2017-11-30

Timeless Lines To a Locomotive

The following poem, a "prophetic tribute," written by Hon. William D. Lewis of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was composed around 1840, a dozen years after the first railroad in America. It was first published in the Evening Bulletin (Philadelphia) and reprinted in Trains magazine's December 1964 issue on page 35. While technology has changed all but the most basic concept of the railroad in the 177 years since, and time itself has rendered the verse archaic, the imagery and themes are vivid and timeless and just as easily apply to the railroads of Colorado today.

Lines To A Locomotive
by Hon. William D. Lewis

Sublimest courser of the plain,
Whom toil can neither daunt, nor tire,
Onward thou bear'st thy lengthened train, 
With iron nerves and lungs of fire.

Boldest exploit of daring man,
Whose restless and impatient mind,
Infringes nature's general plan,
And leaves with thee the winds behind.

No match for thee in airy race,
The eagle, borne on sounding winds,
Envying he views thy lightning pace,
Most wondrous of earth's wondrous things.

As some bright meteor of the sky, 
Or some unsphered and shooting star,
Thou, locomotive, seems to fly,
Beheld by dazzled eyes afar.

Science and skill their aid impart,
Trained, hills to level, valleys rear,
Thy pathway smoothed by laboring art,
To urge thee in thy swift career.

On then, majestic, mighty steed,
Speed thy fast flight from clime to clime,
To thee,the glorious task decreed,
To cancel space, to vanquish time.

2017-11-09

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic To Run Special Christmas Trains In Toy & Food Drive

If there weren't ads out there telling us "the season" is coming, the weather itself is reminding us: Christmas is on the way! Retailers depend on Christmas to make their annual margin and use ads to drive the sales up. While there's always a family we seem to know that spends itself silly in a celebration of excess, there's a very different reason for the season, and that is driving why I am supporting the following.

Christmas can be stressful for parents. Some plan and spend, other parents worry and wish. They know their family isn't going to get much of a Christmas, no matter what they do. They need help just to keep food on the table and heat in their home, let alone toys or clothes for the kids. Many families in the San Luis Valley know especially the problems of scarcity. What's more, this year, many charities have been stretched thin by the hurricanes and floods. That's why I was excited to read about the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad's Toy & Food Drive. Here's what's happening:

Celebrate the Season on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad’s Santa Train

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Collecting Toys or Food Items to Benefit Toys for Tots & Food Bank
Antonito Departures on Dec. 9 & 10; Chama Departures on Dec. 16 & 17

ANTONITO, CO & CHAMA, NM -- To help make the holiday season a little brighter for those in need, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad (C&TS RR) will again be running holiday trains to collect food and toys to distribute in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.  The one-hour rides are free for children (11 and under) and only $5 for adults (ages 12+). A donation of either
  • a non-perishable food item, or...
  • a new boxed toy
per person is requested.

Last year, the railroad collected more than 5,500 pounds of food and 1,000 toys, which were all distributed in the San Luis Valley of Colorado and in Northern New Mexico.
Last year in Chama
Photos: Roger Hogan
The highest and longest narrow-gauge steam railroad in America is owned jointly by the states of Colorado and New Mexico with stations in both Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico. This is a wonderful opportunity for families to experience the thrill of a steam locomotive in winter, while also helping those in need in the community.

There will be two different opportunities to experience the C&TSRR Christmas Trains, either

  • departing from Antonito, Colorado on December 9 or 10, or...
  • departing from Chama, New Mexico on December 16 or 17
The Antonito departures will climb the foothills of the San Juan Mountains to the Ferguson Trestle and back, while the Chama departures will run to the Lobato Trestle and back. Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit with children onboard and Santa’s elves will serve complimentary hot chocolate and cookies during the ride.

All food and toy donations are distributed to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation from Antonito and the Antonito Food Bank to recipients in the local area. Food and toy donations in Chama are distributed locally by the Chama Fire Department Toy Collection and the local Chama Valley Pantry operated by the Rio Arriba County Echo Food Bank.

To make your reservation on the C&TS RR Christmas Trains, go to http://cumbrestoltec.com/schedule-fares/special-events/ and click on the Christmas Train link or call the train depot at 888-286-2737. Train rides start at 10 a.m., with the last train departing at 4 p.m.

Wouldn't it be great to take your children shopping for a toy they would like to give? It's great to hear the insights they have as they pick out the right one. Then, let them bring it to the station as part of your Christmas celebration. Sometimes the biggest reward is seeing the warmth in your child's heart. ⚒

2017-11-01

POTD - A Plow In Aspen Gold

Photo of the Day: James Belmont
With the weather turning colder again, it's only fitting for the mind to turn to the one thing that made Colorado winters famous--or infamous, to the minds of railroad presidents and their accountants: snow. First in the line of defense of the high mountain passes and deep canyons were the plows, of which the Denver & Rio Grande Western railroad's X-67 is one of very few built for them by the Russell Car & Snow Plow Company. Further, she was listed by the Rio Grande as a plow, rather than a plow and spreader. Nevertheless, she looks fantastic sitting in Minturn on a relatively hot spring day in June 1981, awaiting the call to action in a fresh coat of Grande Aspen gold with wide-vision caboose 01509. Since Tennessee Pass has been dormant for 20 years now (grrr!), X-67 has been summering in Glenwood Springs, not a bad way to spend one's time!⚒

2017-10-26

Poem From the End of the Era of Steam

From David P. Morgan's Trains Magazine in February 1963, a poem from what was the already fading era of steam by William F. Bradbury, titled...

The Express Passes



The original as it appeared in Trains
Dim in the distance a waver of light,
A murmur, a hum, a confusion of sound,
The shriek of a whistle far-piercing the night,
An electrical throbbing and thrill in the ground;

A widening glare o'er the glittering snow,
The fire from a flaming red orb of an eye,
A roaring and rumbling that gather and grow,
A vomit of rolling black smoke to the sky;

A singing of steel, and a crashing of crank,
A hissing of steam shot out in a blast,
A whistle's hoarse scream, and the iron's harsh clank,
And the huge, swaying monster goes thundering past!

A swirling of snow in a fine, stinging spray,
A buzzing of rails, growing fainter -- now gone,
The clang of a bell dying quickly away
A glimmer of light, and the train rushes on.

                                              -- William F. Bradbury

What a vivid picture! Whether through the mountains or rolling out on the plains, this prose is a clear reminder that such beasts roamed the rails of Colorado and the nation in ages past.⚒

2017-08-06

POTD - Cheyenne Frontier Days Special Rides Again

It almost goes without saying. This year's Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo had a steam special run by Union Pacific. I say almost because, although it has been a regular trip for many years, a lot of planning, effort and money go into making this event happen every year. The citizens of both Wyoming and Colorado owe a debt to The Denver Post, Union Pacific, and the many staff and volunteers who invest their time and effort to making the CFD Special happen. Without it, the rodeo wouldn't be as popular and the economic impact would be profound. Highball, UP 844!

Photo of the Day: John H. Hill
Today's photo of the day is by Colorado Railroads' contributing photographer John Hill. He captured the Cheyenne Frontier Days Special high-stepping its way south through Weld County past Nunn and toward Carr and Denver Union Station on July 20, 2017 at 11:08 in the morning, led by Union Pacific's famed 844. A class FEF-3, oil-fired 4-8-4, it has never officially been retired, and since the 1980s it has served as the railroad's primary public relations dynamo. I can't fault them for it. If I had a horse this beautiful, I would show it off each chance I got! ⚒

2017-05-30

App Review: Kalmbach's Colorado Railroads

Inside the app, a listing for
the fabled Big Ten Curve
Kalmbach Publications, the folks responsible for Trains magazine, Model Railroader, Classic Trains, Classic Toy Trains, and Drone 360 published a special issue, a DVD and a mobile application, all with the theme of Colorado railroads. The more astute of us probably noticed a similarity in title to this site. Without getting into a long story, just know that they have my permission. Or maybe I have theirs?

Regardless, the special juxtaposition of railroads in Colorado hasn't escaped Jim Wrinn and the editors of Trains. Mr. Wrinn in particular is a notable fan of the narrow gauge! With regard to the app, he has said,
The Colorado Railroads mobile app enables you to search by attractions near you, to find them on a map, and to mark your favorites. You can plan a trip to Colorado, or let this app take you to new places if you’re in the field.
And he's right. If I had unlimited resources and abilities to design a mobile app for Colorado's railroads, I would have a hard time outdoing this one.

The opening splash is the same as the cover for the special issue and DVD, the former Denver & Rio Grande Western Mikado #473 crossing the Las Animas river outside Silverton.

The main screen is set in portrait mode and it doesn't switch to a landscape format. This can be limiting for some users, especially if they have accessibility requirements, but I found I could work around it.

The home screen is the main menu and all the options are duplicated in a pull-down on the left hand side. Giving a user more than one way to reach something and also using a menu to preserve your options are marks of a good app.

The home screen allows you to access the attractions, sign up for the Trains weekly e-newsletter by e-mail, purchase the special issue or DVD, subscribe to Trains magazine, or provide feedback to Kalmbach.

Like a lot of free apps, this one facilitates selling items of interest and opening new lines of revenue for the publisher. That's okay, but to make this app useful, the attractions listed need to be better than a quick Google search for "railroads in Colorado." Are they? In a word, Yes!

First of all, every entry is researched by Trains staff. Second, I personally asked Mr. Wrinn directly, "When will you stop updating these listings?" He said, point blank, "We won't." So if an entry is out of date, use that feedback feature! Be nice though.

This screen cap shows the application's map interface zoomed in to view Denver. The bulk of the locations shown correspond to RTD's transit stations along their active light rail lines. Other locations include the Forney Transportation Museum and the Colorado Railroad Museum (at far left) in Golden. A tap on any one of these red markers will pull up a balloon with the listing and a further tap for details pulls up the full listing (see below).
Colorado RR MuseumDetail listing


Features

The first and by far the best feature is filtering. No one likes to be overwhelmed with tons of information when only a few entries are needed. Here are the present Attraction Types you can filter by:
A trail listing for Phantom Canyon
south of Cripple Creek
  • Amtrak Stations
  • Buildings
  • Hobby Shops
  • Mainlines
  • Museums
  • Restaurants
  • Short Lines
  • Steam Locomotives
  • Tourist Railroads
  • Trails
  • Transit Stations

      Other filters are for distance and ZIP code and you can sort by distance as well. A test sort produced the 3 nearest hobby stores to me followed by the local railroad preservation group.

      One final feature is a Favorite List. While browsing in the app, you can choose to favorite specific attractions and then view them in a favorites list. Choosing stuff for your bucket list is that easy.

      Final Thoughts

      Kalmbach's Colorado Railroads app fills a need for folks who would like to discover railroad-related attractions anywhere in Colorado and appreciate a curated list to choose from. Are you looking for a way to spend an afternoon, a weekend or an entire vacation? This is the app to help you plan it! 🚂🚂🚂🚂🚂

      The application is available for Android and iPhone users absolutely free. While it would be nice to see a broader distribution (Kindle, etc.) it's understandable that only the top two phone OS providers are used.⚒

      2017-05-07

      End of the Circus Train

      End of the Circus Train

      The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is closing.

      The last line of a T.S. Eliot poem talks of the earth ending "...not with a bang but a whimper."1 The Greatest Show on Earth, for all its pomp and bombast, its hype and fanfare, will end not with a glorious round the country farewell tour that would last for years. No, instead it will creak quietly to a halt later this month and fold its tents forever.

      Visit Trains Magazine's excellent
      coverage
      including a free national
      map of Blue and Red's final miles
      When a decision by their parent company came down late last year to end 146 years of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, there were dates already booked--including one in Colorado Springs--that were quickly and quietly scrubbed. Thus, one last chance to photograph the circus train, red or blue, is no more. If you want to see any circus move by train, you will have to travel east to one of the remaining dates in the next two weeks.

      I remember seeing an incarnation of this same circus in 1977 with my mother and grandmother, watching the elephants and tigers and taking in all the sights and sounds. Had I known they had arrived by train and lived aboard it, I don't think my mother could have gotten me home!

      And yet, when I ask myself, if I had such good memories, why didn't I take my own kids to see the circus, I'm confronted with some of the reasons the circus had fallen on hard times. After years of connecting with my kids through animals and educating them about wildlife, why was I uneasy about explaining an elephant's role in the circus? Somehow, the long, unrelenting push of animal rights activists had chased my family and me out of the circus tent.

      That is the same reason behind the circus owners' decision. After bowing to relentless pressure from animal rights activists and retiring their elephants last year, ticket sales dropped as the owners anticipated. But they didn't just drop; they tanked, forcing Feld Entertainment to pull up stakes, leaving a lot of people with mixed feelings.

      On the other hand, unmixed and plainly clear is my regret at not getting a last look at a unique American institution that is quietly dying along side its reason for existence. The Red and the Blue Trains, for all their aluminum-gray patchwork, were a rolling community, a total of 124 passenger cars traveling from one city to the next, more often than not at the mercy of a freight railroad to get there. Residents of this community had one foot in the 19th century circus and railroad traditions and the other foot in the 21st century technology, with satellite TV, DVRs and smart phones all as mobile as they are. Maybe a lot of things got mixed, especially toward the end.

      But that's a circus for you.

      I just wish a lot more of us got a chance to say goodbye before they left.⚒

      2017-04-07

      And We're Back!

      Sorry for that brief interruption to our site. If you landed at www.corailroads.com and didn't see the familiar banner and posts in the last week, it was because of an account snafu. Just like in railroading, not everything goes perfectly every time. Thanks for hanging in there with us!

      PS: Go Rockies! Have a great home opener and make 2017 a great season!⚒

      2017-03-09

      POTD - Snow Train

      It may be just a few hours later and we find ourselves in nearly the exact same location as Tuesday's Photo of the Day. The snow is certainly deeper and this BNSF freight has slowed to a crawl. Even deeper snow has halted operations east of the Moffat Tunnel and the train will tie down at West Portal. The evening California Zephyr isn't due for several hours and track owner Union Pacific will need every one of them to clear out the mess ahead of it. The heavy snow makes such heroics seem unlikely.
      Photo of the Day: Steve Brown
      Click the photo to view a larger, unmarked version
      It could be hours later, yet, except the train itself, everything about the location has changed because of daylight. No passengers wait on the platform this early in the day. The light is frustratingly even, obscuring even the important details, like where it is safe to step! So notes our photographer Steve Brown. Everywhere the light is even except inside the platform, which was the main source of light the night before. Yet the snow continues to fall in confetti-like flakes, freshly punctuating the photo with a festive mood. Let's cancel school and go watch some trains today!⚒

      2017-03-07

      POTD - Winter Travel

      The ritual of boarding a train from small town America is almost as old as the nation itself. In Fraser, Colorado, passengers wait in the shelter along the platform on a snowy evening in March 2003 to board the nightly Amtrak number 6, commonly known as the eastbound California Zephyr. Their next stop will be hours deeper into the night and 3,386 feet lower when they pull into Denver's Union Station before the thousand mile journey across the plains to Chicago.

      Photo of the Day: Steve Brown
      (click the photo to view a larger, unmarked original)
      For all the difficulties it can cause photographers, nighttime still has a way of focusing the energy and taking away the distractions available in the daylight. Steve Brown makes excellent use of the ambient light to focus attention on the conductor at the head of the line of anxious passengers. A flash, a requisite for night photography in years past, would catch the thousands of flakes concealed in the darkness and throw the light back, ruining the moment. Instead, Mr. Brown lets the light on the wood interior of the platform carry a flavor of warmth to contrast with the icy cold of the drifted snow hampering even the basic task of boarding a train.⚒

      2017-02-24

      First Advertisements Of the Colorado Railroad Museum

      As near as I can figure, I think I have found the first ad ever placed with Trains magazine by the Colorado Railroad Museum, all the way back in June 1959! Robert W. Richardson and Cornelius W. Hauck were fans before the end of the Rio Grande Southern broke the thousand-mile Narrow Gauge Circle, and they kept lit the flame of Colorado's railroad history even before they opened the museum that year.

      They first had a go of it years before near Alamosa, operating the Narrow Gauge Motel, complete with steam engine and station. Often using their own funds, they worked to preserve railroad history without much else. They fought tooth and nail for artifacts and records from railroads and operators who couldn't understand why old forms and paperwork wouldn't just as well be burned with yesterday's trash.

      This ad followed the next year in 1960.
      I'm pretty sure the offer has expired!
      Thanks to the work of these "rabid" fans, the details and means by which a lot of these railroads operated hasn't been lost to time. Most importantly, their efforts to build a place for future generations of railfans sits nestled between the table mesas of Golden as a Colorado railfan's paradise. It's here in the western reaches of metropolitan Denver that some of the next generation of railfans discover the mystique of faraway places like Marshall Pass, Cerro Summit, Ridgway, Rico, Pandora, Dolores, Mears Junction, and so many more. These aren't just places on a map; they're gateways to a time when the clang of a bell and the wail of a whistle echoed beckoning the willing to follow where the rails would lead.

      In July 1960, barely a year after the ad, Trains published Cornelius Hauck's photo of the museum's modest beginnings in Golden. Sharp eyes will spot several "original" pieces still at the museum 57 years later.
      Photo used with permission from Trains magazine.

      What I appreciate about Richardson, Hauck and many others is that they didn't wait for someone to give them permission or a commission to go out and save the narrow gauge. They saw a need, looked around and then stepped forward to help. Common men doing uncommon things. ⚒

      2017-01-12

      POTD - The Little Train to Oblivion

      Every once in a while, I'll find a railroad image that, for lack of a better phrase, stops me in my tracks. Today's POTD is one of those.

      Photo of the Day: William Diehl
      Photographer William Diehl has captured former Denver & Rio Grande Western narrow gauge Mikado on her way west out of Antonito in the fading light of September 29, 2014. The diminutive steamer chuffs off into the distance with her load of freight and a caboose on the approach to Lava tank.

      To fully appreciate this photo, click the photo (or this link) to view it full screen. I don't mean to exaggerate, but it appears flawless! I can practically smell the sage. Ok, that's a slight exaggeration. What isn't an exaggeration is the quality of the photo and the sense of a small train in a big, wide-open country! The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is known for their high alpine trestles and views of Toltec Gorge, but even the broad open country it passes through as it climbs from the San Luis Valley floor can be a beauty all its own!

      Thanks to William Diehl of Big Diehl Photography for sharing his work with us! Let's hope we will see more of his work in the near future.⚒