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Date: 09/12/15 00:04
Trona Railway
Author: exhaustED

Can anyone tell me the typical daily movements on the Trona railway please, if there is a typical day?

Date: 09/12/15 05:05
Re: Trona Railway
Author: z-trains

Contrary to some reports, there is no regular schedule and they run as needed.  

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Date: 09/12/15 12:47
Re: Trona Railway
Author: Cajon92

z-trains Wrote:
> Contrary to some reports, there is no regular
> schedule and they run as needed.  

This is not entirely true. The Trona Railway does run a daily, Monday through Friday, turn between Trona and Searles however there is no set in stone 'departure time' from Trona. What time the 'Searles Turn' departs Trona depends on how much switching there is to do at Trona (and surrounding facilities) as well as what time the crew goes on duty. So can I give the original poster a set departure time, certainly not, however they do run Monday through Friday and often times at least the westbound trip to Searles is in daylight. 

To the original poster's question, here is what you can expect. Typically during my trips out there I try to get to Trona about noon or so. On a normal day the crew is on duty and switching between the main Searles Mineral Company facility in Trona and the storage yard at Oxy. There is another loading facility at Westend that they switch as well as storage tracks at Borosolvay. Depending on how much work they have depends on when they are ready to depart for Searles. Personally I have never seen them depart earlier then 12:45 however the average departure time westbound that I have experienced has been between 13:30-15:30. On one occasion I was out there they departed Trona about 15:30 but stopped to spot cars at the Westend facility so they ended up not leaving the Searles Valley until 16:45. However there are days you will go out there (and it has happened to me twice) where the turn will not be ready to depart until after dark. Also, I would avoid Holidays, certainly major ones. 

Once the train reaches Searles they first tie down the loads of soda ash and/or the empty coal hoppers that they have brought up from Trona. Normally (unless there is room in the Searles yard) they will shove their train out on the remaining portion of SP's Lone Pine branch east of Searles yard. At Garden City (spur track just down, RxR east, from the connection with UP's Searles yard) they usually have a large string of loaded hoppers awaiting the call to be delivered to the UP. Some days they will take loads out of the Garden City spur and position them for pick-up by UP. Other days they will  bring up loads from Trona for storage on the Garden City spur and then of course there are days where they do nothing but run by the Garden City spur. 

Now some days the Trona Rwy does not have anything to take back to Trona and in those cases the power runs back light. On days where the loaded coal train (delivered to Searles by the UP which loads in Skyline, UT) awaits the Trona Rwy at Searles they typically 'double' this heavy train down to Trona. So they will usually bring all 7 of their road motors up, split up the power, take one half of the coal loads down to Trona with 4 motors, and then the crew will return via a van to take the second half of the train to Trona with the 3 road motors left at Searles. The coal train doesn't run 'often', in my experience it seems like every two weeks you see it come in loaded and go out empty but this is purely an observation. 

On other days Trona will have a string of empty soda ash hoppers to take back east to Trona and depending on what time the Searles Turn departed Trona will depend on whether or not you will see the turn return to Trona before sunset. In all my trips out there I have seen them return to Trona, with a train of empties, before sunset twice.

So in conclusion the Trona Railway is a place for the patient and it can either result in a great day of shooting old EMDs or a bust with nothing running until after dark. With no set in stone departure time, such is railroading, it can be a questionable gamble. However, here is the good news. The folks in the yard office at Trona are super friendly and on more then one occasion were only to willing to tell me whether the Searles Turn would be departing before or after sunset. In fact on one occasion when I went in to ask, the lady who was there was by herself as the manager and operators were gone. She went way out of her way to find someone who knew when the train would be leaving. This is another reason I like to get out there about noon...if you go in the yard office, ask about the train, and find out it will be an after dark run there is plenty of time to return to Tehachapi to salvage your afternoon! 

Hope this helps,

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/12/15 12:51 by Cajon92.

Date: 09/12/15 13:38
Re: Trona Railway
Author: Auburnrail

Made many trips thru Trona on my way to Death Valley over the years, and I'd still like to know how they can burn coal in that quantity
In California with Jerry Brown in office?

George Andrassy

Posted from iPhone

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/12/15 13:39 by Auburnrail.

Date: 09/12/15 13:43
Re: Trona Railway
Author: syscom3

Nice write up Ryan.

Posted from iPhone

Date: 09/12/15 14:52
Re: Trona Railway
Author: exhaustED

Ryan, that's fantastic, very much appreciated! Thanks again to all for the replies.

Date: 09/12/15 15:13
Re: Trona Railway
Author: cajon

They use to get 3 coal train a week. Don't know how  many a week now but they are going to change over to gas for there power plan. Wednesday the UP  did run a coal train up to the Trona RR.

Date: 09/13/15 08:59
Re: Trona Railway
Author: P5r24

Very nice details Ryan, also wanted to mention on the UP side of Searles Junction from west portal of the tunnel to hwy 395 crossing is some great photo locations. And to add to notes of loaded coal and navigating the grades, I've seen the loaded UP coal from Mojave run with lead power only. Grade mostly downhill to Saltdale, where they split the train in two, with the first half short enough to run to Searles Junction Yard and run power around to return to Saltdale and grab the remainder second half. Maybe someone can give grade percentage of that portion of branch ( guessing 1.8-2.0%)?  I have spent many hours and days out in that area on both sides of the junction exploring on my dirt bike and doing many jobs for work to no avail can I figure out any schedules so thanks again Ryan.


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