Last June my friend Ryan started talking about the possibility of making a trip to Holbrook and/or Snowflake to catch The Apache Railway’s daily run between those two cities. The APA runs between Snowflake, AZ and a yard / interchange with the BNSF Transcontinental in Holbrook, and they run ex-CP, MLW-built ALCO C420/C424 Century locomotives. Their regular runs include paper from the mill and other products that are traveling between Snowflake and the BNSF line, as well as the weekly Blue Looper that runs on Friday’s. The Blue Looper is a train composed of all (or mostly) blue coal hoppers that are picked up from the BNSF and are taken to the paper mill to power their power generating plant, the coal comes from New Mexico and the empty trains are eventually taken back to Holbrook (I presume they do that on Mondays).
We decided to make the trip on a Friday because that’s when the Blue Looper coal trains run from Holbrook to the paper mill in Snowflake, also, that’s when both of us didn’t have school.
After getting to Holbrook, we scouted all the locations that we had looked up in the maps to see how the light was and how quick we could get in and out of each location, because the train wasn’t going to wait for us to go to the next place.
We started chasing it from the SR-377 junction when it was going north, then we went to the last crossing before entering the yard and then to a ride by the yard / BNSF interchange. After it hooked up to the coal cars (and a couple of BNSF trains went by on their transcon line) we headed back to chase it the opposite way. At the yard exit we met with another trainspotter who has hoping to see the train, and we told him to follow us. After SR-377 we went to a dirt hill by MP5 (I believe) and waited for it to go by.
The light wasn’t the greatest, but we had the pictures. Unfortunately, the paper mill will shut down this September, the last Blue Looper ran this week, but word is going around that the train will still run at a reduced frequency for some of the other customers who use it (even though the mill was the main user of the railroad). And this particular train only took about half of the coal hoppers and a load of assorted cars, which was slightly disappointing.
These are some of the photos I took, at least the ones I have handy. APA 98 led the Soutbound and APA 99 led the Northbound.
And while we waited at the yard, this BNSF rolled by, unfortunately the Warbonnet wasn’t leading.