Site: Tehachapi, California
Nearest City: Bakersfield, Ca. 30 miles northwest & Los Angeles 100 miles south
Location: California DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer
Directions: From Bakersfield head south on State Route 58 about 30 miles to the town of Tehachapi population 6,000
Description: This is said to be the busiest & most famous mountain railroad pass in the US, featuring steep grades, numerous tunnels, & the Tehachapi Loop, an engineering marvel where freight trains circle over themselves as they climb a steep mountain grade. The tracks are owned & operated by UP; BNSF trains operate on trackage rights. There is no passenger service on this line, unless they detour through Tehachapi due to a derailment or track work.
Type of Operation: Heavy CTC controlled single track & double track mountain railroad with multiple helper locomotives.
Typical Motive Power: Anything on UP'S & BNSF'S roster can be seen.
Peak Operating Hours: Freight traffic tends to be busiest late in the week & weekends. Midday maintenance lulls are not unusual; they are planned to avoid the normal rush of morning intermodals.
Approximate Daily Train Frequency: 50 to 60 trains per day
Radio Frequencies: UP: 160.320, both UP & BNSF use this channel
Nearby Points of Interest: Cajon Pass is 90 minutes drive to the southeast; Barstow is a 90 minute drive east. Bakersfield is the closest Amtrak stop & has a shortline called San Joaquin Valley Railroad. Also the BNSF & UP lines diverge 17 miles east in the town of Mojave, population 4,000, which has several motels & restaurants.
Remarks: Much of the trackage in Tehachapi Pass is surrounded by private ranch land, & owners are generally tolerant of railfans who do not litter & who leave cattle alone & respect locked gates. There are motels & restaurants in the town of Tehachapi & in nearby Mojave. To get to the loop take Keene exit off State Route 58 & follow the signs. Stop at Keene store for further directions or to pick up something to eat or drink. The town of Tehachapi has restaurants, lodging, & all services.
Safety Considerations: Stay off the tracks, stay off the highway bridge on the west side of Tehachapi, & watch for snakes in the summer months. Hot weather also brings increased fire danger; do not park your vehicle in tall grass, & extinguish all smoking materials.
References: Trains on Location January 1996
Photo #1. BNSF Eastbound Intermodal Train at Tehachapi, Ca.
Photo #2. BNSF Eastbound Intermodal Train at Caliente, Ca.
Photo #3. BNSF Eastbound Intermodal Train at Tehachapi, Ca.
Photo #4. BNSF Westbound Freight Train at Bakersfield, Ca.