The Tehachapi Mountains create a natural barrier between California’s fertile San Joaquin Valley and the arid Mojave Desert. That barrier was breached 140 years ago by Southern Pacific’s civil engineer William Hood. The result was an engineering marvel that is still impressive today. Both BNSF and Union Pacific keep these rails polished with increasingly long and heavy trains.
The Tehachapis have a reputation as a hard climb with a stiff 2.2% grade on both sides of the summit. Trains negotiate numerous curves, pass through several tunnels and wrap around the crown feature that has attracted railfans from all over the world: the Tehachapi Loop.
Our journey begins in Bakersfield as we travel timetable south through the mountains to Mojave. Stacks, manifests, hot intermodals, and heavy unit grain trains grind up grade to Summit Switch, then drop down into the desert. Night and day, the pass resounds with the steady drum of prime movers, the squeal of wheel flanges, and the whine of heavy dynamics. This program was shot between April, 2011 and March, 2012.