February 21st as I headed west on I40 through Arizona I unexpectedly accomplished one of my railfan bucket list items. Passing through Holbrook I looked down the tracks and spotted two green and white locomotives in the distance. While I have photographed the pristine Alco’s of the Arkansas & Missouri on multiple occasions, this was my first time to catch the more elusive Apache Railroad. Alco Century 420 number 81 (ex-Louisville & Nashville 1305) and Century 424 number 99 (ex-Canadian Pacific 4233) were finishing up switching the BNSF interchange before heading back to Snowflake 38 miles to the south.
As the crew was finishing up their air test I drove to the south side of the Little Colorado River bridge to catch them leaving town.
I had not done my homework on the Apache before this trip but I did remember the line became inaccessible a short time after leaving Holbrook. I took the highway south about two miles to the next road that branched off to the west and got lucky when I found the last prime photo spot at a grade crossing. The wind was gusting around 40 mph so I had to really brace myself for this final sequence as the train climbed the grade southbound out of Holbrook invisible in the river valley behind the train.
If I had passed through Holbrook thirty minutes later I would have missed them altogether. After this high, ninety miles further west in Flagstaff I found the weather to be radically different.
Twenty-four inches on the ground with another sixteen inches to come before the storm was over!