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Video: Chasing the Kelso Flyer

By Myung J. Chun, Los Angeles Times

I recently had an interesting assignment to photograph, and ride in, the Kelso Flyer, which was on a special, two-day train ride from Los Angeles to an overnight stay in Barstow, then onto the Kelso Depot the following day.

The event, organized by the Barstow Chamber of Commerce and the Barstow-Kelso Heritage Railroad Committee, was to see if there was a market for a tour train from Barstow to Kelso.

I only had a ticket for Sunday’s Barstow to Kelso run, so I spent Saturday chasing and photographing the exterior of the train as it made its way up the Cajon Pass and then through the high desert to Barstow.

I packed my gear the night before — a Sony EX1 for video of the exteriors and two Canon 7Ds fitted with 70-200mm f/2.8 and 16-35mm f/2.8 zooms. I used the still cameras  to shoot video when I was on the train the following day as bringing the Sony with me would have been too overwhelming.

I checked a map and decided to start at the intersection of I-15 and Highway 138 at 11 a.m. I called the reporter, Louis Sahagun, who boarded the train in Fullerton, to coordinate their location. Norm Orfall, a co-organizer, told me about a couple of places where I could get a clear view of the train. The train was about an hour and a half away, so I used that time to scout the two nearby places. It was important that the spots be fairly close to the interstate so I could quickly travel to my next location. (Click here to see it on Google Maps.)

Around noon, I was hoping to grab a quick lunch when I got a call from the reporter saying they were about five minutes away from me. The train was a bit faster than we thought, and my Quarter Pounder meal would have to wait.

I hustled to my first location at the corner of Cleghorn Road and Cajon Boulevard, just a short distance away. I set up quickly, framing the video camera and lining up my still photos. A few minutes later, the train rumbled past and I shot. I quickly packed up the gear and drove to my next spot on Highway 138 about four miles east of I-15. It was slow-going as the road was very twisty and worsened by a slow-moving rental truck that wouldn’t yield for the cars stacking up behind.

I made it with a couple of minutes to spare. I could hear the train whistle in the distance as I was setting up the video camera. I grabbed my still cameras and a minute later, the train rounded the bend. In another minute, it was all over and I packed up to get to my next spot.

This photo of the Kelso Flyer was shot from the second spot on Highway 138. It’s a great location with a beautiful view.

I drove north on I-15 to Victorville, exiting on D Street. I got on Route 66 and was looking for a photogenic spot when the train rolled past. I was a little too late. From this point, the train’s route would take it too far from the interstate and I decided to head to the Barstow Depot and wait for its arrival. I shot the fanfare upon its arrival and then drove two hours home. I returned early the following morning to ride the train and get more video and photos to accompany the story for the paper and website.

It was a long and hectic weekend but I was satisfied with my coverage. Read the full story by Louis Sahagun “This short, scenic Mojave train tour was a long time coming.”

Photos/video credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

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