US Roadtrip 2017 - 11: Monumental Zephyr (50 p.)

Affiliate Disclosure: We may receive a commision from some of the links and ads shown on this website (Learn More Here)


Proud Earthling

To the previous part of the series:
US Roadtrip 2017 - 10: Coyotes howling at night (50 p.)

The video for this series (please set to 1080p quality / full-screen mode):


Multimedia slideshow:

February 24 2017

The sunrise above Monument Valley could be comfortably followed from the balcony of our room at "Goulding's Lodge". The cartoon-like silhouettes of the rocks emerged.

After a proper "meep-meep"-morning, we started off.

The 11,360 ft high Abajo or Blue Mountains were visible in the distance, we would pass them later at Monticello.

The park is administrated by the Navajo Nation, at the entrance these historic housings have been replicated.

A thought bubble above the Elephant...

The rather rough road lead past West Mitten Butte down into the valley.

The Camel. As all formations are holy sites, you strictly must keep to the paths.

Three Sisters in the background.

We rounded Rain God Mesa.

At the Totem Pole, sand dunes rare for this desert can be found.

At the Artist's Point, we encountered a tourist group ready to pose with flag, selfie-stick - and gun... ;-)

Artist's Point panorama.

This would have been the vehicle for this area.

Subsequently, we left Monument Valley driving northeast into Utah on Highway 163.

Even outside parks you can spot fascinating formations everywhere: Mexican Hat - a rock not only wearing sombrero but also poncho.

The partially reconstructed fort at Bluff, a Mormon settlement from 1880.

We ascended an altitude where snow could be encountered again and took a lunch break at the hip Peace Tree Juice Cafe in Monticello. Then we took Highway 191 north downhill into in an area where you can notice from afar which forms dominate: arches.

Still, you also come across various other shapes.

Behind a proper cowboy we drove through Moab, the tourist center of the region - we were about to return here the next day.

Finally, we followed a railroad again: Union Pacific Cane Creek subdivision, better known as the Potash Branch.

At Crescent Junction, we met the Utah Desert Mainline (formerly Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, Utah division, sub 5 - nowadays UP Green River sub).

After a short drive along Interstate 70 west we checked into the Comfort Inn Green River, two nights for a change. In this town mainly serving as an overnight stop along the freeway we met the roughest characters of the trip: This lovely individual kept the engine running while enjoying a newspaper inside the supermarket.

A hotel also meant Wi-Fi - finally I could put the Amtrak app to proper use. Although this line features almost no freight traffic, photography was possible as pin-pointed and efficient as hardly anywhere else on the trip. The scheduled train was supposed to arrive half an hour early - so no time to dawdle away, I immediately drove to a viewpoint on a hill outside town.

Light moods were changing quickly with showers passing by in the distance.

There it was, California Zephyr #5 Chicago - Emeryville hauled by Amtrak GE Genesis P42DC 133 and 135, both built in 2000.
More about the train and its history:
More about the engines:

In the picture you can also notice the line has been accelerated, the telegraph poles follow the old, wider but sharper curve:

That Friday evening the train consisted of nine double decker coaches.

My spot was located right next to the Green River shooting range. The road is the old Route 6 and 50 - we have returned to the "Loneliest Road in America" which we already know from Ely and which I already had taken photos of together with the steam train 335 miles to the west:
Nowadays Routes 6 and 50 are led together on Interstate 70, the old highway sadly does not earn that title anymore and is completely neglected.

The Interstate in the background.

Shortly before reaching town at 5:25 p.m., half an hour early.

February 25 2017

Next morning we could sleep in as the train was announced with a delay of 2 1/2 hours. We explored the old road, next to the shooting range we passed a group of people letting a small child fire a rifle...
In retrospect the detour did not pay off as the road surface was abysmal, and we did not want to turn into any of the dirt side roads. At least we caught a glimpse of these stabled freight cars.

Into the other direction: the 11,522 ft tall Henry Mountains.

This time I wanted to capture a close-up of train with telegraph poles as the landscape view from above was planned for next morning. We found a spot at a grade crossing right next to the Interstate-exit Floy at the siding of same name.

At 10:30 a.m. instead of eight California Zephyr #6 from California to Chicago approached.

The "third hand" was positioned on the other side of the tracks.

The run-past including Doppler effect can be experienced in the video above at 35 minutes 10 seconds.

This time hauled by three locos: 174, 81 und 203.

Passing Floy.

We continued our excursion towards Moab, in the background above you can spot the Potash Branch, behind it 12,721 ft high La Sal Range.

Shortly before reaching Moab, we left the highway and received a friendly welcome to Arches National Park. Obviously, it had snowed in other parts - with fittingly labeled vehicle.

We drove up the plateau on the park road.

Not only arches can be encountered here, but a best-of of all rock formations.

A first panorama at La Sal Mountains viewpoint - to the arches and more Desert-Zephyr next time! :) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section. - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.