A Monumental Task
Written by Gary Dolzall
With legendary Tehachapi Pass coming soon to Train Simulator, we take at look at operations on the rugged mountain railroad.
The task at hand is monumental, and unforgiving – lifting thousands of tons of freight up to the summit of California’s Tehachapi Mountains, then safely descending on twisting, 2.2 grades. And soon, the extraordinary challenges of one of America’s most legendary rail lines will be yours – with the upcoming Train Simulator Tehachapi Pass route!
From the day the Southern Pacific opened its line linking the Mojave Desert and San Joaquin Valley in 1876 to today, railroading across the Tehachapi Mountains has been one of railroading’s most arduous – and spectacular – endeavors. On a route that gains some 2,700-feet in elevation on its west slope, Tehachapi railroading has always demanded lots of horsepower – and train crews truly expert in the use of throttle, brakes, and train handling.
Today, Tehachapi is a vital part of Union Pacific’s Mojave Subdivision and is used heavily by both UP and trackage rights tenant BNSF. And the tonnage moving over and through the Tehachapi Mountains is both expansive and diverse – high priority intermodal, automobiles, mixed manifest, grain, oil, ethanol, and more. And the line also originates its share of tonnage from online shippers.
By tradition, Tehachapi has always been home to big motive power – the likes of Southern Pacific’s distinctive Cab-Forward 4-8-8-2s and Santa Fe 2-10-2s in the steam era and husky third-generation diesel power today. Indeed, UP and BNSF apply as much as six horsepower per train ton to lift traffic over the mountains. For most of its past, Tehachapi was home to manned helpers, but today’s efficient DPUs (Distributed Power Units) have largely replaced manned helpers, although BNSF still on occasion uses manned helpers to push heavily loaded westbound grain trains up the east slope of the mountains. DPUs are regular fare on both UP and BNSF and can often be found on the rear of long freights as well as placed mid-train.
Much of the crossing of the rugged Tehachapi Mountains is a daunting and challenging journey over steep grades and around twisting curves and operated speeds are in the 25-mph range, but both west from Mojave and east from Bakersfield, the line also features quick, mile-a-minute running over lengthy portions. Westbound trains on the Tehachapi line arrive at Mojave via either Union Pacific’s Palmdale Cutoff (from Colton and the Los Angeles area) or BNSF’s Mojave Subdivision from Barstow, California. Having originated across both of the rail giants’ route systems (and as far away as Chicago) the trains utilize the Tehachapi line to connect on its west end with UP’s Fresno Subdivision and BNSF’s Bakersfield Subdivision. Beyond Bakersfield, Union Pacific train may be destined to (or originate from) as far away as the Pacific Northwest while most BNSF traffic is bound for the railroad’s important Bay Area terminal in Stockton, California. The Tehachapi line’s mix of double track and single-track with long passing tracks both keep trains on the move, and the Subdivision dispatchers busy! While passenger trains do not regularly operate on the Tehachapi line today, Amtrak’s San Joaquin services linking Bakersfield with northern California call at Bakersfield’s modern station.
While heavy tonnage moving long distances may be the essence of Tehachapi, the line is also rich in locally originated tonnage and yard operations. In Bakersfield, both Union Pacific and BNSF operate large yard facilities. Kern Junction, where the UP and BNSF lines to and from the west come together for the Tehachapi crossing, is also home to UP’s yard facilities. South of Bakersfield, at Edison, California, Union Pacific serves a number of shippers related to the agricultural activities of the fertile San Joaquin Valley. Bakersfield yard limits extend to Edison. On the route’s east slope, well-known among railroad enthusiasts is the sprawling cement plant at Monolith (about five miles east of Tehachapi) which generates substantial tonnage. Mojave is home to a yard utilized by both Union Pacific and Santa Fe. At or near this yard, branch lines extend northeast toward the famed Trona potash fields (the Lone Pine Branch) and to a cement plant at Creal (Oak Creek Branch). To serve the route’s online shippers, Union Pacific operates local turns out of both Mojave and Bakersfield.
The upcoming Tehachapi Pass route for Train Simulator re-creates the line in superb detail from Mojave to Bakersfield, California, a distance of 68 route miles. The yard complexes at Bakersfield and Mojave, the route’s numerous lineside shippers, and Bakersfield’s stylish Amtrak station are included (the branch lines extending from Mojave are not replicated). And, of course, all of the Tehachapi route’s legendary locations – the Bealville and Caliente horseshoes, spectacular Cliff, Walong Siding, Cable, Summit, and, of course, legendary Tehachapi Loop, where the line uses a full loop and tunnel to cross over itself in truly dramatic fashion – are masterfully featured!
The upcoming Train Simulator route will include Union Pacific’s General Electric AC4400CW and ES44AC diesels along with UP Electro-Motive SD70ACe and GP40-2 diesels, plus the BNSF GE ES44DC. The route will also include a variety of contemporary intermodal and freight rolling stock as well as six career scenarios and two railfan scenarios.
Note: The Tehachapi Pass route is available worldwide. Due to licensing restrictions, BNSF markings will appear only on content distributed to U. S. customers.
Prepare for monumental – and memorable – American railroading on the legendary Tehachapi Pass route, which is coming soon to Train Simulator! – Gary Dolzall
The task is monumental and unforgiving – totting thousands of tons of freight across California’s Tehachapi Mountains. And soon, the extraordinary challenges of one of America’s most legendary rail lines will be yours – with the upcoming Train Simulator Tehachapi Pass route! At famed Tehachapi Loop, Union Pacific GE AC4400CW 7103 is about is about to enter Tunnel No. 9 as its rear DPU is visible high above at Walong. Screenshots by Gary Dolzall.
The upcoming Tehachapi Pass route for Train Simulator re-creates this historic line in contemporary form from Bakersfield to Mojave California, a distance of 68 route miles. In Bakersfield, a BNSF intermodal (above), makes it way off the BNSF Bakersfield Subdivision as it approaches Kern Junction. Kern is home to UP’s large yard facility, where a pair of UP EMD GP40-2s (below) handle yard duties and an eastbound Union Pacific train begins its run across UP’s Mojave Subdivision. Note: Screenshots depict content while in development.
*Edison, east of Bakersfield, is home to a number of lineside shippers serving the fertile San Joaquin Valley. On the upcoming Tehachapi Pass route, a duo of Union Pacific EMD GP40-2s are spotting a pair of covered hoppers at a shipper’s siding.
The western slope of Tehachapi Pass is one of the engineering – and scenic – marvels of the railroading world. At Caliente, California, the front end of a Union Pacific eastbound stack train has just rounded the Caliente horseshoe while its rear DPU still navigates the curve.
Making the arduous and spectacular ascent of Tehachapi’s west slope on the upcoming Tehachapi Pass route, a BNSF tank train curls through majestic Bealville horseshoe (above), then a short time later grinds upgrade through memorable mountain scenery at Cliff (below).
Climbing eastbound, a BNSF train with a trio of GE ES44DCs on the point crosses over itself at remarkable Tehachapi Loop. The front of the train is approaching Walong while its rear DPU locomotive nears Tunnel No. 9.
A Union Pacific westbound behind a set of potent GE AC4400CWs is climbing the east slope of the mountains and rolls past the sprawling cement plant at Monolith, California. The upcoming Tehachapi Pass route features a variety of lineside shippers and facilities.
Much of the crossing of the rugged Tehachapi Mountains is a daunting and challenging journey over steep grades and around twisting curves and operated speeds are in the 25-mph range, but both west from Mojave and east from Bakersfield, the line also features mile-a-minute running. Having departed Mojave, Union Pacific GE AC4400CWs are hustling a westbound manifest through high desert country (above). At Mojave Yard, a pair of UP EMD SD70ACe diesels are starting their pull westbound with a string of cement hoppers (below).
The upcoming Train Simulator route will include Union Pacific’s General Electric AC4400CW and ES44AC diesels along with UP Electro-Motive SD70ACe and GP40-2 diesels, plus the BNSF GE ES44DC (above). As engineer, you’ll take the controls of the GE AC4400CW’s modern, console-style controls (below).
At fabulous Cliff, a BNSF eastbound makes the climb of the Mojave Subdivision’s Tehachapi west slope. Prepare for monumental – and memorable – American railroading on the legendary Tehachapi Pass route, which is coming soon to Train Simulator!
A Monumental Task