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    Posted Sunday, October 28 2007 at 2144 h MDT
    Today marked the first appearance of a KCS unit on the Joint Line in the new "Retro Belle" paint scheme. While KCS units aren't uncommon, often running as part of BNSF trains, I think this is the first one in the new paint that's wandered down this way. The unit doing the honors was KCS SD70ACe #4045, pushing as the rear DPU on a TGNX coal train. I didn't catch up with it until very near dark, but you can see a few resulting images [here]. There's another one in Denver (SD70ACe 4038), having come in on the back of the BNSF's Z-CHIDEN. No word on where it's going from there, yet. - NDHolmes

    Posted Wednesday, October 24 2007 at 1043 h MDT
    The San Luis & Rio Grande is receiving three new crossings and automatic grade crossing signals in Alamosa as part of the realignment of US Highway 160. Since the eastbound lanes of 160 will be rerouted onto 6th Street, which runs parallel to the north side of the SL&RG yard, new signals are being installed that interlock with the traffic control signals at nearby intersections on the new road. The new crossings are divided by a median, and have full four-quadrant gates. Photos of the installations can be found [here]. For further information, the [Colorado Public Utilities Commission decision] provides more details.

    One unfortunate casualty of the new grade crossings is the last remaining bit of dual-gauge trackage in the Alamosa yard. Several of the crossings in Ross Avenue still had all three rails intact before the project, but now have been rebuilt to modern standards and only have the active rails. -

    Posted Monday, October 22 2007 at 1050 h MDT
    This last Saturday was the second of the two Chama Steam photo freight excursions for the year. This one - known as "the Classic" - involved a triple-header up from Chama to Cumbres, and then various combinations of double-headers and running as multiple sections from Cumbres to Osier and back to Chama. I was chasing rather than riding this one, so it's a bit of a different view of the train than last time. The results of this weekend's chase are posted over [here].

  • DRGW 5371 UPDATE
    Posted Thursday, October 18 2007 at 0954 h MDT
    DRGW 5371 is on today's M-NYPV (North Yard to Provo, UT), headed west across the Moffat at 0630h this morning (Thursday, 18-Oct-2007). It's not currently on the front, but rather second or third facing the rear. Thanks to Paul Z for the update via the DRGW list this morning.

    For those wanting to see it from yesterday, Nathan Z has posted a number of shots [here].

    Update (18-Oct-2007): Dave Schaaf also posted a beautiful shot of 5371 from yesterday - see it [here]. -

    Posted Wednesday, October 17 2007 at 0827 h MDT
    Got a call this morning that 5371 is headed into Denver. It recently went east from its Utah home to have its turbo replaced at North Platte, and then made a run through Minnesota on the way back. Today, it's the second unit out, behind UP SD70M 4478 on MNPNY-17 (North Platte to North Yard). It's expected to be through Cheyenne at any moment (0800h-0900h), and into Denver around 1500h, though my guess is that it'll arrive earlier than that. I also heard a fairly solid rumor Monday night that 5371's alternator may be having problems, so if you get the chance, you might want to get pictures soon. - NDHolmes

    Posted Sunday, October 14 2007 at 2044 h MDT
    Today marked the final day for the regular Cumbres & Toltec Scenic season, and Richard Tower (Secretary-Treasurer of the C&TS Management Corp.) announced the final ridership figure for the 2007 regular season - 43,164 total passengers, including charters, for about 9% total growth. Excluding charters, there were 42,815 regular passengers, or about 11.3% above 2006. Richard points out that these numbers are not final for the year, however - there's still the second Chama Steam charter coming up this next weekend, and there will be the Christmas trains as that season rolls around. Most amazingly, he reports that October regular ridership was up 24% this year. You can read his full post on either NGDF or the Goat.

    Richard also makes mention of this year's trackwork in his note. I have to congratulate all that have been involved in this process. After decades of deferred maintenance and neglect of the infrastructure, the track is finally starting to get the attention it needs. In the past two years, we've seen some 20,000 ties installed, 25,000 tons of good ballast applied, and two-thirds of the route miles tamped and surfaced. The results are amazing - a smoother ride for passengers, less wear on the historic equipment, and much better on-time performance for the regular trains. If you want to see what's been done, take a look at these two photos from the Tanglefoot Curve area for a comparison: [2006 track] vs [2007 track]. Well done to everybody who made this happen, and congratulations on another successful season! -

    Posted Friday, October 12 2007 at 1320 h MDT
    The San Luis & Rio Grande has acquired the old Southern San Luis Valley (SSLV) Railroad in order to expand their car storage capacity. The property, located about a mile east of Blanca, CO, includes the remaining 1.53 miles of track and its two locomotives, a small Plymouth and home-built switcher D-500.

    For those unfamiliar with the history of the line, the SSLV was originally built in 1909 as the San Luis Southern Railway, extending from the D&RG interchange at Blanca, CO, to near the New Mexico border at Jaroso. It became the San Luis Valley Southern in 1928, and then finally the Southern San Luis Valley Railroad in 1953. By 1959, it was cut back from its original 32 miles to only 1.53 miles south of the D&RGW interchange, kept to serve a lettuce refrigeration facility and vegetable shipping company. The last regular operations took place in 1994, and the railroad has sat largely idle (though not abandoned) since then.

    Because the SSLV's track still consisted of the original 55 lb rail and had suffered from much deferred maintenance over the years, the SLRG is rebuilding the SSLV's track from the interchange southward. Currently the new line only extends to the highway crossing for the spur that holds D-500. The old ties and rail have been removed, and better ties and 75lb rail off the AZER are being installed. According to Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific Holdings (the SL&RG's parent company), they think they can squeeze about five miles of car storage on the former SSLV property.

    D-500, the unique SSLV-built diesel used to operate the line for many years, actually has a Rio Grande heritage. It was constructed from the tender frame off of Rio Grande Class C-41 2-8-0 #964. Completely custom and lacking modern safety features, as well as having been vandalized over the last decade, it's of no use to the SL&RG. Ellis states that they'd like to see it preserved, but have no plans at the moment and no museums have approached them about the unit.

    Photos of the reconstruction, taken about two weeks ago, can be found [here]. I'll be back down that way next weekend, and I'll post updates on any progress then. -

    Posted Tuesday, October 9 2007 at 2301 h MDT
    Excitement has been brewing for years about Athearn retooling their HO scale model of the SD40T-2, and now the results are finally in modelers' hands. While I haven't yet seen one in person, I haven't heard one complaint about the new units anywhere. For those interested in seeing what the production units look like, Nathan Zachman has posted pictures of his units [here].

    This first run includes three road numbers - 5357, 5362, and 5371. 5357 comes without the PTC (positive traction control) cabinet on the side and an 81" nose, making it appropriate for earlier modelers, as by 1980 it had received an 88" nose. The other two numbers both have the PTC box installed as a factory detail, making them appropriate for a post-1986/1987 era layout. (Thanks to a lively discussion on the D&RGW list for bringing out many of the nuanced details of these units.)

    Also, for those needing more numbers, the RGMHS had a special run of un-numbered units made. I don't know if any are still available, but you might try contacting them through their website if you're interested. The RGMHS units come with the PTC cabinet as an add-on detail, so you can take it or leave it depending upon your modeling era. -

    Posted Sunday, October 7 2007 at 1207 h MDT
    The Chama Steam fall excursion this year multiplied - there's the traditional double or triple-headed photo freight from Chama to Cumbres/Osier coming up later this month, and then there was a new, earlier trip. Chama Steam Fall Madness, as it was called, was a two day photo freight from Chama to Antonito and back, running on September 30 - October 1 this year. Having always wanted to shoot a decent-sized freight on the east end, I didn't waste any time signing up after it was announced last fall. The trip was an outstanding success, with plenty of run-bys and a whole range of weather to shoot in.

    After a week of sorting, tweaking, cropping, and editing, I've narrowed the huge number of frames I shot down to just the stuff that was halfway decent. The results of the trip are posted in a new trip report. You can either start with the [introduction], or skip all that and go straight to what you really want - [the pictures].

    For those interested in riding the second trip - the triple-header to Osier on 20-Oct-2007, Jay mentioned last weekend that there's still seats left. For those interested, see the [Official Chama Steam website]. -

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