In November of 2009, Union Pacific instituted a major change to operations in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Numerous tunnels along the Donner Pass Route were retrofitted in order to fit double stacked intermodal containers. With the completion of the tunnel project, Union Pacific began routing nearly all intermodal trains, as well as eastbound manifest, grain and coal traffic via the Donner Pass Route.
This change allowed Union Pacific to perform "directional running" along the Feather River Route. Heavy and lengthy westbound trains became normal. Without eastbound traffic, UP was able to improve capacity and efficiency along the Canyon Subdivision by eliminating the need for meets. With relatively short sidings, this is crucial operating procedure.
One of the only regularly scheduled eastbound trains along the Feather River Route is the LRR66. This local, commonly referred to as the "Canyon Crawler", operates between Oroville and Portola, serving several industries in Plumas County. With a relatively small number of carloads per month, the Canyon Crawler doesn't usually carry more than 15 cars on a particular day.
In April of 2019, Union Pacific was relocating boxcars to the deserts of Eastern California for storage. These increased carloads turned the normally dinky Canyon Crawler into a monster.
On a chilly spring afternoon, the loud whine of an SD70M echoes throughout the mountains of Clio, California as the UP 4807 drags a 70-car, 5,155' Canyon Crawler up the grade towards Portola. Seeing an eastbound train of this length operating between Keddie and Portola was a special opportunity.
California has some of the best mountain scenes in America. The photos in this album will include images from Donner Pass and the Feather River Canyon, which will show how Union Pacific really is the “Pride of the Sierras”.