Took the motorcycle out trainwatching today and saw some interesting stuff:
#1. The Union Pacific had some serious right-of-way work going on just at the top of Beaumont Hill; with a work train consisting of roughly 40 varied cars and a whole scad of road-railer trucks of differing sizes and functions. They had the mainline well and truly tied up while they finished up putting in some new rail, and trains were stacked up all the way back to Colton to the west and Palm Springs to the east -about 50 miles of stalled railroad.
#2. This presented an unrivaled chance for some up-close-and-personal trainwatching, and I spotted several rare birds including an ex-S.P SD-40T2 Snoot in U.P. colors and an aging Rio Grande SD-35 still in the original colors but sporting U.P. cab numbers. Also saw a U.P. SD-90, which surprised me as I'd been told that they'd all been retired as a bad bet. Interestingly, there were no crew members anywhere in sight, so one assumes that they'd all been parked for quite some time...
#3. Discovered that Lowes -the home improvement chain- has built a *huge* new distribution center just on the west border of Beaumont, and it's served by two separate sidings. One (the north track) turns right and runs inside the building through one of the biggest roll-up doors you've ever seen. The south track turns left through almost 90 degrees and runs the full length of the outdoors storage area.
#4. That south track features an interesting -and new to me- unloading system for open cars. There are a series of around 15 hefty yellow girders rising about 25' out of the pavement and then angling 90 degrees towards the tracks, and they support a steel cable that hangs directly over the centerline of the rails. It looks a lot like a huge and ungainly trolley wire system!
But hanging from that foresaid cable are a series of powered (?) cable sheaves/winches that can be pulled to any location above the open cars, enabling the operators to lift their loads straight up and hold them suspended while the railroad car or cars are pulled out from underneath the loads, and a flatbed truck drives underneath to take the load.
This, of course, requires the cooperation of a locomotive, and surprise! Down at the far end of the siding resides a retired (?) leased (?) old U.P. loco that apparently lives there all the time and presumably does whatever switching Lowes requires.
An industry featuring such an unloading system with it's own dedicated loco would be something that I've never yet seen anyone model, and would be a neat addition to a modern-era model railroad. Best of all from a track-planning aspect; this suspended cable unloading system does not require a straight stretch of track to model it accurately! You could sneak it in almost anywhere.