While on a family vacation back in December of 1981, we stumbled across the Black Mesa and Lake Powell railroad in northern Arizona. Situated east of Lake Powell, the railroad moves coal from a mine loading facility near Kayenta to the Salt River Project Navajo Generating Station just outside of Page.
This is beautiful high desert country with plateaus and valleys, but be forewarned that chasing the BM&LP will not be easy. Public access is limited to a few public highway crossings, with most of the railroad being on private property or the Navajo Indian Reservation. However, there is few mile stretch where Highway 160 parallels the tracks southwest of Kayenta.
Train frequency is limited to a few trains a day, so it really becomes a matter of "being in the right place at the right time". That's what happened with us when we shot these early morning photos.
A few things to note about the railroad. It is totally electrified, using General Electric E60 locomotives for power. Besides the 6 original units built for the BM&LP, they also picked up another batch of E60's from Mexico.
The railroad itself is landlocked... meaning that it has no connections to other railroads. Given the remoteness of the railroad, it's understandable. It also means that any locomotives or cars need to be trucked in / out.
Finally, built in 1973, this was the first railroad built in the country to use 50,000 volt AC power.
One final site seeing note. Glen Canyon Dam is located just outside of Page, and is worth a stop. It is an impressive structure, and something that more than likely will never be built again in this country. Also, Lake Powell itself is immense and offers many recreational activities.
Our first photo is of a loaded train waiting for it's turn to leave the mine loading facility. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time, as the locomotives are well lit in the December early morning sunlight. Winter is a beautiful time of year in the high desert, with plenty of clear skies. However, it does get cold, and it does snow.
At the time when these photos were taken, the only locomotives on the railroad were the original six E60's from General Electric. The E60's from NdeM in Mexico won't arrive for another decade or so.
Here's another E60 photo, this time on an arriving empty train from Page. If you look at the prior photo, you'll notice a cab air conditioner on the lead unit, whereas this unit doesn't have one. Probably why it is a trailing unit. The high desert can be equally as hot in the summer, so I imagine the crew appreciates the air conditioning.
Here's one of the BM&LP hoppers. I believe this is one of the cars built by Ortner. I also believe gravity dump was used at that time for unloading. Besides the Ortner cars, BM&LP also used hoppers built by FMC,
Our final picture shows the loaded train at the mine loading facility. This is wide open country, and the train seems dwarfed by the sheer openness of the land.