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Western Railroad Discussion > Three Minutes at Cisco, CA (Donner Pass)


Date: 07/06/20 12:21
Three Minutes at Cisco, CA (Donner Pass)
Author: broken_link

Given their pending demise, I've been wanting to get what shots I can, while I can, of the remaining SP era signal bridges on Donner this summer. The limited traffic on Donner Pass, especially when considering that only a handful of trains are westbound, forces you to be flexible with your expectations and nimble with your decisions.

On Sunday, June 28th, I was in the middle of preparing dinner for the family when I became aware of what I believe was the westbound ZG2LT climbing from Truckee towards Tunnel 41. I had a couple of spots in mind for shooting a westbound in the early evening light, so I got dinner to a stable point where I could keep things warm, grabbed the camera, and I headed out. When I crossed the grade crossing at Soda Springs, there was an eastbound empty grain train waiting west of the crossing on Track 2 to go through the Big Hole once the Z cleared. A benefit of this was that the Z would have to move slowly through the Norden complex if it was on Track 1, buying me a little extra time. I initially thought about shooting it at Troy, but I decided to head a little further down the hill to Cisco and get a shot of it with the tunnels and signal bridge there.

I didn't know it at the time, but I was in for more work than I planned. (Not quite as bad as FunnelFan Ted's experience in his "How to Beat Yourself UP on the 4th of July" post, however!) The mud hole heading up to Cisco that I was able to work through with 8" of ground clearance and AWD in late May had turned into multiple muddy foot or deeper ruts with a stream running down the middle. Not wanting to high center and get stuck, I opted to pull off to the side and hike the rest of the way uphill to the grade. My time advantage was now dwindling. Fortunately, there was a break in the clouds, and I was still bathed in early evening light. Just as I was getting the camera set to record video, a cloud moved in and the train appeared. I hit record and hoped for the best, then I grabbed my still camera and started to fire away. It wasn't until after I had fired several shots that I realized I broke my own rule and failed to reset my shooting settings from when I was shooting landscapes earlier in the morning, thus underexposing the shot now in the shade by more than a stop. Furthermore, I didn't have on the lens I wanted to get the composition correct without cropping, so another fail despite having scouted this location ahead of time. The final insult occurred when the sun reappeared as the last of the well cars went rolling by.

Presented below is what I walked away with. Not what I wanted, given the scene was in shadows and the sky overexposed, and the train was already on the reverse curve in front of Tunnel 3 when I hit record. Perhaps next time it'll work out better.

Sean

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Date: 07/06/20 12:44
Re: Three Minutes at Cisco, CA (Donner Pass)
Author: photobob

There's nothing wrong with the still shot. The fact that the sun was being filtered through clouds gave you nice soft light. I think you captured the signal bridge perfectly.

Robert Morris
Dunsmuir, CA
Robert Morris Photography



Date: 07/06/20 14:06
Re: Three Minutes at Cisco, CA (Donner Pass)
Author: BoilingMan

Agreed.  The Summer light on Donner is pretty harsh, in fact- I'm far less inclined to shool on a cloudless day up here.  Give me clouds, or better yet: worse!
SR



Date: 07/06/20 14:25
Re: Three Minutes at Cisco, CA (Donner Pass)
Author: broken_link

Thanks Robert, and I agree that the soft diffused light can work. I would have shot it with a longer FL if I knew I was going to be shooting it in the shade of the cloud. (I should actually work to shoot more in different lighting conditions to come up with something different than what I usually go for.) There were fairly dark clouds, not full on storm light, but not far off, that I had planned on including in the shot. When the sun was blocked, it completely flipped the exposure and look I was going for between the scene and sky. Since I was already shooting wider to include the top of the ridge and clouds, I ended up having to crop them out when I didn't care for how the exposure turned out.

photobob Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> There's nothing wrong with the still shot. The
> fact that the sun was being filtered through
> clouds gave you nice soft light. I think you
> captured the signal bridge perfectly.



Date: 07/06/20 14:34
Re: Three Minutes at Cisco, CA (Donner Pass)
Author: broken_link

Yeah, the light is fairly intense up there mid-day, and I generally avoid it. I shot this after 6 pm, so it was a little more accommodating. The dark clouds would have made for nice contrast if I still had direct sunlight.

I don't know if you've been up there since May, but that mud hole that was a challenge but manageable previously was too intimidating for me to attempt this time around. There was still a decent amount of water flowing off the hill through that spot, so who knows when it will dry out. That road is marked with signs saying private all over the place, but I've reviewed the Placer County Assessors Maps, and it looks to me like it's a public RoW up to the UP property, though everything around it is clearly private. It could handle regrading, but I doubt anything will be done about it unless UP can't get equipment up there to replace the signal bridge this summer, at which point I'll care just a little less that I could more easily get in there.

Sean

BoilingMan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Agreed.  The Summer light on Donner is pretty
> harsh, in fact- I'm far less inclined to shool on
> a cloudless day up here.  Give me clouds, or
> better yet: worse!
> SR



Date: 07/06/20 14:54
Re: Three Minutes at Cisco, CA (Donner Pass)
Author: BoilingMan

No, I was "At Sea" for all of June.  Just got back a few days ago.  I was hoping that thing would dry up a bit...   guess not?  I dropped off my camera is at the Camera Spa for a deep cleaning & pedicure.  As soon as it's back I'll go have a look at the road and try not to do something stupid (good luck with that, right?)
Yes, the Keep Out signs have gotten more prolific and intimidating recently.  I suspect the land owner on the left, just as you start up the road, is responsible for most of it.  But I can't say I really blame him-  the weekend I-80 crowd on would worry anyone.
SR



Date: 07/06/20 15:56
Re: Three Minutes at Cisco, CA (Donner Pass)
Author: donner_dude1

broken_link Wrote:
------------------------------------------------------
>
> On Sunday, June 28th, I was in the middle of
> preparing dinner for the family when I became
> aware of what I believe was the westbound ZG2LT
> climbing from Truckee towards Tunnel 41. I had a
> couple of spots in mind for shooting a westbound
> in the early evening light, so I got dinner to a
> stable point where I could keep things warm,
> grabbed the camera, and I headed out. When I
> crossed the grade crossing at Soda Springs, there
> was an eastbound empty grain train waiting west of
> the crossing on Track 2 to go through the Big Hole
> once the Z cleared. A benefit of this was that the
> Z would have to move slowly through the Norden
> complex if it was on Track 1, buying me a little
> extra time. I initially thought about shooting it
> at Troy, but I decided to head a little further
> down the hill to Cisco and get a shot of it with
> the tunnels and signal bridge there.
>
> I didn't know it at the time, but I was in for
> more work than I planned. (Not quite as bad as
> FunnelFan Ted's experience in his "How to Beat
> Yourself UP on the 4th of July" post, however!)
> The mud hole heading up to Cisco that I was able
> to work through with 8" of ground clearance and
> AWD in late May had turned into multiple
> muddy foot or deeper ruts with a stream running
> down the middle. Not wanting to high center and
> get stuck, I opted to pull off to the side and
> hike the rest of the way uphill to the grade.

> Sean

I think you did fairly well. And they gave you a clean lead unit. Bonus. 

I was wondering if the wb Z was still running. It used to be a reliable early morning train through Truckee. I'm guessing it has a later schedule now. Surprising to see how different it looks compared to the ZLTG2 (no UPS to speak of).

I've never seen the Cisco road that way. Broken pipe somewhere or a new spring has emerged? All the snow has melted except at the highest peaks above 8000 ft. I think you'll need a high clearance FWD to get through it since the muddy section is on an incline.  



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/06/20 23:38 by donner_dude1.



Date: 07/06/20 17:12
Re: Three Minutes at Cisco, CA (Donner Pass)
Author: coach

Given all the cost cutting UP is doing in the name of PSR, I am amazed they keep the Feather River line.  Donner has all the capacity they need for Overland trains.  Best to sell off the Feather River line, and be efficient with their capital dollars.



Date: 07/07/20 09:32
Re: Three Minutes at Cisco, CA (Donner Pass)
Author: wyeth

The railroads are sure being successful at driving the former truck trailer (TOFC) business to domestic containers.  Just recently, I saw some new "Alliance Shippers" domestic refrigerated containers.  Over the last year, it seems like most truckers that use intermodal have started purchasing their own domestic containers (ABF, YRC, Marten, etc).



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