Friday, May 30, 2014

POTD: Putting A Bow On A Colorful Week

BNSF 5391, a GE Dash 9-44CW struggles up the grade toward Palmer Lake with only one of her two teammates pulling along. Something tells me its not the brand new powerbar in the back! Additional color enhancements by God.
Photo: Joe Blackwell

Photographer Joe Blackwell has gone 3 for 3 in POTD the latter half of this week, although it wasn't by coincidence. BNSF and rare colors have been the theme and Joe seems to capture a great deal of it near his home in Palmer Lake. When he first retired, one of his first shots in July 2009 was of a BNSF train   struggling to make the summit of the Palmer Lake Divide separating the Arkansas and Platte River drainages. Neither BNSF pumpkins nor rainbows are unusual colors to Colorado, however. Yet just behind the lead engine is a CSX locomotive, just like Monday when another struggling BNSF train was led by the Central of Georgia NS heritage unit with a CSX engine in the second spot. One could say I put a bow on the entire package with this shot, but it wasn't planned. I wish I was that good.◊

Thursday, May 29, 2014

POTD: Ah, Springtime In Palmer Lake!

Exactly what season it is might fool many a viewer but not locals and certainly not Joe Blackwell. He caught this BNSF southbound coal drag behind SD70MAC #9719 coming through Palmer Lake after the storm in the background left more than a little hail behind.
Photo Joe Blackwell

Today's POTD is a set of coming-and-going photos by Palmer Lake's Joe Blackwell. The recent spate of hailstorms that have rushed northward along Front Range has not passed unnoticed by railroad photographers. The juxtaposition of winter white from storms whose winds "shake the darling buds of May" with their bright green leaves seems irresistible to the shutterbug.

It's the same train, same vantage point, but a completely different perspective! BNSF SD70MAC #9767, from the same order as the lead unit, trails a pumpkin in almost mirror fashion of the other end of the train. The same cannot be said of the skies.
Photo: Joe Blackwell

Of particular interest is the contrast between the skies of the two photographs. This is no trick. The storm and the innocent-looking cotton puffs are indeed in the same sky. The only difference is the angle and the time it took for the length of the train to pass. It's just a hint of the volatile nature of springtime in the Rockies.◊

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Santa Fe, All the Way 1: The Race To Uncle Dick Wooten's Ranch

Amtrak only recently celebrated its 40th year with surprisingly popular heritage locomotives. What might not be as popular is the nationalized passenger rail corporations' under-the-radar hints of rerouting the Southwest Chief, a Chicago - Los Angeles daily train running on BNSF-owned rails. The re-route would take it away from southeastern Colorado and south toward the north Texas panhandle. Today is the first in a series exploring both the problem and the history behind trains 3 and 4, known once and not so long ago simply as, "The Chief."




The Race to Uncle Dick Wooten's Ranch

by Steve Walden, Editor

In the old west, possession really was nine-tenths of the law.

William Strong, AT&SF
No place was this clearer than in the railroad wars between the Rio Grande and the Santa Fe between 1876 and 1880. When Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway President Thomas Nickerson gave the authorization for the Santa Fe to build into New Mexico, his words were the pebbles that started an avalanche down a mountainside. His General Manager was an ambitious man in his 40s named William B. Strong. Strong had already made an appearance in Colorado Springs to Denver & Rio Grande Railroad President, General William J. Palmer, stating that the Santa Fe's only ambition was to connect with the Southern Pacific, forming a southern transcontinental link, but that it didn't have the funds at the time. Palmer was satisfied at this, but Strong was also pushing for an exclusive agreement between to the two railroads that in effect would make the Rio Grande a vassal or even a subsidiary of the Santa Fe. Palmer declined such offers outright, knowing that his objective of El Paso and beyond would be instantly shelved. Strong was also open, however, to arrange an agreement with the Rio Grande to feed traffic to the Rio Grande at Pueblo. It was an agreement that Palmer felt would guarantee his railroad additional income and strengthen his road's position to continue on its course toward El Paso.

Palmer's original plan for reaching El Paso and eventually Mexico City actually went through the Santa Fe's namesake city, reaching the San Luis Valley by La Veta Pass and then south along the Rio Grande, through Santa Fe along the river all the way to the border town of El Paso, on the western tip of Texas. Yet, as the Rio Grande progressed  southward through Colorado Springs and Pueblo, and finally to Walsenburg and La Veta, the appeal of Raton Pass, sitting just south of the Colorado-New Mexico border, was in vital competition with the call of the San Juan mountains in southwest Colorado and the mining revenue that the Rio Grande could lay hold of exclusively. The merchants of old Santa Fe were anxious for a railroad to make their goods accessible by a means far more efficient than the mountain route of the Santa Fe Trail that had served the city since the 1820s.

The Santa Fe Trail was a torturous affair, a crossing of the desert southwest, roamed by settlers, bandits, trappers, miners, explorers and bands of Native American warriors. Worst of all, Raton Pass--the highest point--was an axle-breaking collection of hairpin turns and conestoga-crushing overhangs. In 1865, the same year that saw both the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the westward migration of thousands of veterans and their families,an enterprising man named Richens Lacy "Uncle Dick" Wooton gathered a troop of Mexican laborers and commenced building a toll road over Raton Pass that greatly eased the travel for passengers and commerce. Over 5,000 wagons used his road in 1866, and one three month period saw Wooton collect $9,164. In terms of purchasing power, that would equate roughly to $127,000 today, a tidy sum for any entrepreneur to gross in a quarter, and a very compelling reason for the Santa Fe Railway to close in on its goal, Santa Fe, New Mexico territory.

His visit to Palmer only a recent memory, Strong had the authorization from Nickerson on February 26, 1878, to move the railroad forward. He immediately contacted A.A. Robinson, his chief engineer, with orders to get some men and lay claim to Raton Pass. Robert Athearn, in his chronicle of the Rio Grande, Rebel of the Rockies, describes what happened:
Robinson promptly boarded a Rio Grande train at Pueblo and headed for El Moro, where, late at night, he got a horse and pushed on to the home of "Uncle Dick" Wooton near the Pass. James A. McMurtrie, chief engineer for the Rio Grande, was on the same train and carried the same instructions, but unlike Robinson, he stayed overnight at El Moro, unaware of the urgency of the situation. When on the morning of February 29, McMurtrie and his men arrived at the scene of his proposed endeavors, he was greeted by Robinson and a group of transients pressed into service, all busily engaged in what they said was railroad building. The little "armies"...about equal in strength, eyed each other for a while, and after some exchange of threats, the Rio Grande men moved and began work on an alternative but much less desirable crossing at Chicken Creek. McMurtrie had lost the game by about thirty minutes. To clinch it's title to the ground, the Atchison Company asked for, and received, an injunction prohibiting its rival from interfering with construction.
While the date of February 29th is suspect (1878 was not a leap year), the railway purchased the pass crossing from Wooton nonetheless that year. Joseph J. Gallager, Cultural Geographer and author of the Urbana Group's report to the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places, wrote a fitting conclusion about the Santa Fe on the Santa Fe Trail.
... Since the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad had won the race for the right of way through Raton Pass, it was their trains that were to Thunder into Las Vegas (New Mexico) on July 4, 1879, and eventually into Santa Fe on February 9, 1880. Soon after this date, wagon use of the trail as a means of long distance transportation of goods and individuals proved inefficient, thus closing this chapter in history of the Santa Fe Trail. 
All was not completely settled, however. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad was over-committed and would soon become the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway under financial restructuring. It would proceed from New Mexico on to the Pacific coast, though not altogether unchallenged by the Rio Grande and other railroads with which it was destined to come in conflict. The race to Raton had set the stage for the Royal Gorge War, one of the most famous civil conflicts in Colorado.

While on the topic of names, the Railway portion of the name Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway picked up in said restructuring has outlasted the "AT&" of the AT&SF to BNSF Railway as its direct descendant. BNSF became the west's largest rail ..way or railroad in 1995 when Burlington Northern Railroad and AT&SF merged to become Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and then simply BNSF. It remains the owner of the rails of the original route over Raton Pass, which Amtrak finds to be intolerable under current maintenance standards. Amtrak has dropped more than enough hints that it plans to move its Southwest Chief away from its traditional route if maintenance standards aren't improved to keep travel times down. BNSF is not willing to increase maintenance on what it sees as a former main line, no longer a major contributor to its bottom line. The Colorado Rail Passenger Association has been driving hard to preserve the Southwest Chief on its original route. Consider joining ColoRail and adding your voice to preserve a vital link to Colorado and nearly 200 years of western history.◊

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

POTD: BNSF Hiring Pony Power

Norfolk Southern 2728, an SD70M-2, leads sister 6941, an SD60E downgrade from Palmer Lake, CO with a southbound BNSF manifest. BNSFs lack of power to match traffic levels has led to some unusual colors on point.
Photo: Joe Blackwell

Photographers love a power shortage when it means rare locomotives! Sunday's Photo of the Day contained one of Norfolk Southern's heritage units, and today's likewise features some pony power, but no heritage units unless you count Cascade green of Burlington Northern, which grows rarer by the year. Joe Blackwell, no stranger to POTD, captured the rare power near Monument in April this year as the BNSF manifest continued downgrade from Palmer Lake on the Pikes Peak Sub. He also has caught CSX power on point near the same location.◊

Monday, May 26, 2014

POTD: Highball Summer 2014!

For Memorial Day, our Photo of the Day is by our first contributing photographer to Colorado Railroads, John Hill of Denver. He managed to catch Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) class K-27 "Mudhen" #463 out west of Antonito on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Mr. Hill's photograph appears here online for the first time.

Photo: John Hill, contributing photographer
Fans of the narrow gauge built by the D&RGW will remember the C&TS has preserved the remaining narrow gauge portion of the San Juan Extension of the D&RGW that ran between Alamosa and Durango, Colorado from 1881 until 1970. Famed engine #463 and her sister #464 on the Huckleberry Railroad are the only surviving members of the K-27s, the smallest of the Rio Grande's narrow-gauge Mikados, also known by the Whyte notation 2-8-2.

Like the engine heading west toward Chama, the C&TS, along with most of the other heritage railroads in Colorado, are setting out on their summer season this weekend. No doubt, hopes are high that this season will be enjoyable and productive. While there are no guarantees, the bizarre events like caterpillars, wildfires, and infrastructure problems of the last few years have hopefully abated to allow a good and enjoyable season for staff, visitors, and railfans alike.◊

Sunday, May 25, 2014

POTD: Central of Georgia Sits In Center of Denver

Norfolk Southern Heritage unit 8101 sits in the lead of an eastbound manifest in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood of Denver. While road traffic on the I-70 viaduct whistles by at 65 MPH, one could time the lowly manifest train with a sundial.
Photo: Kevin Morgan

Kevin Morgan of ColoradoRailfan.com reports the following on his site earlier this month:
BNSF is under powered, under manned, and over capacity.
That's likely why they're borrowing power from everyone they can to keep the freight moving! This enviable problem explains the presence of Norfolk Southern Heritage unit 8101, designed for Central of Georgia, and CSX 482, an AC powered unit with the lightning bolt under the cab. Yet the outlook for this train crew mid-shift is like the weather, overcast and flat. Half their shift has passed and they've moved all of 3 miles with their manifest freight. Who said heritage units are glamorous?◊

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Denver: The Garden With No Gate

For Mother's Day 2014, a poem by Susie Kerin, Colorado writer from the early 20th century.

The Garden

Near the mountains is a lovely garden,
Denver beauteous, haven of the West ;
Through her welcome arch the tired tourist
Finds an oasis of peace and rest.

In this garden there is always sunshine,
Happiness, good will, and blessings rare ;
Rising in a cloud of benediction
To descend in fragrance through the air.

May all those who wander through this garden
Breathe this air from yonder snow capped crest,
And enjoy each happy, restful hour
As the sun sinks in the golden west.

Susie Kerin
1870 - 1952

The Welcome Arch as portrayed in Susie Kerin's book on the page opposite the poem above. The Welcome Arch stood at 17th & Wynkoop streets in front of Denver Union Station greeting tourist and traveler upon their arrival.

Editor's Note: Typeset as appears in the original publication Poems of Sunny Colorado published in 1922. Special thanks to Larry Lootsteen and Lisa Flynn for doing the research and performance with Bono during U2's 360 Tour stop in Denver in 2011, which inspired this post.◊

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Steam Generator Cars Legacy Lives On In UP Yellow

Union Pacific #949, an EMD E9, idles with steam generator car Howard Fogg in Denver's North Yard
Union Pacific's EMD E9 #949 idles at Denver's North Yard with the Howard Fogg, a steam generator car in from Cheyenne for repair to the car's wheels. Photo: John Hill, contributing photographer
Contributing photographer John Hill captured Union Pacific's historic EMD E9  in Denver with car #209, known as the Howard Fogg. It is the last boiler car for the UP. The car is comparable to former Alco PB #6002 that the Rio Grande renumbered 253 when they converted it to generate steam for passenger trains like the California Zephyr, the Rio Grande Zephyr and the Ski Train. Nathan Holmes of DRGW.net explains the reason behind steam generator cars. In practice, the former diesel engines like the Alco were easier to convert because they were already built to MU (multiple unit) control standards. Therefore, they ran between the engines instead of behind them like the Union Pacific. The Howard Fogg must ride behind the engine lashup and not within it.

About Howard Fogg, the Painter

Named for the renowned railroad painter in 1996 after he passed away on October 1st of that year. Fogg issued numerous paintings of locomotives at the end of steam and the heyday of cowl-bodied diesels. This was during a period when American railroading was arguably the most colorful and diverse.

Examples of Fogg's paintings can be found illustrating many published works, including some editions of the definitive Rio Grande book, Rebel of the Rockies by Robert Athearn, as well as his own books. His works come on calendars, playing cards, porcelain platters and even things you can hang on your wall with frames. Most recently, Richard and Janet Fogg have published Fogg In the Cockpit, a book and a blog about Richard's father. Colorado railroads and narrow gauge were a favorite theme among Fogg's many paintings.

Legacy of Steam Power Survives To See a Big Boy

Given today's wireless and electronic gadgetry, it is a bit ironic that the power cars are indispensable for present passenger special operations using equipment made to run when steam was not just an option, it was the only way to power the cars in your train. Eventually, however, the standard for car power changed when Amtrak took new Amfleet and Superliner cars that relied on HEP, or Head End Power, based on the ready supply of electricity from today's diesel-electrics. Yet nothing seemed capable of killing off the last vestige of steam from the surviving vintage passenger cars like those of Union Pacific.

Inconspicuous to a fault, the Howard Fogg blends in with the passenger consist, ahead of the first dome and behind tool car Art Lockman and #6936, this time speeding through La Salle, Colorado, on its northbound jaunt to Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Photo: John Hill
Finally, in 2000, the car was upgraded to include HEP. The boiler still supplies the steam heat as needed for consist, but HEP provides the power for the high voltage needs on the train. Cars can be electric or steam, but everything from tools and bench work to AC, cash registers, and reading lights depend on the Howard Fogg. Union Pacific needs the Howard Fogg as a support car for the move of Big Boy 4014 from California to Wyoming, presently underway, which Kevin Morgan has confirmed is in Las Vegas, NV on April 30th.◊

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Free Admission Today At Colorado Railroad Museum

Just a quick reminder today that admission is free today at the Colorado Railroad Museum. For those who need the extra nudge, the savings would pay for gas for at least the Denver region. If you carpooled, it might even cover your lunch! Goose rides around the loop, if available, will still require the purchase of a ticket.

Admission is free at the museum because it receives funding from the Denver area Scientific & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). Part of the requirements for SCFD is that since SCFD is funded by a public tax, the public should receive something back for what it has no choice about paying. Socialism has never been more cultured than in Denver.◊

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Special POTD: Through the Rockies, Not Around Them

Our Photo of the Day is truly special. Union Pacific is in the midst of a public relations tour de force with it's move of Pomona, California-based RailGiants former Big Boy, now UPP 4014*, but in years past, it was far from a lock as the home of big steam. Nearly every western US class 1 railroad had big steam in the 1940s. A World War and post-war boom stretched a national rail system to its limits and fed the need for big and bigger steam engines to move the freight (and passengers, imagine that!) over the mountain ranges that separate the bread basket of the world from the Pacific coast and her ports. These western railroads were interested in diesels, but knew that they would have to turn to tried-and-true steam technology.

Rio Grande 3619 slows for a moment outside Tabernash, Colorado while it returns from a helper stint to the Moffat Tunnel on October 20, 1956. The 3619 was usually under the care of former-D&SL Joe Priess, engineer and Flory Iacovetto, fireman. The photo appears for the first time online here, making it a special POTD. Click to enlarge.
Photo: Dave Straight. 
While Union Pacific had their 3900 Challenger-class locomotives, Rio Grande had the same type from the same maker and order, called L-97 class, numbered 3800-3805. What UP didn't have was the Denver & Rio Grande Western's L-131 and L-132 classes numbered 3600-3609 and 3610-3619. The last of her class and only days away from her date with the scrappers torch (dear God, why?), this might be one of the last photos of the Rio Grande's largest, most powerful steam engines.◊

* - Union Pacific Passenger reporting mark avoids conflict with UP 4014, an active diesel on their roster, which is the same reason behind UPY. See UtahRails.net data on UP 4014, Note E. It seems no one wants to repeat the confusion over 844/8444/844. 

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.◊
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Colorado Railroads Headline Animator