Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Local Steam Favored As Gas Prices Climb

The Pueblo Chieftain recently ran this travel feature on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. With gas prices at all time highs, many vacations are going to be scaled back or canceled altogether this summer. Many Coloradoans will be looking for something close to home for a vacation spot. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic combined with the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad as well as the Great Sand Dunes makes Alamosa an attractive offer, especially being less than 4 hours away from Denver and the northern Front Range.

What makes Alamosa even more attractive is the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad's newest addition to its line up, former LS&I steam engine #18. Because of their second steam engine, RGSR is able to advertise a daily steam train over La Veta Pass rather than just weekend steam service with a weekday diesel stand-in. The Rio Grande Scenic seems to be a railroad committed to making Colorado the steam capital of the western United States. It is a welcome thought to many railfans and photographers. The San Luis Valley trains are hidden gems that are finally getting the attention they deserve.

Visit the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad site (sound is enabled) or the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad site for more information.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Royal Gorge Route Offers Rafting Package

Echo Canyon River Expeditions has combined with the Royal Gorge Route Railroad to create a Raft & Rail package. See below for their promotional video, including shots from the train, inside the domes and a shot of the cab.

Looks like a fun time! Just be careful. The Arkansas River is likely to be more of a challenge this year because of the high snowpack.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Video: Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Digging Out Slowly

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is turning to some unique snow clearing equipment to dig out from this winter's record snowfall. With up to 15 feet and no rotary snowplows in useable condition, the C&TS has contracted out with one of its part time locomotive engineers to clear the snow by opening day. See the video below to watch the converted runway plow in action.

With the snow settled in, rather than being cleared routinely as it was in days gone by, the snow has the consistency of wet concrete or worse. Good luck, guys! Here's hoping opening day will be a full run of the line.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Note To My Regulars

To my regular readers, thanks for continuing to read Colorado Railroads. I'm starting to really enjoy this work.

As a reminder, I am continuing to update the special events calendar on Google calendars. The original post continues to show the upcoming events automatically, so you might want to bookmark it and check back there often. In terms of events, I added the swap meet at Arapahoe County Fairgrounds next weekend and a "Big Boy" day at the Forney Transportation Mueuem, along with several other "just announced" events. If you have an event, or you see one that is missing, please drop me a line at coloradorailroads@gmail.com about it. I'll be glad to put it up if it meets the guidelines.

I have also added more links, such as an expanded model railroading listing. Check out the new sites and maybe even visit one.

Finally, check out the store I've set up with Amazon. I continue to hand-pick all the items that relate to Colorado railroading, not just railroading in general. I am accepting reviews of products as well.



Spot the RGS #20 Boiler

Modern Marvels profiled the Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania recently. The guess is that the boiler they're poking around just happens to be the Colorado Railroad Museum's Rio Grande Southern #20. The historic steam engine was sent there for restoration last year after two generous donations, the locomotive by the RMRC and over half a million dollars by an anonymous donor for her restoration. Such generosity in the face of a waning economy never looked so good!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rail Symposium Kicks Off Museum Exhibit

The Denver Post came out today with a very good article that takes a current look at how fuel prices are changing the way Americans are thinking about transportation. Could it really come to Americans opting for rail service instead of a car or a four hour flight? It's possible. Money is getting tight and people don't like spending hundreds of dollars to feel like a criminal and then a sardine for hours and little better trying to navigate their cars to the tune of $3.50 per gallon. As a result, it could be that airlines take a back seat to a spacious seating and efficient economy afforded by rail. Could America be ready again for the passenger train?

The article also mentioned a symposium put on by the Colorado Railroad Museum on April 26th, featuring experts on passenger rail travel. Scheduled to appear are:
  • Jim Bain: Rio Grande Ski Train: A Denver Tradition for Generations
  • Steve Patterson and Joe McMillam: Santa Fe Chiefs
  • Bill Kratville: Union Pacific Passenger Trains
  • Peter Hansen: The Railroad Station: Gateway to the Passenger Experience
  • Tom Janake: Colorado Railrcar/GrandLuxe Rail Journeys
  • Bob Briggs: Rocky Mountain Rail Authority
  • Cliff Black: Amtrak - Past, Current & Future

Scheduled also for the symposium is the PBS premier of America and the Passenger Train. This offers a unique opportunity for those interested in passenger rail as well as the general railfan to make sense of America's past and future with railroading.

The following day, the Colorado Railroad Museum will hold a reception on their grounds for the attendees of the symposium. The reception will celebrate the opening of their newest exhibit, America and the Passenger Train.

Here are the details fresh from the Colorado Railroad Museum. Cost for the two-day event is $25.00 and includes Saturday's presentations at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, a box lunch, and a preview/reception of the museum's new exhibit. Admission to the Colorado Railroad Museum for events on Sunday, April 27th, is also included for symposium attendees. The symposium begins at 8:30 AM on Saturday, April 26. The American Mountaineering Center is located in Golden at 10th Ave and Washington Street. For further details and to make reservations for the symposium, call the museum at (303) 279-4591. Reservations must be made by April 24th.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Larkspur Residents Now Support Grade Separation

A long-standing, summer tradition along the Front Range is the Rennaisance Festival in Larkspur. Almost as long-standing is the tendency for traffic jams to lock up the town's main intersection on festival weekends, especially when a string of freights tie up the grade crossing just west of the intersection on Perry Park Ave, the only direct road to the festival from I-25.

If, and this is a big if, Larkspur succeeds in building the underpass, the Rennaisance Festival will likely double in size and surrounding businesses should plan their expansions now. The main reason, however, is still the best reason: A grade separation will allow fire and ambulance services to reach victims much faster, anytime. Separation of the grades will improve response times, improving the chances of survival for those living west of the crossing.

The likelihood of the separating the grade will improve as state and county leaders climb onboard. Union Pacific and BNSF will likely get on board about the same time. The festival organizers have been pushing for it for years, last year suing BNSF over a train that blocked the crossing for nearly an hour and turned away many would-be attendees. The organizers later dropped the suit, but still contended that something needed to be done. Something like a grade separation.

UP Centennial To Pass Through Denver Today

According to Kevin Morgan, Union Pacific's last active DD40AX engine #6936 is passing through Denver today, in the early afternoon. It is en route from Grand Junction, CO to Sharon Springs, KS with a passenger special that is touring the UP system. This cannot be confirmed by DRGW.net's Locotrace, however. Kevin places it in Denver any time between 12:45 p.m. and 1:45 p.m., with the caveat that such time is "subject to a lot of change."

Good hunting, Kevin!

Friday, April 11, 2008

C-DOT Plans Second Study Of Eastern Rail Corridor

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is planning a study called Rail Relocation for Colorado’s Communities or R2C2. This idea has been rolling around for at least a dozen years in its current form. Essentially, CDOT believes there is an untapped commuter rail market along Colorado's Front Range or what is also called the Colorado Piedmont between Ft. Collins and Pueblo. They would know because they count the axles on their own freeways. In order to have commuter rail, however, the steadily increasing flow of coal and other rail freight needs to be relocated. That's where R2C2 comes in.

The study will be to determine the alignment the rails would travel, how to best complete the bureaucratic red tape that would surround such a project, and how to put together a public-private partnership. That last goal confirms my observation about project management that every project needs one or two "gimme" objectives to be able to claim success. It appears that this project is coming closer to a definite reality.

Here's hoping that 2018 will see a passenger embark in New York and never stop riding the rails until they get to Chama, New Mexico. After that much traveling, though, all I'd be looking for would be a bed!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Dick Kindig Passes

According to Donald Tallman, Director of the Colorado Railroad Museum,

Dick Kindig passed away at 1:30PM. His health had slipped significantly in the past week. There are no current funeral or memorial plans

Kindig's work to preserve the memories and physical equipment of the Rio Grande Southern and the Denver & Rio Grande Western as well as other Colorado narrow gauge lines will live on in numerous collections, museums and libraries. His recent honors at the Colorado Railroad Museum were the caboose on a long and successful career.

The New Railfans

This is a bit off-topic since the article isn't based in Colorado, but since it's of interest to most railfans about the growth of their hobby, it's worth posting a link to the article.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Lost & Found in Cheyenne: UPD&G Passenger Car

A vintage railcar from railroading's early days in the west discovered in 1991 is finally getting the attention she deserves. The railcar ran on the Union Pacific Denver & Gulf and then on Colorado & Southern between Cheyenne and Denver before its conversion to a train crew cabin. It survived as a house for decades afterward. Now, its hopes are considerably brighter. Read more from the Wyoming Tribune.