Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rio Grande Scenic Gains Two More Steamers

Because D&RGW #683, the single surviving standard gauge steam from the Denver & Rio Grande Western, is preserved at the Colorado Railroad Museum, the San Luis & Rio Grande management continues to find non-native steam power for it's scenic runs on its two excursion trains, The San Luis Express from Alamosa to La Veta and the Toltec Gorge Limited from Alamosa to Antonito to connect with the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic. They recently acquired two 2-8-0 steam locomotives from the Mt. Hood Railroad in Oregon. They are former Lake Superior & Ishpeming No. 18 and ex-Grand Canyon Railway No. 20. The engines are expected to be in service by 2008 and 2009, respectively, according to their web site.

The Union Pacific took the engines over the Moffat Tunnel route only to dump them in the Winter Park siding due to a clearance issue with one of the tunnels through the Front Range below the main tunnel. They are presently in Denver, according to DRGW.net, after a re-route through Wyoming, and will likely be in Walsenburg on Thursday evening, the 17th.

The San Luis & Rio Grande has also started construction of a maintenance facility. The irony is that after Union Pacific bought the Southern Pacific in 1996, it leveled the historic Alamosa facilities. Now, only 10 years later, the short line has turned Alamosa into it's hub of operations and needs a facility to maintain its fleet.

On a side note, the San Luis & Rio Grande also purchased five Santa Fe Big Dome cars from Holland America. The cruise line sold some similar domes to the Royal Gorge Route in 2005, which have greatly added to their passengers' experience. The Budd domes last ran between Anchorage and Fairbanks via Denali National Park on the Alaska Railroad. They should look much nicer than the "vintage" equipment the RGSR has used the last two years.

I think I speak for railfans everywhere when I say I appreciate the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad's efforts to expand the railroad tourism in southern Colorado. I've got to scrape a few nickels together to get a ticket to ride. Speaking of, if you'd like to contribute to Colorado Railroads, you can purchase some items from the Resource Siding at right. A portion of your purchase will help keep this railroad blog running!

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