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    Posted Tuesday, May 31 2011 at 2327 h MDT
    Not that I condone theft of copper from anywhere (and actually think we should take more of a hang 'em high approach to such degeneracy), but you've got to be a special breed of stupid to steal signal lines from an active mainline and think nobody's going to come after you. Turns out, police claim we have two such masterminds in our midst here in Colorado.

    Kevin Morgan of ColoradoRailfan.com reported hearing on the scanner that the dispatcher couldn't get a light through the mainline at Flat last week because the wiring was missing. He also said that the DS reported the suspects had been apprehended.

    Today, more details on our suspects emerged. The Grand County Sheriff's Department arrested the two last Wednesday when they allegedly were dismantling lineside wiring from the Moffat Route around Parshall (halfway between Byers Canyon and Flat). The Denver Post has got the story [here]. According to the article, they've been at it for at least a month, as that's how long the investigation to catch them has taken.

    Posted Thursday, May 26 2011 at 1355 h MDT
    At last, the C&TS has officially acknowledged what most of us have suspected for over a week - Lobato won't be done for opening day. [Here's] the press release.

    Just a week ago, CEO Elmer Salazar was quoted as saying, "During the day we put in girders, and during the night we put in railroad ties and rail,” and that, “And we believe by this Sunday we'll be ready to roll. And come May 28, we'll be running passengers on Cumbres Toltec Scenic Railroad, end to end.” (Both quotes from this [KRQE story] that came out on May 20, 2011.) The day after this story came out, they were just removing the last of the burned ties and rail from the bridge and not a girder segment had been installed. As of Wednesday morning (May 25, 2011), still not one girder segment had been removed.

    Yesterday afternoon, I'd written a rather lengthy rant about the state of Lobato and opening day. It's not the delays that bother me; it was the lack of acknowledgement from the railroad that Lobato would not be completed in time for Saturday's first train. It's a large job on an historic structure that's [full of challenges]. Reiman got a late start on the job due to factors beyond their control. Weather hasn't been cooperative. More than anything, I want the job done safely and correctly, given that the line's future and peoples' lives depend upon it. Given what I've heard about Reiman's reputation in the civil construction business, I have no doubt that it will be done right.

    Before posting it, I went off to have a beer with some friends, and mull over what I'd written. I felt that I owed all of you balance between the cheerleading I tend to do for the railroad and an honest assessment of Lobato's chances for opening day. I was growing weary of the railroad not updating their earlier statements with an accurate timeline. Before I got home to hit post, updates with good news showed up on NGDF.

    At 2100h last night, the first old girder segment rolled into Chama, and the railroad issued a [press release] stating that the trestle would indeed be delayed. Roger's photos of the old girder arrival can be found [here on NGDF]. Congratulations to all involved in making the actual work happen, and for amending the PR message about the trestle.

    As for me, I'm postponing my trip. Nathan Z. called the ticket office yesterday morning, and they acknowledged the delay and offered to let us reschedule our tickets for sometime down the road, when the trestle is back. I've seen the line plenty of times, and was going to ride the first two revenue trains over "New Lobato". I'll be down when they're done. -

    Posted Friday, May 20 2011 at 0016 h MDT
    "degilchr" on Trainorders.com photographed SLRG 1100 (the FP10) and SLRG 8524 at the Walsenburg interchange this afternoon. The two are on their way off the railroad, and will be interchanged to UP.

    The FP10 is apparently billed to the Saratoga and North Creek Railroad in New York (another Iowa Pacific property) per another report in the same TO thread. The thread is [here]. 8524's destination is unknown, but instead of the ugly, ratty LMX paint it's been running around in for years, it's painted in blue/grey Delaware and Hudson (sans lettering - still SLRG reporting marks). I would expect them in Pueblo by Friday morning.

    Update (5/20 - 1530h): The pair is still sitting in Walsenburg, probably to be picked up by UP tonight. I made a quick run down there to get pictures of them before they leave the state, and have posted them [here]. -

    Posted Thursday, May 19 2011 at 1552 h MDT
    Two of the new Amtrak heritage units - 156 (Phase I) and 66 (Phase II) - are on the point of the westbound California Zephyr out of Chicago today. That means into Denver tomorrow morning and across the former Rio Grande during the day tomorrow. Sounds like a good excuse for me to take the day off! - NDHolmes

    Posted Thursday, May 19 2011 at 1434 h MDT
    Thanks to $108M allocated by the federal government in April 2009, the Atlas Uranium Mill tailings cleanup in Moab was accelerated considerably. Two turns were run to Brendel daily, each with more cars than originally planned, and an additional 200 people were employed. As of April 2011, this has resulted in the project being nearly 23 weeks ahead of schedule overall (116 trainloads, 5 days/week) and apparently under budget.

    Those dollars are nearly exhausted. As a result, the pace will go back on the original timeline sometime soon and the additional 200 workers will be laid off. From a railfan perspective, this means only one rail turn per day (possibly at night) and possibly a reduction to 4 trips/week. The Potash Local will likely remain on Sundays.

    More information can be found in [this Deseret News article]. -

    Posted Thursday, May 19 2011 at 1422 h MDT
    KRQE in Albuquerque did a pretty decent news story yesterday on the Lobato Trestle repairs, including a fair amount of aerial footage of the work in progress. It also shows the gantries that will move the new girder segments into position and the I-beam rails they're riding on. The story and video can be found [here].

    One interesting thing I noticed was that Elmer Salazar is quoted in the story as saying that the bridge will be traffic-ready by this Sunday (22 May 2011). We shall see if that comes to pass - seems a lot further than 2-3 days from being complete to me. -

    Posted Wednesday, May 18 2011 at 1335 h MDT
    Lobato repairs have been well underway since mid-April. At present, crews have built a road to the site, stabilized the piers with epoxy filler in the cracks, started installing reinforcing plates on the bents, and started moving a crane to the site. The new bridge girder sections are mostly sitting in Chama, although at least one is up at the site. Completion is still expected by opening day (May 28, 2011). (And I'm hoping they stay on schedule - I have tickets on what's supposed to be the first two revenue trains over the bridge.)

    Roger Hogan has been documenting the work for both the railroad and the fans, and his updates can all be found [here]. -

    Posted Tuesday, May 17 2011 at 1540 h MDT
    On last fall's Rio Grande Scenic (aka SLRG) photo trip (see the [trip report]), General Manager Matt Abbey mentioned considering a two-day trip in 2011 and was asking around about interest, ideas, and pricing. They've apparently decided to make a go of it, as I noticed it show up on their website a week or so ago.

    The RGSR photo special will be two days - Monday and Tuesday, August 22 and 23. This is immediately following Railfest over on the Durango & Silverton. Monday will work east out of Alamosa to La Veta with both a steam and diesel-powered train, of which one will be freight and the other a passenger chase train. Passengers will overnight around La Veta (everybody's on their own for lodging) and then they'll run two return trains to Alamosa. The price is $300, and details can be found on the RGSR website [here].

    Over on the narrow gauge side, the Durango & Silverton has opened ticketing on their annual Fall Photo Special. Scheduled for September 24 & 25 this year, the trains will be the final use of the green passenger coaches before they're repainted into the railroad's traditional yellow. Saturday's train will be a pure passenger consist, with the green coaches and two red cars (including the Nomad). Sunday will be a mixed consist, with the green coaches and a few freight cars. Both trains will run round trip out of Durango.

    Tickets are $169/day for coach. For $179 or $239 you can upgrade to the San Juan or Nomad (respectively) on Saturday. Sunday's only upgrade is $179 for the caboose, though I've heard it's already sold out (via NGDF). (Also, it would appear that Pete Lerro will be involved in planning and choreographing the trip, as there's a D&S photo trip listed on his website for the same dates.)

    As for D&S Railfest 2011, few details have been announced. The dates are August 18-21, and the website states E&P 4 and RGS 5 will be there. Otherwise, not much is known.

    For those interested in Lerro's other charter this year on the C&TS - the only public charter I know of on the C&TS this year - there are still a few seats left. Details can be found on his site [here]. -

    Posted Tuesday, May 17 2011 at 1500 h MDT
    In celebration of Amtrak's 40th year of existence, they've been painting a number of P40s and P42s (and one gutted F40PH) in classic Amtrak paint schemes. There are currently six units - P42 156 in Phase I (bloody nose, pointless arrow), P42 66 in Phase II (wide red/blue stripes), P42 145, P40 822, and F40PH 406 in Phase III (equal red/white blue stripes), and P42 184 in Phase 4 (thin red stripes).

    The first one of these units to hit former Rio Grande rails was AMTK 156, leading the westbound Zephyr on May 8 out of Chicago (through Colorado the following day). It was turned at Emeryville, and made the return trip on #6 through Colorado last Thursday (May 12).

    Matt Darling of Grand Junction sent a few photos of it approaching GJC and in the station. I've posted them [here]. Kevin Morgan caught it coming down the Front Range into Denver later Thursday afternoon, and also posted a few pictures on his site [here].

    I'm just now catching up on email and stuff from being gone for a couple weeks. Sorry I didn't get this out before the unit went through. -

    Posted Monday, May 16 2011 at 1104 h MDT
    While it's definitely not Rio Grande news, I'm going to use my soapbox for a moment to promote the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club again and along with it, a Union Pacific steam fan trip from Denver to Cheyenne.

    For those wanting to ride between Denver and Cheyenne this year, the Cheyenne Depot Museum, Sherman Hill Model Railroad Club, and Rocky Mountain Railroad Club are all co-sponsoring the Denver-Cheyenne return trip after Frontier Days. Coach seats are $110 for non-members, $90 for members, and dome seats (which are selling out quickly) are $170 for non-members and $140 for members. Since it's one way, bus transportation will be provided for those wanting it (either from Cheyenne to Denver in the morning, or Cheyenne to Denver in the evening) for an additional $30.

    UP expects to be able to squeeze in a run-by, but given that it's an active mainline, that's always subject to change.

    Given that it's only $35 to join the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club, you could always join, enjoy the discount and support a 73 year Colorado railfan tradition all at the same time.

    The flyer announcing the trip can be found on the RMRRC website [here]. Ticketing is being handled by the Cheyenne Depot Museum at 307-632-3905, or you can mail back the registration form [here]. -

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