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    Posted Monday, March 31 2008 at 1458 h MDT
    At 0710h this morning (Monday, 31-Mar-2008), an empty Union Pacific train encountered a rock slide on the North Fork Sub at approximately milepost 35. That would put it about a third of the way from Bridgeport to Roubideau - some very, very remote country. While it sustained damage that prevented it from moving, the Mesa County Sheriff's Department reports that it did not actually derail. Thankfully the crew sustained no injuries in the incident. Thanks to "KoloradoKid" on Trainorders for alerting us via this thread, and to KJCT for providing more details, including a small photo, on their website [here].

    Given this and the sixteen hour delay to the westbound California Zephyr last Wednesday (26-Mar-2008) on account of a rock slide near Granby, it's definitely spring in Rio Grande country. Everybody be safe out there, and keep an eye out for the springtime boulders that tend to show up on the rails and roads.

    Update (3/31 - 1946h): Per Robert Harmen of GJ via the Colorado-Railfans list, the train was lead by UP 6601. Contrary to earlier reports, it did derail, as did one or two axles of the trailing unit. -

    Posted Sunday, March 30 2008 at 2229 h MDT
    I finally got around to editing and posting my photos from the 2008 Durango & Silverton Winter Photographers' Special, held back on Sunday, 10-Feb-2008. I guess I've just been a bit apathetic about the whole thing, since I feel my results from this year are a bit lackluster and uninteresting compared with previous years. However, they're not that bad, so in an effort to make amends for the dearth of trip reports so far this year, I've posted them. You can find the new trip report [here]. - NDHolmes

  • UP 6936 OVER THE MOFFAT - APRIL 13& 14
    Posted Sunday, March 30 2008 at 1300 h MDT
    If everything goes according to plan, the (fairly well-grounded) rumor is that UP DD40AX 6936 will lead the an inspection special over the Moffat on April 13 and 14. On the 13th, it'll start in Pocatello, ID, and tie up at Grand Junction, CO. The next day (Monday, 14-Apr-2008), it'll make its way east from Grand Junction to Denver and then on out to Sharon Springs, KS.

    A few rumors circulating through the railfan community suggest you might want to get your photos of 6936 out on the road sooner rather than later. I've heard that coinciding with the impending retirement of Bill Wimmer, Union Pacific's VP of Engineering, appearances by the unit may become less common. The unit has frequently powered his specials around the country, but it's massive length and rigid 4-axle trucks challenge even the best of track structure. Note: it's just a rumor I've heard from several sources at this point - I have any particular facts to support it. My point is, don't pass up an opportunity to photograph this unique unit while it's in your proverbial back yard. -

    Posted Monday, March 24 2008 at 1204 h MDT
    For those of you who haven't been following the travels of the last tunnel motor (DRGW 5371), it was moved to Cheyenne following retirement a couple weeks back. Its record in the UP computer - "Route to Steve Lee, Cheyenne, for retirement" - indicated that it would be placed in the care of UP's Steam Program, with the rest of the railroad's heritage collection (the E units, DD40AX 6936, etc.) Right now, Union Pacific's official word is that they haven't decided on the disposition of 5371, other than that the unit will not be scrapped. So, it's unknown right now as to how long the unit will stay under the Steam Program's care or where it will be heading for a final home.

    As for the rumors that 5371 has been patched, they're partially true. I've been told that her arrival was a bit unexpected, and so the UP steam guys decided to make her an honorary steam engine. Using temporary decals available around the shop, the unit has become UP 8944 on the conductor's side. Trust me - they come off. They've already migrated from the initial patch on the engineer's side over to the conductor's side. It's all in good fun.

    (They've done similar things in the past - remember that last summer, the steam team and Doyle "patched" SP 4449 to UPY 845. Bob Harbison photo [here]. They also temporarily patched one of the standard gauge Thomas the Tank Engine units to UP Steam 4489 last fall.)

    For those curious about 5371's new home in Cheyenne, Lee Ryan sent a few photos from his visit last Saturday. I've posted them [here]. -

    Posted Tuesday, March 18 2008 at 2145 h MDT
    It's getting to be spring again, and that means that the informal railfan get-togethers up at Palmer Lake will be starting up again shortly. Mike and Lee have planned one for Sunday, 19-Apr-2008, starting at 1000h and running until we all get tired of hanging around (typically around 1300h, when the group heads over to The Depot Restaurant for lunch). Everybody's welcome - it's just a very informal chance for a lot of the locals to hang out, watch trains, and shoot the bull for a few hours. As usual, we'll sort of congregate in the area just south of the parking lot off County Line Road, near the switch. Mike's flyer with the details for the event is [here]. - NDHolmes

    Posted Monday, March 17 2008 at 1009 h MDT
    I called the C&TS reservations line this morning and confirmed that they are now taking reservations on this summer's specials. For those interested, don't delay - these will surely turn out to be extremely popular. (And for those booking onto the 4-Jul-2008 stock special, I'll see you there!) I should note that the Goose schedule below has not been confirmed by any of the Galloping Goose Historical Society people. Rather, it was obtained by Jim Granflaten (of the DRHS) by calling the C&TS and then posted on the Narrow Gauge Discussion Forum.

    D&RGW 315 (more details):
    • June 16 - Chama to Antonito - $250
    • June 18 - Moonlight special - $295
    • June 21 - FOCTS Special - ???
    • July 4 - Stock special W/ Goose $295
    • July 7 - Antonito to Chama - $295
    • July 9 - Double Cumbres Turn $- $175

    RGS Goose 5 (per Jim Granflaten via NGDF):
    • June 28 - Chama to Antonito - $89
    • June 29,30 & July 1 - Antonito to Osier - $69
    • July 4 #315 stock train with RGS5 - $295
    • July 5 & 6 - Antonito To Osier - $69
    • July 7 #315 freight and RGS 5 Antonito to Chama - $295

    Posted Saturday, March 15 2008 at 1859 h MDT
    Earlier today, a pair of Alaska Railroad GP49s made their way south on BNSF's H-PASSAG (Pasco-Saginaw manifest). The units - 2805 and 2808 - are two of the only nine true GP49s ever built by EMD, all for the Alaska. All were unloaded by the ARR in late 2006. Previously, two of the units - 2801 and 2804 - were exported to Chile and rebuilt as six axle "SD49s" D2801 and D2802 for Transap (5'6" gauge). Supposedly these two will be converted to six-axle SD49s for Chile as well, but for a meter-gauge copper mining railroad. They'll be exported through Houston, hence their trip down the Joint Line today.

    Kevin Morgan posted a number [here] from their movement on the Front Range Sub yesterday. My photos from today's move can be found [here]. -

    Posted Friday, March 14 2008 at 0000 h MDT
    On Wednesday, the last bits of the old Georgetown Loop Railroad left Georgetown and were moved to their new home in Canon City, CO.

    As many of you know, the Royal Gorge Route Railroad that operates the old Tennessee Pass line through the Royal Gorge is partially owned by the Lindsey and Rosa Ashby (along with daughter and son-in-law Leah & Mark Greksa). The Ashbys are the same people behind the rebuilding of the Loop in the first place and its wildly successful operation as the original Georgetown Loop Railroad for 30 years. With the blunderings of the Colorado Historical Society that ended the original GLR's contract to operate the Loop in 2004, most of their operational narrow gauge equipment went to the Colorado Railroad Museum. However, GLR 8 and 2-axle C&S caboose 1012 were on display in front of the old GLR's offices in Georgetown proper, and were left there until Wednesday morning. At that point, they left town on a pair of trucks and were hauled down to Canon City. The two pieces are now on a short display track in front of the depot for Royal Gorge passengers to view.

    Thanks to a tip from Robert (of the CC&RG/Royal Gorge) via Nathan Zachman, I got the chance to be there for the unloading on Wednesday. I've compiled a look at what it takes to get a 70-ton Shay down off a truck and onto its new track in a new trip report - see it [here].

    Local press coverage of the event from the Canon City Daily Record can be found [here], and from KOAA TV [here]. -

    Posted Thursday, March 13 2008 at 1750 h MDT
    The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad (i.e., the passenger operations of the San Luis & Rio Grande) has announced their operating schedule for the 2008 schedule. They've made their brochure available [from their website] as a PDF file. If you think these folks can't top themselves yet again, you'd be wrong. This year includes a set of new and exciting opportunities.

    Probably the most notable to fans is the operation of a mixed train (passengers and freight) to Monte Vista and back every day. Wednesday through Friday, the trains are supposed to be steam powered.

    Also new this year is a La Veta-based train. While this will be diesel powered, it gives customers the possibility to make connections with the Alamosa-based run over the pass, making for a shorter round trip (La Veta to Fir and back, or Alamosa to Fir and back) for those that don't have all day. It also allows for a new connection with a motorcoach service for those wanting to take the train over the pass and visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park, located about 15 miles northwest of Blanca, CO.

    The new equipment will also change the operation a bit. With the addition of SLRG 18, the new steam engine purchased over the winter, steam is planned to run daily on the Alamosa-La Veta train. (Obviously as with any steam-powered operation, unforeseen problems can and do occur, so it's not guaranteed.) In addition to the extra steam engine, the new domes will be in service for a nominal upcharge over regular coach. Given their heritage in rail cruising service in Alaska, they're very comfortable and great for sight-seeing, making the extra $10 well worth it, in my opinion.

    Honestly, the new brochure was posted several weeks back. Your friendly webmaster wasn't exactly paying attention, and it's taken several prodding emails from other people to finally get this posted. Again, you can find the 2008 schedule brochure [here]. -

    Posted Wednesday, March 12 2008 at 1142 h MDT
    There are those that argue that the Rio Grande officially ceased on 8-Aug-1988, when Anschutz purchased the SP and merged the Grande into it. There are those that argue the date was actually in the early 1990s, when the "Rio Grande" way of doing things on the ex-DRGW lines started to give way to an integrated SP system. Then there's 11-Sep-1996, when both roads were swallowed up into to Union Pacific ownership. As lesser milestones, there were other dates - the appearance of ditch lights, the removal of Mars and Gyralights, the disappearance of large amounts of the D&RGW freight fleet, etc. Everybody has their own markers for when the Grande really ended to them.

    Regardless, last Saturday (8-Mar-2008) certainly marks another end of an era - the retirement of the very last unpatched Rio Grande locomotive from the UP. Everybody's favorite tunnel motor - DRGW 5371 - was finally retired and stored in Cheyenne. There's no official announcement yet as to its disposition, other than UP has assured many people that it won't be scrapped.

    For now, those that want to see running, largely unpatched D&RGW power will need to head east. The Wheeling & Lake Erie runs a number of tunnel motors in very good shape and largely original paint, aside from a small "WE" above the number. There's also the 3044, running on the Hartwell Railroad in Georgia. Faded and rusty, she still runs and is completely untouched by extra paint or letters.

    I wasn't home for the event, but Kevin Morgan has a number of photos posted on his website [here]. -

    Posted Wednesday, March 12 2008 at 1131 h MDT
    The Durango Railroad Historical Society has posted the operating schedule for newly-restored D&RGW C-18 #315 on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic this summer. There will be six operating days - June 16, 18, 21, and July 4, 7, and 9. Tentative details can be found on the DRHS's website [here].

    I haven't seen it confirmed anywhere, RGS Goose 5 is also rumored to have planned operations on the C&TS this summer. The dates are supposedly between June 27 and July 8, but I haven't yet seen details. As soon as I see some sort of official announcement, I'll pass it along.

    No pricing information has yet been announced, and as far as I know, you can't yet reserve a seat - otherwise I'd have already booked myself on at least one or two of the runs. -

    Posted Thursday, March 6 2008 at 0957 h MST
    5371 was sent east in Wednesday's MRONY, arriving in Denver this morning. Things don't really look good - it's over a week early for its 92 day, and it's being transported dead. Kevin Morgan spotted the train on its way into Denver this morning, and apparently it's also missing the numberboards. I'm not going to say anything definitive, but this doesn't look good.

    Update (6-Mar-2008 1200h): Kevin Morgan posted photos on his website of 5371's arrival on the eastern slope - see [here].

    Update #2 (7-Mar-2008 1145h): Things are definitely looking worse. It's headed out of Denver, and according to a post on Trainorders, it's on M-NYNP-07, expected to leave North Yard for North Platte, NE, at 1430h this afternoon. This might be fulfilling the special instructions to ship it to Cheyenne for retirement.

    Update #3 (8-Mar-2008 1040h): 5371 didn't make yesterday's MNYNP, so it's scheduled to leave on today's (Saturday) MNYNP-08. Departure should be around 1400h, and supposedly it's to be set out in Cheyenne. This is it, folks - go forth and photograph what will likely be 5371's last trip for a long time. If you get pictures, send 'em in - I'd like to post images of this last run, but I'm stuck in Indianapolis until Monday. -

    Posted Sunday, March 2 2008 at 2110 h MST
    The Department of Energy had originally decided to use the [Cane Creek Branch] to transport radioactive tailings from the Atlas Uranium Mill site (near Moab, UT) to the new containment cell, located just north of Brendel / Crescent Junction, UT. On Friday it was announced that they have amended that decision to use either truck or rail. See the 29-Feb-2008 Federal Register entry for more details. In reality, it looks like it's going to be all trucks, given statements published on KSL's website today (see [here]).

    Commentary: Personally, this makes no sense to me. The branch is in relatively good shape, and US 191 is busy enough without an army of heavy trucks taking over this section. Plus, railroads are designed specifically to move heavy stuff - and in this case, they have one already built from the loading point to the containment cell - whereas heavy trucks just beat the crap out of a highway. -

  • DRGW 5371 UPDATE
    Posted Sunday, March 2 2008 at 2052 h MST
    I realize I should have posted this as soon as it was clear that the last T-2 was alive and kicking, but my life has been a bit of a mess lately and I've gotten way behind on posting the news.

    The good news is that 5371 is doing fine. Contrary to earlier rumors, the unit is still in service at Helper and now back in the lead again. The wheelslip/PTC problems were real, but were apparently corrected.

    The unit is safe, and despite some past rumors, the Ogden museum has confirmed wanting it. It's apparently not yet a done deal. Reports from various sources indicate that UP is unsure as to what they're going to do with the unit, but the unit will more than likely be saved somewhere. It's motive power record in the UP computer now reads "Route to Cheyenne for retirement, attn Steve Lee", added 7-Feb-2008. (For those who don't know the name, Steve is the leader of Union Pacific's incredible steam and heritage equipment program.)

    It's due for its 92 day on 13-Mar-2008, so that's the day it will probably leave Helper this time. Barring no major problems found, though, I'd expect to see it return if it goes to Denver for the 92 day, but if it goes to Roper, it may be exiled back out on one of those SLC jobs. All reports are that it will be coming to Denver for the work, though, so expect to see it continuing out of Helper for the foreseeable future. -

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