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    Posted Monday, December 28 2009 at 2146 h MST
    Iowa Pacific Holdings has decided to throw in the towel on their efforts to operate the Ski Train this winter. As [posted on their website], due to the aforementioned contract disputes with Amtrak, they've gone ahead and canceled all operations for the season. The Denver Post also has an article to the same effect [here]. - NDHolmes

    Posted Friday, December 25 2009 at 2025 h MST
    I'm a little late in posting this, I know. I've been spending the day with family and friends (and they're morning people, meaning I had to just get up and get going this morning), and hopefully you all have had the opportunity to spend time with those close to you as well. Merry Christmas to all! - NDHolmes

    Posted Friday, December 25 2009 at 2020 h MST
    Final agreements between Iowa Pacific Holdings, which has brought together the new Ski Train, and Amtrak hit an impasse earlier this week. As a result, the train won't turn a wheel until early 2010, if ever. Based on what has been made public, the disagreement centers around insurance requirements. If the Ski Train is an excursion train, it needs $2M in coverage. If it's a commuter train, it needs $200M. In the process of finalizing the operating agreement in recent weeks, Amtrak has apparently deemed it a commuter train, contrary to IPH's expectations, causing costs to skyrocket beyond the point of economic feasibility. (Here's the original [Denver Post] article.)

    IPH filed a lawsuit against Amtrak on Wednesday, and asked for a temporary restraining order to force Amtrak to run the train. The US District Court judge declined to issue such an order (details in [this Denver Post article] and will not revisit the issue until 6-Jan-2010. Consequently, all scheduled Ski Train runs until then are positively canceled, and the rest of the planned 2009-2010 season is unfortunately not looking promising.

    Iowa Pacific issued a number of press releases [on their Ski Train website], and has announced that anybody currently holding tickets can get a refund by emailing them or calling their reservation line at 1-877-726-RAIL.

    (Side note: For those wondering how the Ski Train would be getting head-end power for car heat and light, Dan Sabin's Rock Island-painted F40PH - [IANR 678] - is headed towards Colorado for just that reason. It was reported westbound from Kansas City on BNSF, but I have no idea if it's actually going to show up or it'll be sent back in transit. Everybody west keep an eye out for it.) -

    Posted Friday, December 18 2009 at 1113 h MST
    I'm told that the two SLRG SD9043MACs have been moved to Denver Union Station this morning. I have no idea whereabouts on the station tracks, or how accessible they might be, but I'm headed that way this afternoon to check them out (and head home for the holidays).

    Now, from the railfan rumor mill: I've heard through the rumor mill that the FRA and Amtrak will be on hand to inspect the Ski Train equipment at DUS on Monday, 21-Dec-2009. Then, on Wednesday, 23-Dec-2009, a test run will be made. Also, there's quite a bit of private varnish headed into Denver via Amtrak, scheduled to arrive both today (18-Dec-2009) and Monday (21-Dec-2009). No guarantees on any of this (so if you rearrange your holiday plans and it doesn't come to pass, don't shoot the messenger), since I haven't had the chance to try to confirm or double-check it, but it all comes from normally reliable places.

    Update (12/18 - 1913h): And there were pictures... Got up to Denver just at the end of daylight today. They're parked near the north end of the Union Station tracks. See [here]. -

    Posted Tuesday, December 15 2009 at 1659 h MST
    Just after midnight this morning (Tuesday, 15-Dec-2009), the Royer St. crossing here in Colorado Springs claimed another vehicle. The crossing has a reasonably steep uphill grade on both approaches, and can high-center large vehicles easily. Past victims have included [a beer truck]. This time, a tour bus managed to get stuck. Fortunately the occupants (a driver and two passengers) were all smart enough to exit the bus, but shortly afterwards the vehicle was destroyed by an oncoming freight.

    The Colorado Springs Gazette article can be found [here]. -

    Posted Monday, December 14 2009 at 1659 h MST
    Word on NGDF is that the Durango & Silverton will again be operating flanger OF up to Cascade and back tomorrow (Tuesday, 15-Dec-2009) to clear snow for the regular passenger trains. The information comes from [this thread].

    For those wanting to see pictures of the first run last week, there are photos posted on NGDF in the following threads: [1], [2], [3], and [4].

    Posted Monday, December 14 2009 at 1652 h MST
    So it's not quite Rio Grande news, but rather just random bits some of you might be interested in.

    Yet another year has gone by, and calendar printing costs are up yet again, so once again it's not profitable to do a calendar. That said, I've gotten enough requests that I spent yesterday afternoon putting together a 2010 version of what's become my annual calendar. Details are available from my personal website [here]. Once again, it's too heavy on narrow gauge steam and has virtually no coverage of all the day-to-day railroading through the spectacular scenery on the standard gauge, but that's what I've been shooting for the last couple years. I'll try to do better in the coming year.

    I upgraded the ATCS monitor over the weekend. For the moment, I've got my radio monitoring the MCP frequency for the Springs, meaning I'm getting lineside data for everything from about North Academy through Crews. Given that Tim's BCP monitor doesn't pick up things south as strongly and I seem to be getting a littering of track indications due to intermittent reception, I'll probably put it back, but it's an interesting experiment for the moment. If I can come up with another radio, I'll start monitoring both frequencies. Anyway, let me know if you have any problems with the latest version of things.

    Also, for those of you used to seeing me out bouncing along in my black CR-V chasing after things, you'll have to learn to look for something new. While I'm sure CR-Vs are wonderful road cars, their offroad abilities are extremely limited. Let's start with no limited slip diffs, meaning two wheels off and you're dead in the water. Then there's the matter of a relatively delicate underbelly without skid plates (or the provision for mounting such) - I bent up a few things pretty badly while chasing 6936 last year. So, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I decided it was upgrade time. Here's the new railfan chase vehicle: [photo] (And no, not the S2000, just happened to have it out of the garage to rearrange some things. The old black Del Sol is still hiding in there, too.) -

    Posted Thursday, December 10 2009 at 1439 h MST
    Kevin Morgan reports via the Colorado Railfan list that Union Pacific's MNYRO-10 (North Yard to Roper Yard manifest) has come off the tracks on horseshoe over Colorado Hwy 72 between Blue Mountain crossing and Tunnel 1. The derailment occurred around 1139h this morning (Thursday, 10-Dec-2009). At least two cars did fall off the bridge onto the highway below, and the Denver Post reports that at least nine cars came off in total. (Update: Kevin Morgan says a dozen cars, all empty.)

    The Denver Post has a short article with a photo [here]. Looks like a case of stringlining empties around a curve to me. -

    Posted Thursday, December 10 2009 at 1127 h MST
    The Joint Line is still idle after a derailment Wednesday evening (around 1820h) of a southbound BNSF coal load. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, 13 cars came off the track near the Sand Creek bridge, just south of the Kelker siding and north of the Drennan switch. (CSG article [here])

    I haven't been down to see it yet, but Nathan Z. just called and said they've got everything pushed out of the way and are laying panel track. My guess would be sometime this afternoon trains will start moving again.

    (Note: Edit at 1132h to change Fountain Creek to Sand Creek. My brain isn't working right today.) -

    Posted Thursday, December 10 2009 at 1004 h MST
    Sounds like the D&S is going to send out a flanger extra instead of the regularly scheduled train today (Thursday, 10-Dec-2009). The southern tier of Colorado really got hammered from this recent storm, with what looks to be several feet across most of the area. The SNOTEL site on Cumbres Pass is reading just shy of four feet from this storm alone, and the one at Cascade Canyon on the D&S is showing about 2 feet. While D&S crews have cleared Hermosa to Rockwood using loaders and other MoW gear, they'll clear the valley and the rest of the line to Cascade using a K36 and a flanger. Erik Nelson posted a note about the flanger run and a few pictures of the snow depth on NGDF [here].

    Sorry I didn't get this posted last night so some of you could get over there, but I was out late and didn't see it until this morning. It figures - I spend last weekend down in narrow gauge country hoping for snow and all I get is brown and cold, and the big storm hits a week later. -

    Posted Wednesday, December 9 2009 at 1627 h MST
    The old Rio Grande depot in Grand Junction has gone through a number of owners, but the latest owner - who paid nearly $740k for the structure in 2004 - was foreclosed upon back in September. On Wednesday, 2-Dec-2009, the building went up for auction. Not one big was placed, not even for the minimum bid of $166k. So, for the time being, Alpine Bank still owns the property, and it'll likely come up for sale again in the future. See more details in this Grand Junction Sentinel article.

    For photos of the historic property, see Steve Dickey's first two photos [here]. -

    Posted Tuesday, December 8 2009 at 2115 h MST
    I got word today that SLRG 115 and 116 - the SD9043MACs for the Ski Train - have arrived in Denver. They're currently showing to move on Thursday night's MNYPU-10 to Pueblo, and they'll likely be in Walsenburg by the weekend. The other SLRG motor on the move - SLRG 1100 (the FP10) - should be in Denver via the BNSF in the next day or so, if it hasn't already arrived.

    In SLRG car news, Nathan Z spotted a bunch of the ex-Long Island coaches in Pueblo this morning. The two domes (508 and 512) went through on Sunday. -

    Posted Monday, December 7 2009 at 1441 h MST
    One of those background projects I've been working on for some time is a map overlay for Google Earth that shows all of the old Grande lines, including the active, idle, abandoned, and rerouted lines, and for that matter, even some connecting lines. It's one of those lazy Saturday afternoon projects that usually involves a pile of books, the couch, a movie, a notepad, and my laptop, and it's eaten a lot of Saturday afternoons over the last couple years. It's finally getting to a state where it's interesting, so I figured I'd release it in its current unfinished state.

    For those interested, the KMZ file is available from [this page] in the information section. I'll post updates as I add or fix things. It's by no means complete yet, and there are likely a pile of errors. If you have corrections or want to help out with adding missing routes, by all means please contact me about how to submit corrections or additions. -

    Posted Monday, December 7 2009 at 1138 h MST
    UP 1989 (the Rio Grande heritage paint unit) and UP 8221 were sent out yesterday bracketing a modified caboose on "snow bus" duty. Union Pacific occasionally runs these "snow buses" to move crews around Colorado when snowstorms make our mountain road system impassible by crew vans. This one is running from Denver to Bond and then up the Craig Branch to Phippsburg. Kevin Morgan has photos of the move on his website.

    I suspect that with the continuing snow, we're going to see this thing operate for at least the next few days. -

    Posted Friday, December 4 2009 at 0702 h MST
    Just a few quick updates on the recent round of moving SLRG equipment. SLRG 115/116, the Ski Train SD9043MAC pair, are moving across Missouri on the UP. They were interchanged at St. Louis and will be moving via Nebraska (not across the KP, at least that's the consensus now). They'll move to Denver, then Walsenburg for interchanging to home rails. SLRG 1100 has been released from Relco in Albia, IA, and will move via the BNSF to Denver, and then on via the UP to Walsenburg. Last I heard, there were no trace events on it, so it may not be interchanged to the BNSF yet.

    The two domes coming over from Washington should have arrived in Denver on yesterday's MRONY. Keep an eye out for them on the Joint Line and Pueblo in the next couple days. -

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