Thursday, March 20, 2014

POTD: Two Rocky Mountain Favorites Far From Home

How do you follow the greatness of the last three POTDs by Mike Danneman? It's not impossible, but highly improbable. Yet I can't help but go for a great night shot. I have truly enjoyed rail photography's love affair with night-time exposures. The 24-7-365 nature of railroading and the natural absence of light makes for time exposures that highlight what would be missed and hide what would be obvious from a similar exposure taken in the daytime.

The Folsom local lights up the night in Sacramento, California as it makes its scheduled pick-ups and
drop-offs, far from the Rocky Mountains UP 1901/(ex-D&RGW 3155) called home in its early years.
Photo: Joe M

California photographer Joe M. published this photograph on his RRPictureArchives.net site in 2009. His one photo that qualifies for inclusion as POTD is Union Pacific 1901, last seen here on Tuesday when she was with her two sisters. Today, we have the former Rio Grande GP60 waiting while she takes her conductor back on board. Tools like the trusty lantern of the conductor are as old as railroading itself. A lantern serves to light the right-of-way, as it does here, as well as inspect cars and signal to the rest of his team how they should proceed. It's a long night in Sacramento, California, longer still if you dream about enjoying a cold one after your shift is done.◊

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

POTD: Shamrocks, Clovers, Three Days Are Over

Mike Danneman, whose photos are 3 for 3 this week on POTD, has delivered a fine string from his flickr account. The St. Patrick's Day theme this week has been pretty fun ...for me, at least! Monday, the obvious connection was the green locomotive. Tuesday was less obvious with Rio Grande's last 3 locomotives pulling together as a single unit, a subtle nod to Patrick's use of a shamrock (similar to clover) to teach the concept of the Trinity to his friends. Today, it's even more obscure for those who don't know their Irish lore.

Snaking through Browns Canyon
Southern Pacific never looked better than August 1, 1999, squeezing between rockfall fencing
and rafters intent on enjoying Browns Canyon and the Arkansas in the short summer season.
Photo: Mike Danneman

Yes, in one of the crueler changes of the UP-SP merger (also mentioned all 3 days, unintentionally), the snaking coal drags and other serpentine trains that plied the Tennessee Pass route have vanished. Tennessee Pass was the original standard gauge route "Thru the Rockies" before the acquisition of the Denver & Salt Lake by the Rio Grande and it's official merger in 1947.

Today's photo is perhaps as exceptional as they come. Thank you, Mr. Danneman, for sharing these with us!◊

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

POTD: 3 In A Row - The Rio Grande GP60's

In his second appearance this week for POTD, Mike Danneman is an accomplished railroad photographer whose work shows up in books and Trains magazine with enough regularity that many photographers might envy him. Of course, he has a way of being in the right place at the right time!

All three
GP60s 3156, 3154, & 3155 lead SP and UP locomotives head north toward Blue Mountain Crossing
between the Big Ten curves and Tunnel 1 west of Denver on its way to Salt Lake City, Utah.
Photo: Mike Danneman

As an example, he captured today's Photo of the Day in the foothills west of Denver as the three GP60s of the Rio Grande--the last locomotive units ever--hauled the Denver to Roper (Salt Lake City) manifest train up the grade toward the Moffat Tunnel on the old Denver & Salt Lake. In an interesting twist, it would seem a the six locomotives formed a recapitulation of 60 years (roughly) of the Rio Grande's ownership history with itself, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific. Regrettably, all three locomotives have been repainted or renumbered, per Utah Rails, but all are still active within the last year.

There is no doubt that it's a late 90s Denver skyline, is there?◊

Monday, March 17, 2014

POTD: St. Patrick's Day Green Cruises By On The Moffat Road

BN and March 17th seem to go together, don't you think? In this case, Mike Danneman captured a surviving BN locomotive in Cascade Green on the long ramp of a grade toward the Flat Irons and the Moffat Tunnel. As a direct result of the UP-SP merger, BNSF obtained trackage rights over the Moffat Road and since then has sent a remarkable quantity of trains via that route.

Pass at Rocky
Spartan-nosed BN 7062, an EMD SD40-2, leads it's Stockton-based consist through Rocky, passing
a Union Pacific coal drag with it's distributed power visible behind the derail stand on Oct 1 1999.
Photo: Mike Danneman
No stranger to trackage rights, BN had long enjoyed the fruits of it's agreement with the Rio Grande for a connection between Denver and it's southern Colorado assets along the Joint Line. Now with well over 15 years on the route, BNSF's colors appear to be on the Moffat to stay.◊

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday Video: Between the Rails With D&RGW 486

David Schneider of Fringe Photography in New Mexico posted his very first video on YouTube about a month ago now and it was on a very agreeable subject. He tweeted me (@COrailroads) the link. If this is your first time between the rails, you're going to find it a unique experience!



I tweeted back that I felt 486 looked a lot better like this than sitting in the parking lot at the Royal Gorge.
Follow my twitter account here.◊

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Off-Rails: You Can Work Satellite Search And Rescue For Missing Airliner

Longmont, Colorado-based Digital Globe is using "crowd sourcing" to aid in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 by putting digital satellite photographs taken after the flight online. The site tomnod.com then allows any pair of eyes, any at all, to search the images and tag items that look like what a search and rescue team looks for, including wreckage, life rafts, oil slicks or anything "unusual" that could point to what happened to the aircraft lost last weekend. Those who can look with their eyes and click with their fingers are encouraged to help with this effort. Even if nothing comes of it, it's more productive for our hearts than clicking our tongues and shaking our heads at the tragedy. Numbered among the missing is Texan Phillip Wood and two American children, ages 4 and 2.
Tomnod logo - www.tomnod.com

http://www.tomnod.com/nod/challenge/malaysiaairsar2014

The instructions there are simple:
  1. Use the map to explore the area
  2. Look for the objects listed on the left
  3. When you find something, select the icon, then click the map to drop a tag

Screenshot of tomnod.com site

Give it a shot. It's not hard. The worst that you can do is point out a whale or a refraction of water to someone else. At best, you can point something out that leads to survivors making it home. Concerned companies like Digital Globe are among the reasons I'm proud to live in Colorado.
cr - Colorado Railroads www.corailroads.com

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Resource Review: Railway Productions' Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad DVD

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad DVD Review

CategoryRating
Factual Accuracy & Detail★★★★★
Entertainment Value and Appeal    ★★★★★
Subject Choice★★★☆☆
Production Quality★★★★
Value★★★☆☆
Overall★★★★
There have been perhaps hundreds, even thousands of videos of various quality and length devoted to Colorado's surviving narrow-gauge lines. Some of the most professional and entertaining focus on the entire state, while others just as good tend to settle on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad or the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. The latter of the two is the subject of The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad DVD by Railway Productions, the production branch of online railroad retailer www.a-trains.com. 

A 20th Century Yearbook of the C&TS

Why this DVD, a reissue of the original VHS release? There are lots newer. There's a few different reasons. The bulk of the footage was shot in the late 1990s, a specific point in time in the heritage railroad's history that has since passed. This is before the ridership dive in the 2002 fire season in Colorado, before the 2010 destruction of Lobato trestle and the epic struggle to continue service and rebuild the trestle and reconnect the terminals on the 64-mile line between Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico. It is a yearbook of the railroad at the end of the 20th century with differences in the last 14 years both small and great that familiar eyes will spot.

For example, regular consists at the time of the video's production still contained a number of converted boxcars used to haul passengers from the earliest days of the C&TS. The railroad has since built it's own, semi-standardized fleet of passenger coaches in Pullman green and later Tuscan red.

Another clear example of it's time-capsule quality is a demonstration of the use of Chama's iconic coaling tower. Probably the tallest building in Chama for the first hundred years, the coaling tower has long since been out of service, with each of the engine's tenders stocked with the use of a tractor's scoop bucket or front-end loader. The coaling demonstration alone is worth the effort to get this video. Part of a larger feature documenting each step taken to prepare the locomotives for service each morning, the coaling tower sequence (a little less than 8 minutes into the main video) is invaluable to any model railroader seeking to create their own version for their railroad or anyone wanting to understand the rigors of coal-fired steam operations on a railroad. 

End To End Coverage With Broad Appeal

Although other aspects of railroad technology like narrow gauge versus standard and outside-frame Mikados are briefly discussed, he video itself has a broader range of appeal and technical aspects are discussed but not in great detail. History, operations, scenery, landmarks and geography are woven together quite masterfully throughout the video. The shots are well-produced and the narration, while not top quality like those of say, Pentrex, still flows smoothly and easily, giving a naturally good feel to the experience. The background music also belies a budget production of the mid- to late 90s. In fact, it reminded me of the job training videos that so many businesses used to educate or motivate their employees, often having the opposite effect! On the other hand, the music is composed by a professional and remains relatively unobtrusive while still giving a sense of drama or anticipation where appropriate. 

The video is thorough despite being a bit dated. Both Chama and Antonito departures are extensively covered, with a ride on trains climbing both sides, and coverage meets at the summit of Cumbres Pass. Pacing shots of engine 484 out of Antonito are especially nice, if not entirely steady by today's digital standards. Autumn gold aspen groves show up often. Mudhen 463 makes a few prominent appearances. Fans of the engine will remember that she broke down in 2002, necessitating a costly and extensive rebuild from 2009 to 2013. Also appearing briefly is rotary snowplow OY during her possibly last-ever outing in 1997. Whiplash Curve, Phantom Curve, Tanglefoot Curve (called Cumbres Loop "in the old days" according to the narration), Windy Point, Mud and Rock Tunnels, Lobato and Cascade Trestles, and the dramatic Toltec Gorge get their close-ups with photo freights and passenger runs. In all, a very balanced and well thought-out production that makes a fine 20th century. 

Other notes: The DVD includes an extra 30 minutes of bonus footage including a bit more of OY. It is tacked on after the original 56 minutes. A preview of the video is available for Windows users at the retailer's site. Other retailers: InternetTrains.com, Colorado Railroad Museum 


CategoryRating
Factual Accuracy & Detail - Has the facts straight. Goes into sufficient detail to inform the audience without getting bogged down or over-simplifying★★★★★
Entertainment Value and Appeal - Is the video just for the hard core fans, or can anyone sit back and enjoy the video?★★★★★
Subject Choice - How common is the subject matter? Does the railfans' world need another video on this subject? How likely will there be another video made on the same subject?★★★☆☆
Production Quality - Writing, editing, camera work, narration, and music must exceed nominal qualities by significant margin to achieve full marks★★★★
Value - Does the video deliver a high value (with time, quality, accuracy) for the price asked by the distributor?★★★☆☆
Overall - The average of the 5 categories. Accuracy is likely to find a contrast with quality and appeal is likely to contrast with subject choice, and value is affected by the other four.★★★★☆ 

So it's a generally favorable review. I didn't find anything to fully criticize outside of the number of Cumbres & Toltec videos already out there and the MSR price of $30  ($24.95 + 5.00 S&H). With Blu-Ray gaining more of the mainstream market, I can't bring myself to part with that much for a VHS re-issue to DVD. Again, not a lot to criticize on a great 90 minute video that's eminently watchable, especially for those who remember the previous century!

Do More

Want more of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad?

Monday, February 17, 2014

BNSF Derailment Caught On Camera, Axle Rolls Into Sedalia Gas Station

The small town of Sedalia just south of Denver had a little more than it could handle Thursday, February 6th, when a BNSF freight train derailed 17 cars at the town's main intersection, tying up US 85 and Colorado Highway 67 for days afterward. As the Amarillo-to-Denver mixed freight of mostly empties pulled through the highway grade crossing, surveillance video from a gas station shows the train cars lurching high off the tracks. Next, a contractor's truck backs out of the way when an axle from one of the cars began rolling downhill toward the camera. The axle continued rolling into the gas station's covered front porch, knocking out two columns before being stopped by a third.

Unlike road-bound vehicles, railcars typically rest on their axles, rather than bolt directly to them. This makes for quick access of a part that often requires replacement or repair. A minor derailment causing an axle to roll free is considerably rare. Locals took advantage of the photo op beside the large freight wheels that weigh 1 to 1.5 tons. It was a happy ending, despite the inconvenience, because no one was reported injured.

An axle from the train rests against the gas station
where it came to a stop in Sedalia Feb 6th.
Photo: The Denver Channel/Pat Norwood
The town of Sedalia is toward the northern end of Colorado's Joint Line at the junction of US 85, and Colorado 67 just north of its connection to Colorado 105, the Truck Route between Monument and south Denver.

History of the Joint Line 

The Joint Line was built when the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad built south from Denver toward Pueblo in 1871 and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway built north from NA Junction near Pueblo to Denver in 1876. After the Rio Grande converted the line to mixed gauge service, the lines could have been used in parallel, but until World War I, there was no joint operation agreement. As part of the United States Railroad Administration's management, the two lines were converted to directional running, right hand rule, with crossovers switched to allow northbound trains to use the eastern track and southbound trains to use the western track, no matter the railroad, Rio Grande or Santa Fe, owning the train. After the USRA returned the railroads to their owners, the Rio Grande and Santa Fe saw the cooperation as mutually beneficial and left the agreement in place.

Colorado & Southern and the Burlington (CB&Q) were allowed trackage rights over the Joint Line when the the rails of the Ft. Worth and Denver City, a third railroad roughly following the same alignment as Colorado 83, were taken up around the same time. South of Pueblo, C&S and the Rio Grande had a similar arrangement as the Santa Fe. As a result, C&S and later the Burlington and the Burlington Northern had a continuous presence along the Joint Line, with the 70s and 80s showing Rio Grande gold and black locomotives and Santa Fe bluebonnets and later warbonnets along with Chinese red Burlingtons and later BN green and blacks for a truly colorful microcosm of western railroads, save the UP until the late 90s.

Opinion

Considering that the crossing in question is just north of a maintenance change over between the Union Pacific (Rio Grande) and BNSF (Santa Fe), it's an interesting point for a derailment. Nonetheless, derailments because of ice buildup or sand accumulation from highway plowing are surprisingly common, especially considering the cold and snowy weather in Colorado around the time in question. Regardless, no one was injured, and that's cause for relief. Would that everyone else was so fortunate!

Footnotes

Tracking Ghost Railroads In Colorado by Robert Ormes

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Train Star: Amtrak is moving back to Union Station soon!

Train Star: Amtrak is moving back to Union Station soon!: But not as soon as originally hoped. Friday, February 28 (time?) California Zephyr returns to Union Station. This date has already been dela...(continue at Train Star)◊

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Video - Gerald Sharp's Run 8! Roaring EMDs On Tennessee Pass

On long, windy, winter nights, videos from summers past remind me that there are warm summer days still to come in Colorado, even in the high mountain parks and peaks, canyons, valleys and playful creeks. Only a few months remain to plan our trips to the tracks, even if it's a daydream of a trip. Winter's hold still lingers, and while it does, we can watch videos both historic and recent.

Gerald Sharp recently uploaded a Gerfmon production titled Run 8! Roaring EMDs On Tennessee Pass, Colorado 1992. Although it's considerably lengthy at 34 minutes, it may turn out to be worth your while. The video follows two trains on two different days as they take on helpers at Minturn, Colorado and proceed up the 3% grade to the summit tunnel atop Tennessee Pass, between Eagle-Vail and Leadville.

If you are short on time, the highlights include: Rio Grande SD40T-2 and GP40s pulling out of Minturn, Rio Grande manifest rounding a curve eastbound ascent, and one long, continuous shot of an SP manifest with TOFC through a high mountain park. Really, though, the whole video is worth your time, especially to see the helper operations. (Oh, Lord!)



As long as you're here, I have a small but growing number of playlists the CR YouTube channel. Enjoy!◊

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

POTD - New Year, New Power ...Same Switchwork

Editor's note: Ever have too many irons in the fire and not enough rags to handle them all? It seems this way for me ever since December. Still, I'm beginning to figure that no one sees the work if I don't eventually publish something at least. So without theme or meticulous research, I present today's Photo of the Day.

A manifest BNSF local makes its way east behind new power for a change. SD40-2s #1826
(ex BN 6378) and #1675 (ex BN 8025) with 3 switchmen work the turn on the last day of 2013.
Photo: John Hill, Denver 
John Hill makes his debut today at Colorado Railroads with a straightforward BNSF local turn working the Colorado Central (C&S) branch to Golden and Coors Brewery just east of Horton, at Miller Street and Ridge Road in Arvada. John has a long history of photographing trains and I hope I can share more of his work soon!◊

Monday, January 6, 2014

Scanners 101

Uniden's BearCat 125AT
If you got a scanner for Christmas, or have one but don't know how to use it, there's a couple of resources you should know about. First stop might be the site RadioReference.com. It has a "101" guide that's easy enough to understand. You also need to know the frequencies you can access. The same site has a comprehensive listing of the frequencies used by Colorado's railroad subdivisions, including yard frequencies. Have a look!

If reading's not your thing or you like a walk-through person-to-person, there's also a number of YouTube videos I've found.

Also, if anyone has some tips or ideas for scanners and their use, don't be shy about sharing it below. A novice like me could use the input!◊

Friday, December 27, 2013

Denver Union Station Set To Re-open Spring 2014


For nearly a century, Denver's Union Station, situated at 17th and Wynkoop Streets in LoDo (map), served as Denver's gateway. After suffering neglect in the 60s and 70s, a group called Save Our Station came forward to save Denver's landmark and stood in the gap until LoDo's redevelopment in the 90s. Today, with FasTracks and a "project authority," Denver Union Station is primed to become the city's transportation star once again, juiced with hospitality and shopping opportunities that Denver's founders would dismiss as flights of fancy.

ColoRail, Colorado's primary passenger rail advocacy group, reports that Denver Union Station's project under DUSPA is nearing completion of several steps in its renovation. For approximately 30 months the historic building, parts of which date from the 19th century, has been gutted, busted up, and besieged by earth-movers and construction cranes, but not for much longer. From ColoRail's latest brief,
While an exact date has not been announced, Amtrak trains, ticketing and baggage handling are expected to be back at the historic Denver Union Station building by mid-February 2014. Here is the line-up of events as it appears today:

⊗ Mid-February 2014, in a blizzard of track-work, the "cut-over" will take place, re-connecting Tracks 4 and 5 with the national railway network. Amtrak trains currently use Track 8. Station activities will be moved into the historic building. This will begin a new period of awkwardness, due to the surrounding construction activities, with special efforts needed to define safe pedestrian routes.

While RTD is mainly concentrating on the next step, national interest is focused on the Amtrak move, after relocations in both Miami and St. Paul were fouled up. One ColoRail member riding on the Southwest Chief found himself being grilled by his sleeping car attendant as to whether Denver would be able to handle this in a timely manner or not. ColoRail board members receive many questions along the same lines.

At this phase, customers should have access between the 16th Street FREE MallRide and the Wynkoop entrance to the historic building, or a 3-block walk up 17th Street for Market Street Station connections with skyRide and Boulder-Longmont buses. Thruway buses will have to park along Wynkoop Street during this stage of the project.

⊗ On May 9th, a big grand opening ceremony will be held for the Bus Concourse, which is to link the thousand foot walk between the historic building and the relocated light rail platform.

⊗ On May 11th at 2:00 a.m., the Market Street Station will close forever and the Union Station Bus Concourse will open for business. The significance for rail travelers is that it will be possible to walk under cover from the Amtrak facilities to the plaza at the Millenium Bridge light rail station. This change will also bring numerous bus connections closer to Amtrak trains, including:
  • Amtrak Thruway bus connections for Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Walsenburg, Trinidad, and Raton.
  • CDOT sponsored bus connections for US 40 points including Winter Park-Fraser and Granby
  • CDOT sponsored bus connections for US 285 points including Salida, Gunnison and Alamosa
  • RTD FREE MetroRide bus connections for Civic Center Station and the Denver Bus Center
  • RTD Regional bus connections for US 36 and North I-25 points, including Boulder and Longmont
  • RTD skyRide bus connections for DIA
  • A variety of Local, Express and Regional RTD routes
For the future, at least two other bus companies have expressed interest in serving the station. On the other hand, residents of Lower Downtown, recipients of millions of tax dollars in the form of a landscaped plaza in front of the historic building that replaces the taxi and bus loop, are objecting to "increased" bus traffic. Actually, there is no LoDo increase, but the project changes which streets are used, as buses would no longer be going to Market Street Station.

⊗ On or about October 1st, CDOT expects to begin interdistrict commuter bus service between Fort Collins, Denver and Colorado Springs, with stops at Union Station.

⊗ In 2016, three commuter rail lines are due to begin service, including the DIA/East Line, the Westminster Line, and the Gold Line (Arvada - Wheat Ridge). These would replace several Express bus routes in Union Station, as well as the Rte AF skyRide coaches. Also improved would be connections to Aurora, via the I-225 light rail extension. Aurora stops will be accessible either via an East Line transfer at Peoria/Smith Station or via a C/E-Line to H-Line transfer at I-25 & Broadway Station.

⊗ In 2017, it is possible that commuter rail service to Thornton will begin.♦
Photo by Alex Patton, released to public domain


With the completion of the West line earlier this year, Denver Union Station already ties the Light Rail lines together. Once Amtrak and the commuter lines are active, it truly will be the regional hub envisioned by FasTracks.◊

Monday, December 23, 2013

Museum Poll Reminder

Only hours remain for you to vote in the Colorado Railroad Museum poll "What would you do with $5 Million at the museum?" Take a look at the top of the right-hand column and voice your opinion!◊

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Railfans Hope For A Little Coal In Their Stockings

If you're a railfan, you've likely dreamed of firing up a steam engine and highballing it on the main line. Christmas brings those dreams especially close. To all my railfan readers and friends, enjoy this for your personal use.

Denver & Rio Grande engine 168 sits under a fresh blanket
of snow in Antlers Park in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

2100 px PNG file, right click and choose "Save link as" to save it to your wallpapers folder
1600 px PNG file
Have a warm, safe and blessed Christmas, and a happy new year!◊
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