Memories of a 

Late Afternoon Visit to Cajon Pass 

May 31, 1964

Copyright 2007 by James E. Lancaster, Ph.D.

All photos are by the author and are Copyright 2007. They may not be used for any purpose without the permission of the author.

The Memorial Day holiday fell on a Saturday in 1964. I had Friday, May 29, off but my wife, who was a school teacher, had to work that day. So I had a free day to myself. We lived in Highland, CA at the time so I spent part of Friday railfanning in Colton, CA.

We had lived in Highland about nine months but had never been to Cajon Pass. On Sunday afternoon, May 31, I suggested some more railfanning so we headed for Cajon Pass, arriving about 3:45 PM. I had my wife's camera with me and took 14 photos of the late afternoon action. 

The images on this page were scanned from 35mm slides that were shot using a camera that had a tendency to sometimes overexpose the photo. The first five photos were shot on Kodachrome and the color has not changed much over the past 40+ years. The remaining nine photos were shot on Dynacolor, a 1960's film made by 3M. The color never was very accurate and has shifted even more over the years. The slides have also picked up some dust and scratches so I used Photoshop Elements on all the images to try to improve them.

The Kodachrome Image Gallery

The first photo shows a UP freight  arriving Summit on the westbound siding behind a pair of SD24s and three SD24-Bs. The track at the far left is where eastbound freights would drop their caboose so a helper could uncouple and back down the main to the right. The caboose track was on a slight grade so the caboose could roll back to its train after the helper was out of the way. The automobile with the top just showing is my wife's 1957 Ford convertible. The grade crossing at the far right is for the dirt road that connected the Summit station with California State Highway 138.

The engineer of the UP freight picks up orders from the Summit operator.  On weekdays this would probably have been Chard Walker but since it was Sunday a relief operator gets to do the honors.

Next comes Santa Fe #7, the westbound Fast Mail holding the mmain and passing the UP freight on the westbound siding. The Fast Mail was due at Summit at 4:07 PM. It's flying green flags indicating a following second section. That NYC box car looks like it has received a heightened roof.

A baggage-rider car brings up the rear of #7. Ahead of it is a heavyweight baggage, two lightweight bbaggage cars (one gray, one stainless steel), a lightweight, stainless steel 60' RPO, and additional mail and express cars. Sitting under the tree in the right distance are, I believe, members of Chard Walker's family. As I recall they were operating a small live-steam engine on track that ran around the outside of the house.

I never rode the Fast Mail but on one warm, Saturday evening in the spring of 1963 I spent about four hours looking into one of the baggage-rider cars through the rear vestibule. A friend of mine was the fireman on an SP switch engine working the swing shift at LAUPT. Most of the shift was spent switching the cars of that afternoon's westbound Fast Mail consist that arrived in LA about 6:30 PM. The switching was done with the cab end of the switch engine coupled to the rider car. Cars were switched into both the Post Office and REA tracks. It took most of the evening to break up the long train because of having to wait out on the throat tracks several times while higher priority trains like the Super Chief, Sunset, Lark and a San Diegan departed and the Coast and San Joaquin Daylights arrived. It was quite an evening.

The Fast Mail was followed by a Santa Fe freight behind four almost-new GP35s. The Santa Fe freight was on the main and was overtaking the UP freight on the siding. The photos show an interesting mix of cars on the UP freight - including some piggy-back cars. Note that the box cars still had roof walks and full height ladders. Changes were still about three years away.

The Dynacolor Image Gallery

The first photo (above) shows the arrival of First 104, the sleeping car section of the eastbound UP City of Los Angeles/City of St. Louis/Challenger passing by the Summit station. It was scheduled through Summit at 4:35 PM. This photo provides a good view of the summit area. In the upper left is the cattle pen and the wye for turning helpers in steam days. Beyond on the side of the hill is highway 138. Some outfit cars are sitting on the siding next to the wye. Next comes the westbound siding and the westbound main. First 104 is on the eastbound main with the eastbound siding to the left. At the right is the caboose track mentioned above. Three freight cars are parked at the far end. Just out of view to the right is the location of the Descanso, the ex-LARY funeral car used as a railfan cabin.

The next photo (above) shows First 104 headed for Barstow and beyond. The dome diner and dome lounge are visible in the center of the train. On the rear is a Budd-built Pacific-series 10-6 sleeper.

Second 104 was the Challenger (coach) section, shown here passing the summit station. My wife's 57 Ford is behind the bushes at the far right.

The Challenger consist included two dome-coaches and this newly-modernized buffet-lounge (UP 4051). Five of these buffet-lounge cars (UP 4050-54) had been rebuilt by the UP from 3600-series diners in the spring of 1964 and placed into service on #103 and #104 just before Memorial Day, in time to help provide additional food and beverage service on the expanded summer consists. A dome coach is ahead of the buffet-lounge and a regular coach behind it.

A long Second 104 disappears around the curve headed into Summit Valley.

Aftter the departure of Second 104 we started back towards San Bernardino. A little below Summit we turned off Highway 138 onto one of the Forest Service dirt roads to get closer to the tracks. Just as we did the second section section of the westbound Fast Mail passed us headed down grade. My only photo was this one of the five F-units taken through the windshield.

We stopped in time to get this photo of the eastbound, 18-car Grand Canyon. Behind the four F-units are five express reefers (probably loaded with strawberries), two baggage cars, three lightweight coaches, six (yes six!) heavyweight coaches, and two lightweight sleepers. The Grand Canyon was due at Summit at 4:46 PM but was running late on this particular day. Click here to open a closer (but somewhat blurred) image of this train.

Looking at the Grand Canyon from the rear we get a better look at the six heavyweight cars and the two sleepers. That's the westbound track in the cut at the right.

We followed the service road down grade and were going through this cut when we heard a train approaching from behind. It was a westbound Santa Fe freight behind a brace of GP30s. After this photo we headed back home to Highland.

Return to the Trains Page.