Friday, November 25, 2016

Milfordfest 2016, part 1 (Filming for a documentary)

Note: This is part one of two of a trip report prepared by Josh Bernhard and Jacob Lyman. In this post we will cover the trip from Josh's perspective.

As part of the Trackside: The Story of Railroad Photographers documentary project that I and the other DEP writers are directing, I contacted some members of the Utah Rail Enthusiasts group to see if they would be willing to be filmed during an outing. They went a step further than expected and arranged a group trip to Milford, a crew change point and junction of Union Pacific's Lynndyl and Caliente subdivisions. This was an extension of a tradition of social outings arranged by Utah Rail Enthusiasts members; previously, there have been trips to Echo Canyon (Echofest), to chase the Cache Valley Local (Loganrail), and even to tour the Intermountain Power Project power plant near Delta. Milford was chosen this time because of easy access to Utah Valley (comparatively; it's more than a two hour drive) and because it is largely ignored by photographers because of its isolation. Jacob will explain more about the history of the town and subidivision in his post, so look for that.

A highrailer in Leamington Canyon on the Sharp Sub, the first activity of the day.
The day began meeting Matt Paulson and Spencer Peterson in Santaquin in the wee hours of the morning, a good hour before sunrise. Spencer is the admin of, which by far is one of the best railfan resources available. The light was peeking over the mountains by the time we reached Leamington on the Sharp Subdivision, and a bit further we pulled into Lynndyl where the Sharp and Lynndyl subs join to meat Sean Anderberg and Chaice Moyes who came down from Spanish Fork. After reviewing the scheduled trains, we headed south to miss two eastbound intermodals. Some confusion ensued when we found a backup of trains just east of Murdock Siding with two ballast trains, one headed east and the other west, sitting in the hole. After running back and forth trying to find unit numbers to plot their routes, we eventually settled with a good crossing to watch trains from.

Some of the images in this post, such as this one, are stills from the footage that will be used in Trackside: The Story of Railroad Photographers. This is the MSCWC-19, originating in Salt Lake City and bound for West Colton, California.

 This was a surprise - somehow Matt's tracker didn't list this train, a unit Herzog ballast train headed from California. The Lynndyl sub is home to a quarry at Murdock where Herzog obtains most of the ballast used on railroads in the Western U.S.
Jacob had left Tooele much earlier than us and thus beat us to Milford, catching all the trains we missed and advising us of the catch of the day: a Norfolk Southern standard cab locomotive on a grain train at the Circle 4 Farms elevator. We don't get many NS locomotives this far west, so to catch not only a classic visitor from the East but also a rare locomotive unique to that railroad and still sporting its standard cab (a rare sight on mainline trains these days) was a real treat.

The power from the MSCWC-19 was pulled from the train, the SD40Ns removed and a C45AH  added before continuing to the Caliente Subdivision. The Lynndyl Sub is relatively flat, but the route between Milford and Las Vegas has some intense grades that warrant the extra locomotive.

Milford has plenty of the subtle quirks that characterize small desert towns. From the caboose in the park to the yellow crossbucks (not white!), it was an interesting place to see. In regards to the crossbucks, we joked that Union Pacific wasn't satisfied with painting Southern Pacific locomotives yellow so it had to expand to crossing signs. Then there is the grain elevator, by far the biggest structure for miles, and home to a cute little switcher owned by Circle 4 Farms, a hog producer just outside of town.

 Here it is: the standard-cab! The Norfolk Southern was the only railroad in the world to purchase the C40-9 from GE, which makes this a special catch this far west. This was the head-end power for the GSMFPR-19, a grain shuttle between Milford and Pratt, Kansas.
Milford's park caboose is accompanied by a semaphore signal. Unlike the similar caboose that UP donated to Eureka, the people of Milford actually takes care of this one and use it as a welcome center for what few tourists pass through. When we arrived an elderly couple was carefully decorating it for Christmas.
Unfortunately I had an appointment that evening in Salt Lake to film Gary Peterson's HO scale Salt Lake Southern model railroad, so I had to break from the group early, and in doing so I missed a massive five-way meet as trains backed up in Lynndyl between the Lynndyl and Sharp subdivisions, which I found out about later in the evening as Spencer began posting images to his UCrail facebook page.

Back to the whole reason why we made this trip, Trackside is moving along nicely. In December we will begin filming interviews, and hopefully get to tour some rail-served industries, to wrap up shooting for Trackside and begin post-production. Keep a lookout for further updates!

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