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Western Railroad Discussion > Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell


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Date: 07/07/19 17:37
Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: z-trains

When word came through the railfan grapevine that the Black Mesa & Lake Powell Railroad was to be shut down and most of its rolling stock scrapped by the end of the year, my dad and I, like a fair number of other railfans across the country, decided to make the trip out to Page Arizona to chase the all-electric line before the wires are torn down and its fleet of ex NdeM E60C-2 locomotives were scrapped on site like their compatriots at Navajo Mining, which had just occured a few months prior. Mining railroads have always held a special place in my heart, and with the Black Mesa scheduled to be shut down in August now, this trip, while highly successful, was made with a heavy heart. We headed out July 3rd and got back at about 1 this morning, putting on about 2500 miles in total over the course of our stay. Definitely a trip I won't ever forget!

-Wednesday, July 3rd was a scorcher, with the BMLP crew at the plant tacking on a recently outshopped ex NdeM E60C-2, EA022, as their leader. EA022 would be the head engine on the BM&LP's train for the entire time we were up there, which was fine for consistency's sake. I'm not sure how many of their E60's have received LED headlights but it definitely helped with standing out! The train is about a mile south of Kaibito, Arizona, at this location.
-At the loadout the train moves at less than walking speed to load out its cars with coal from Peabody Western Coal Company's loadout. While the railroad and plant in Page are owned by Salt River Power, the mine is a captive customer to SRP and the BMLP.
-Another view of the train as it loads its cars. Recent wrecks and a low replacement rate have reduced the number of available trainsets on the line from 2 to 1.

-Zachary



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/07/19 17:58 by z-trains.








Date: 07/07/19 17:38
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: z-trains

-At the time of its completion in 1972, the BM&LP had the highest voltage of any electric railroad in the world. By this time the clouds were very much coming in, so after a chat with both the engineer and the conductor of the loaded train we decided to head for dinner and then to the place we were staying at.
-The next morning we rose bright and early in Cow Springs to get the eastbound run as it headed down from Page. The Sour Water Wash bridge is in the distance as the four E60C-2's climb upgrade towards the loadout.
-A few miles later, towards the junction with State Highway 98 and Shonto, the train curves through underneath the catenary poles.

-Zach



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/07/19 17:41 by z-trains.








Date: 07/07/19 17:38
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: z-trains

-A few miles west at the mine loadout. The loop track is in the foreground, in about an hour and a half's time the train will return to Page in horrible midday light.
-Skipping over a few shots I'll be saving for a future post, back at the loop track. The area to the northwest of the mine is accesible but the biting flies are horrible here.
-Zoomed in shot of the same train a few minutes later!

-Zach



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/07/19 17:46 by z-trains.








Date: 07/07/19 17:38
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: z-trains

-And a vertical one! The trains move slow enough to allow for a multitude of shots at this location.
-And a wide one for the road!
-Back at the same location as the night beforehand. Walking back to get the train with the loadout in the background is well worth the effort!

-Zach



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/07/19 17:49 by z-trains.








Date: 07/07/19 17:38
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: z-trains

-Another view of the loadout. Coal is fed on a conveyor belt almost 5 miles from the mine to the silos.
-At the big curve west of Cow Springs. We almost missed it here due to not knowing where folks got this shot, but the ground was trampled enough to figure out where the view was.
-And at the grade crossing of Indian route 21 west of Kaibito. We broke the chase off here and headed back to Cow Springs for the night.

-Zach



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/07/19 17:55 by z-trains.








Date: 07/07/19 17:38
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: z-trains

-Same general area about 12 hours later! This area of the line is almost innacesible due to there being no direct roads to the track save for I21, but the vistas are unmatched on the rest of the line. Seriously reminds me of Dale Junction on Sherman Hill, though to be honest I have a preference for E60's to the endless parade of UP yellow.
​-East of the junction with State Route 89. The tracks make a severe curve here as they head towards the mine.
-A lizard hanging out on one of the cowguards at the west end of the mine. We didn't really see too much wildlife out here save for a coyote on the first night and a few assorted small critters. And lots of flies >.>

-Zach



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/07/19 18:12 by z-trains.








Date: 07/07/19 17:38
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: z-trains

-A few minutes later the eastbound run approaches the mine.
-Morning run back to Page was in crap light, as per usual. We set up on the east end of the plant to get Lake Powell in the background, as the 4 E60's work their way upgrade.
​-A wider view. Clouds were really building in at this point.

-Zach



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/07/19 18:17 by z-trains.








Date: 07/07/19 17:38
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: z-trains

-Inexplicably the eastbound run didn't have its headlights on as it went through Kaibito. If anything though this encouraged us to come back the next day, as both of us kinda screwed up the framing here due to us not really estimating the train length well.
-Back at the mine. Nothing really too much to say about the next couple of images.

-Zach



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/07/19 18:26 by z-trains.








Date: 07/07/19 17:38
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: z-trains

-Another shot at the mine.
-Approaching the grade crossing of State Route 89 near Shonto. This is definitely one of my favorite shots of the trip.
-Going through the S-curves over Indian Route 21 between Cow Springs and Kaibito.

-Zach



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/07/19 18:28 by z-trains.








Date: 07/07/19 17:38
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: z-trains

-Our last day out started at Page with the eastbound run clearing the grade out of the plant. The plant is scheduled to be demolished after closure in December unless a company winds up buying it, and while the railroad is beautiful I find the plant it serves to be kinda an eyesore and I won't miss it.
-At Cow Springs, passing over the Sour Creek Wash.
-A mile east of the SR89 grade crossing.

-Zach



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/07/19 18:33 by z-trains.








Date: 07/07/19 17:38
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: z-trains

-Approaching the mine. I wish I had a bit more reach with my 70-200 F/4L but I like the composition here so I'll take it as is.
-And heading east at Kaibito. Thankful that the clouds stayed away for this shot!!

Overall a pretty fantastic trip. I'll be sad to see this unique piece of railroad disappear!

-Zach






Date: 07/07/19 17:56
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: Milwaukee

How long have those units been running around in the N de M paint?



Date: 07/07/19 18:04
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: dtoeppen

1) Here's a shot from July 2. I'm surprised that they reshuffled the locomotives for the next day. Weird.

2) Waiting near NGS for train to show up... It was pretty friggin' hot that day.

I couldn't find any way to get any shots of unloading.






Date: 07/07/19 18:07
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: z-trains

Milwaukee Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> How long have those units been running around in
> the N de M paint?

Since they were built in the early '80s. They were for an eletrification project (Mexico City to Guadalajara I believe) that got pulled due to political and economic realities of the latter half of the decade, BM&LP picked them up to replace their original E60's. In talking with the crews they actually preferred the old ones to the C-2's, mostly for crew comfort reasons, and all of the controls still have Spanish on them with english lables just taped on.

-Zach



Date: 07/07/19 18:09
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: z-trains

dtoeppen Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> 1) Here's a shot from July 2. I'm surprised that
> they reshuffled the locomotives for the next day.
> Weird.
>
> 2) Waiting near NGS for train to show up... It was
> pretty friggin' hot that day.
>
> I couldn't find any way to get any shots of
> unloading.

Oh goodness, we just missed you then, great shots though! Shame that they were running the BM&LP painted C-2 right before we were up there, their morning run to Page must have had it on there and then they tacked EA022 on that afternoon.

-Zach



Date: 07/07/19 19:06
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: bobk

Great shots and coverage!



Date: 07/07/19 19:20
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: fbe

Nice coverage. I will be down in a couple of weeks for a last trip.

First time I was there it was matched sets of the original single end boxcabs. Next time there were 3 of the NdeM units with a single original unit in consist. Last time it was all new units.



Date: 07/07/19 20:02
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: mundo

What a wonderful photo history.  THANKS !



Date: 07/07/19 20:22
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: CPR_4000

Some of the best images I've seen of this operation!



Date: 07/07/19 22:17
Re: Dying Breaths of the Black Mesa & Lake Powell
Author: Ibis

Excellent series, Zachary.  Thanks for sharing!



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