NCMR Railfan Information
[ Local Scanner Frequencies ][Chase a Train over Cuesta Grade][Return to the Homepage]
Local Scanner Frequencies
160.320 - San Luis Obispo and west (north). Also used by local crews at the station.
161.550 - San Luis Obispo and east (south).
160.945 - Union Pacific Maintanence.
457.935 - FRED - You'll hear a sound every minute or so when a freight train is nearby.
Chase a Train over Cuesta Grade
I must emphasize here that you must exercise extreme caution when you're around the railroad tracks. Remember: Expect a train at any time, on any track, in any direction! Niether I, nor the NCMR recomend that you trespass on railroad property. This information is provided so that you can go out there and enjoy the trains, not get run over by them.
And now: How to chase a train from San Luis Obispo to Santa Margarita...
After cutting in the helpers at the San Luis Obispo station, the train will head out of town and cross the Stenner Creek tressle bridge. You can get to a nice spot down below by taking Santa Rosa Street (it ends right at the depot) north all the way through town. At the last light (Santa Rosa will turn into Hwy 1 after it), turn right, going into Cal Poly and continue until you get to the left turn right before the railroad underpass. Turn there, and follow that road until it ends a Stenner Creek Road. Turn right and you can stop at the gate, or keep going until you end up under the bridge. You should be able to make it ahead of the train if you leave just as they're putting the train back together after they cut in the helpers.
Instead of turning into Cal Poly, you can also go straight and Santa Rosa will become Hwy 1. Follow that until you get to the first right. That will be Stenner Creek Road. Turn right (the only way you can turn) and follow it until you're under the bridge.
Once the train crosses the bridge, go back to the gate if you're not already there. The train will loop around and you'll see it up on the side of the hill. You'll hear it first. (And if you get a really long train...) If you're not trying to do it all in one day (or one train), you can jump in your car and keep going up Stenner Creek Road a little farther. There's a spot there where you can park and watch the train go through the hills.
Or, when the train crosses the bridge, get back in your car and go to Hwy 1. Turn left, going back to San Luis Obispo and keep going until you get Foothill Blvd. Turn left, and go until you cross the tracks, then take a right on California. Follow California until you get to US 101. It's right across from the Highway Patrol office. Take 101 north up Cuesta Grade. The tracks will be on the hills on the left. Go over the top and pull the U turn at the bottom of the grade on the north side. (Not the one at the top where the parking area is.) Go back up until you're almost at the top again, and take the first right onto Cuesta Springs Road. Don't miss it; you won't get another chance. Follow this little road until you get past the burned up house (there's a trailer there now) and stop where there's a spot on the left. Get out of your car and cross the road. Walking a few yards farther down Cuesta Springs Road, you should find a trail on the right that leads down. Follow it and keep right and you'll get to the top of a tunnel. This is my favorite spot. Wait up top, where you can see the tunnel, and if you timed it right, you'll hear the diesels in about five or ten minutes. You'll hear them for about thirty to forty five seconds as they come through the tunnel, and then the train will come out. Depending upon their mechanical state, you'll get anything from a lot of smoke to total blackness between you and the train. You have some time to walk to the top of the tunnel to get another view. After it goes by, you can drive back to the freeway, but turn right into the truck parking area. That will take you back to the top of Cuesta Grade, where you can turn around (watch out for traffic - it's a pain to cross the freeway here) and go back down Cuesta Grade towards Santa Margarita. Turn off at the Santa Margarita exit, and follow that road until you see the train cutting out the helpers.
As for going the other way, I don't know if the timing will work. I guess it should, but I've never tried it before.
Another cool spot if you aren't chasing the train all the way across the grade, or if you're willing to miss Stenner Creek, is the little overpass at Mill Street. Leave the station on Santa Rosa St. just as they're cutting in the helpers and turn right on Mill Street. Follow that until you get to a little bridge that goes over the tracks. Park here and wait. When they're done cutting in the helpers (it could be a while, or it might not take too long) the train will pass right under you. By the time the train gets about halfway past this point, it will be going pretty fast right below you. Looking straight down at it is a little dizzying. I like to stand on the side that"s away from the station, so it comes out from under the bridge on the side you're standing on.
I'm pretty sure there are some other spots I haven't visited (I've usually gone with my friend's 3 year old (also a total train wacko), so I can't go too far off the beaten path. I'd be interested in hearing of other places along the Grade, and I'll post them here if it's not a place where somebody will get themselves killed by a train, or shot by a rancher. If anybody uses these directions, e-mail me and let me know how it went.
[Return to the Homepage]
These pages were designed and are maintained by Darin Volpe.
Copyright © 1997 Darin Volpe. All Rights Reserved