In the morning between Maricopa and Tucson you will pass Picacho Peak. It will be on the right side of the train.
For most of the morning (as far a Benson) you will be in the Sonoran Desert and a part of the Southwestern US known for it's Basin & Range topography.
Soon after Picacho Peak you will see the Tortolita Mountains out the left side of the TE. Across the basin towards the south you will see the north side of the Santa Catalina Mountains, part of the Coronado National Forest.
Tucson, a fresh air/smoke/service stop lies in a basin surrounded on the NE by the south side of the Santa Catalina Mountains, the Rincon Mountains to the east, Tucson Mountains to the west, and the Santa Rita Mountains to the south.
Tucson is in many ways the astronomy center of the USA. Many of the mountains in the region are home to Astronomical telescopes because of the dry conditions and high number of clear nights.
There are several telescopes on Mt. Lemmon, the highest part of the Santa Catalina Mountains @ 9157 feet. Just below where the telescopes are is the southern most ski area in the US.
The Fred Whipple Observatory is on Mt. Hopkins in the Santa Rita Mountains and while we can't see it from the train Kitt Peak National Observatory is some 40 miles west of Tucson in the Quinlan Mountains on the Tohono O'odham Nation.
16 miles south of Tucson your train will take one of 2 the sets of track. With luck it will take the eastern set along the riparian zone of Ciénega Creek. Some 8 miles after the 2 tracks veer away from each other they cross at the Ciénega Creek Bridge near Marsh Station Rd.
When the tracks rejoin I-10 if you look out the right side on the other side of I-10 you can see part of a long line (3.5 miles long on Google maps) of stored UP locomotives. I see Google maps has blacked out the locomotives since the last time I looked at them.
Shortly you will start descending into the San Pedro Valley and for a short stop in Benson. We are now in the northern reaches of the Chihuahuan Desert. From here to the New Mexico border will will also be surrounded by the Madrean Sky Islands. Leaving Benson we climb out of the valley and ascend into the Dragoon Mountains.
We then descend past the south end of the Gunnison Hills towards the Sulphur Springs Valley. At the edge of the valley we cross the NW part of the Willcox Playa. For the next 15 mi or so, out the left side of the train we can see Mt Graham (Pinaleño Mountains) and the dome of the Large Binocular Telescope .
Leaving Sulphur Springs Valley the Dos Cabezas Mountains will be on the right. The next valley (basin) we cross is the San Simon Valley that delivers us to the Peloncillo Mountains where we cross the AZ-NM border near Steins Mountain. Next we cross the Animas Valley and there are sinks out the left side of the train and we stop briefly in Lordsburg.
30 miles out of Lordsburg the tracks cross the Continental Divide (Alt 4564 ft). You'll know you are there when you get to the I-10 interchange 2.6 miles past the I-10 rest area on the right side of the train.
22 to 23 miles after Deming the train crosses under I-10 and takes a more direct route towards El Paso than I-10 does. A further 23 miles puts the train adjacent to the Arden Lava Flows. 20 miles further Union Pacific has built themselves a new intermodial rail yard near Santa Teresa, NM.
12 miles after the new yard the train will be quite close (as close as 30 feet if on the right tracks) to the US/Mexico border. 2.5 miles or so later we cross the Rio Grande River into Texas on the outskirts of El Paso. El Paso is also a fresh air/smoke stop.
The Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited rails along between I-10 and the US/Mexico border until it veers away from both near small, unincorporated, McNary, TX .
The train rejoins I-10 about where the ICE has a checkpoint on I-10 (Etholen, TX).
Five miles on we go under I-10 at Sierra Blanca and take a more direct route for 36 miles to join US-90 and the Lobo Valley & Ryan Flat. 11 or so miles later the train starts a 40 mi straight run with no curves.
The next town of appreciable size is Marfa, where car headlights on mountains in the distance are said to be alien spacecraft visiting Earth. If it is dark by then maybe you'll get to see some 'aliens' too.
Edited by KmH, 25 September 2017 - 01:12 PM.