 75,000 gallons of water. Notice the three water tanks on the grinder in (Fig. 01).
(Fig. 07)
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