In February 1988, a business trip for my wife turned into an opportunity to do some railfanning in Tucson. While she was in classes, I occupied the time by hunting down trains in a strange city. My luck was remarkably good.

Little did I know that the SP was to merge with the Rio Grande within a few months-- these pictures give a last glimpse of operations before successive mergers altered the image of the Southern Pacific forever.

Tucson sits astride the Espee's Sunset Route, and is a major division point on the railroad. The large yard bisects the city from Southeast to Northwest. As with most railroad facilities, it's difficult to get too close, but the eastern yard lead is an exception. I spent a couple hours near there, with good result.

NOTE: Many of these images have been re-scanned from the negatives, and are much cleaner, sharper, and larger...

Near where Ajo Way crosses the tracks, I set up and was rewarded with a long westbound intermodal.  It was crawling into town at about 15 mph, so I had lots of time for photos. (2/05/88)
The mix of power is delightful, very unlike what is typically seen these days.  In order, we have: B30-7 No. 7837; SD45T-2R No. 6827; B30-7 No. 7805; GP35 No. 6671; SD45T-2 No. 9164; SD40T-2 No. 8506.
 GE B30-7 No. 7837 was leading the way.
This Cotton Belt SD45T-2 tunnel motor (#9164) was buried five deep in the consist.
...A look at the spine cars which trailed the locomotives...
The train creeps towards the Alvernon Way / Golf Links Road overpass and the yard beyond.
I moved over by the east end of the yard to see what was going on, and caught this train departing eastbound. Nothing like a nice SD45R to make your day.  (No. 7435)
This Southern Pacific SD40T-2 (No.8248) was the fourth unit in the consist.
 Meanwhile, two SW1500's were switching the train which I'd seen arrive earlier.


Seven years later we were in town again, staying on the north side within walking distance of the tracks. Changes were evident, even though operations were much the same. Now one saw a lot more non-Espee power. SP locomotives lacked their distinctive light packages, and many wore the new Rio Grande-inspired Speed Lettering heralds. GP60s were common on stack trains. But the desert was still beautiful and the rails well-polished.

Here a westbound drag freight accelerates as it passes under the Highway 77 overpass. (3/12/95)

As the power passes, we can see the changes-- old and new lettering, plus a Rio Grande unit in the middle. The DRGW loco had seen changes of its own-- ditch lights, no mars light, new number boards, horn moved to the long hood-- all of which matched what was happening to its SP counterparts. (3/12/95)

The following evening, our eldest poses in front of a passing westbound with only two units for power-- SD40T-2 and SD45.(3/13/95)

This eastbound double-stacker shows off a trio of GP60s (of multiple generations) and a CSX GE unit, working off mileage. (3/13/95)

 Five years later, on 3/31/2000, UP SD40T-2 No. 4056, nee D&RGW 5369, sits in the middle of the consist of an eastbound train in the center of town.


 Tucson remains a busy place for trains, though now the dominant color is Armour Yellow.  The desert is still peaceful and full of beauty and the rails still well-polished, and the tradition of the Espee carries on under the new owners. Change is constant, but it's fun to look back.


[Back to Rail Encounters]
[Back to the SP Section]

2001, 2005, James R. Griffin.  All Rights Reserved.