Several years ago, I went on a camping trip with my brother Phil, who recalled a fond memory of a remote valley in the Mojave Desert of southeastern California.

He described massive freight trains being hauled by relentless, muscling locomotives in the searing, radiant heat of summer, where nearby Death Valley temperatures are commonly above 110 degrees.

We decided to detour and visit this isolated terrain. The valley is a vast, bleak, moribund pool of sand; a concave depression guarded by the Providence Mountains, whose lifeless brown peaks join together and conspire like kilns to trap every last ray of heat and blast them back down upon the defenseless, oven-like surface below.

It is Nature's Bowl of Torture. As one cruises through the stark, burning solitude, the baking heat of the sun and stereophonic silence of the desert are occasionally shattered by the roaring thunder of locomotive giants.

We had the good luck to end up driving alongside one of these meandering snakes of alien steel: five Union Pacific diesels, laden with an ungodly amount of military hardware, as they groaned through the valley on their way to the abandoned Union Pacific Depot in Kelso, California.

At once both abjectly servile and unforgiving, these pounding machines strain incessantly to defy megatons of resistance with their inexorable might, obediently trekking with nonnegotiable attitude along the scorching furnace of the desert floor.

The power of these locomotives is both reassuring and intimidating. You have to see them for yourself.

Between the locomotives and the crews that operate them, one thing is assured: Things are getting done. No whining. Let's go. Want to go somewhere a bit cooler? Hop on up then, but hurry... we're leaving now.

And if you're listening to Peter Gabriel's 'Passion' while driving through the desert, you'll start seeing things too. I was, and before I knew it, I had this animation mapped out to the soundtrack "Of these, hope" from 'Passion'.

It's not finished - I don't think it ever will be.

I've not even had time yet to put the engineer in. That and many other improvements will have to wait to appear in Kelso Locomotive Animation III.

Oh, and wear headphones or turn the volume up or you'll miss much of what's here. 😀

- Peter

Technical notes on this animation are here.

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