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    Posted Tuesday, April 21 2009 at 2356 h MDT
    After nearly seventy years of operating between Denver and Winter Park, the Ski Train is no more. The railfan rumor mill had been buzzing about a possible sale for several months, but today a spokesman for Anschutz confirmed that the Denver icon has been sold to Canadian National, to be run on the ex-Algoma Central lines. There is no word yet on when the train will leave Colorado for the last time, but it has been confirmed that the summer season will not happen.

    More details can be found on the Denver Post's website [here]. -

    Posted Sunday, April 12 2009 at 1949 h MDT
    The new Home Ranch wye is progressing. The D&S has the new switches cut into the main line and appears to have done a bit more clearing for the new trackage. Daniel Roemer of Durango sent me some additional information and a series of photos of the new wye taken yesterday, Saturday, 11-Apr-2009. His photos of the can be found [here].

    He also reports the location to be approximately milepost 456.6. For those curious, that puts it at the center of [this Google Maps image]. -

    Posted Sunday, April 5 2009 at 1731 h MDT
    The massive ($805M) project to remove the tailings pile from the old Atlas Uranium Mill near Moab, UT, is progressing and nearly at the point where they're ready to move the first contaminated soil. The pile will be moved by rail from near the east portal of Bootlegger Tunnel to Brendel (aka Crescent Junction), where it will be unloaded and dropped in a permanent storage cell.

    The schedule has also changed. Thanks to $108M in stimulus money being put into the project, trains will now run with 34 rather than the planned 22 cars (with the additional 12 cars added later this year), and operate seven days per week rather than four. In addition, the project will now create 275 jobs, significantly greater than the originally estimated 125.

    Union Pacific, for their part, has been doing intensive track rehabilitation on the Cane Creek Branch since last October. Continuously welded rail, numerous new ties, and fresh ballasting/surfacing have all been part of the job. In addition, a spur has been cut in at Emkay for loading the dirty dirt cars, and at Brendel for unloading them at the containment site.

    The initial move is supposed to take place on 20-Apr-2009, just three weeks away. The project is expected to take over a decade (completion between 2019 and 2028, depending on who you believe). So, there should be plenty of time to get out there and photograph the surge in branch traffic.

    The cars for this project are starting to arrive in Grand Junction. They're red articulated spine-type container haulers, with each segment having four containers (stacked two high). A single car consists of two segments, articulated in the middle with a single shared truck. Reporting marks are HIRX, and they appear to be in the 97xx series. (Thanks to Scott from the Colorado Railfans list, who spotted a set of them on either MNYGJ or MNYRO at Bond back in late March.) -

    Posted Sunday, April 5 2009 at 1658 h MDT
    Adding to the railroad's fall and winter photo specials, the D&S has announced this year they'll run a "Presidential Photo Train" in the spring. Consisting of the all red varnish, the train will attempt to operate all the way to Silverton, CO, and back on 1-May-2009, conditions permitting (on account of the winter/spring avalanche danger in the upper Animas Canyon, and the associated damage they cause). If it does indeed make it, it will be the first revenue train into town for the 2009 season. More details can be found on the D&S's website.

    Dan Markoff's Eureka will be returning to Railfest this fall, barring complications. As many will recall, Eureka last visited Colorado for D&S Railfest 2004, shortly before its flue time ran out. Fortunately, given the engine's limited operations, excellent care, and ideal storage conditions, the FRA granted it a waiver on needing to remove the flues for an inspection. Dan announced that a Railfest trip was in the works on NGDF nearly a month ago, and I see today that the D&S has it up on their "Events" page.

    In non-train related news, Al Harper and the D&S have also signed an agreement with the city of Durango to extend the Animas River Trail another 2.1 miles. The agreement, which will involve yearly payments of $250k to Harper and the D&S, will give the city a 14 foot wide easement along the tracks from 32nd Street to the northern city limits, allowing them to complete the trail. The railroad, meanwhile, takes on the responsibility for negotiating with a few individual landowners where the easement would encroach on their property. More details can be found in [this Durango Herald article].

    Posted Sunday, April 5 2009 at 1626 h MDT
    The Durango & Silverton is building a wye near their Home Ranch siding, just north of Durango, CO. The exact location (which I have yet to pinpoint) is apparently between Home Ranch and the United Campground. This wye will allow the short run, kid-oriented "theme trains", such as the Peanuts™ and Polar Express™ trains, to be turned for the return trip to the Durango yard.

    On Monday, 23-Feb-2009, Nathan Zachman photographed the cleared and surveyed ground where the wye will be located ([click here] to see). Since this is definitely from the "I should have posted this months ago..." pile of news, chances are that the project has progressed by now. If anybody from down there would like to send over some updated photos, I'd be glad to post them. -

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