Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hogger Heaven? Durango Train Owner Plans Conference Center

Is this heaven?

No, it's Durango, and Purgatory's a few miles down the road. All the same, Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad owner Al Harper and business partner Karen Langhart have plans to build a railroad-themed hotel and convention center, tentatively called Railroad Crossing, adjacent to the train yard. The hotel would have approximately 220 rooms and the 26,000 sq. ft. convention center would accommodate 400 - 600 people, making it the largest hotel and convention site in Durango. The catch is, can Durango foot the anticipated $500,000 annual shortfall the new facility would likely operate with?

Once built, the property would be anchored at College and Camino Del Rio, joining with the existing D&SNGRR property on its south side. This would surround the existing General Palmer Hotel in a U-shape, with the railroad on the east and Railroad Crossing on the south and west.

Lots of hotel chains have approached Harper about building a hotel on site. The problem was that if corporate vision changed, Harper would be stuck with running or selling the property. "My dream," he said, "was to find a partner who believes when you stay at this hotel you'll be immersed in the railroad culture of Durango. This will be a railroad experience like no other."

Railroad Crossing would also have a two-level, subterranean garage beneath the hotel, conserving parking spaces in a downtown area that already sees enough cars with the railroad passengers parking for the day-long trip. Also planned are first-floor retail shops and a railroad-themed central plaza with a stationary engine and rails embedded in asphalt for moving railcars in and out of the area.

If they build it, we will come. The question is, will they be willing to bet the farm? Harper and Langhart are serious. Will Durango go with them?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Man Killed On Road Grader Struck by Train

Only a few days after the Operation Lifesaver specials pulled through Colorado, a Weld County employee on a road grader was broadsided by a Union Pacific freight train in Ft. Lupton, Colo. While the wheels from the grader stayed at the impact scene, the cab was picked up and shoved by the train for 300 feet, at least by one account. Doug Wigham, 30, was thrown from the cab and died at the scene.

If the accident happened at the intersection of CR-6 and the railroad, that crossing is a dirt road (thus the grader) and was protected only by crossbucks.

Say a prayer for the crew and the family of the deceased.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Operation Lifesaver Special In Glenwood Springs

Operation Lifesaver ran a special on Saturday from Utah into Glenwood Springs over the former Rio Grande trackage. On point was Union Pacific #1989, the Rio Grande Heritage unit. Three short round trips were planned to take passengers from Glenwood to Dotsero through Glenwood Canyon. Those of you familiar with the history of the canyon will remember this monument to an idea. The canyon was the original location for the monument honoring the concept of creating dome cars for people to view the scenery they passed through.

Ben from Grand Junction managed to catch this shot of the special as it sat in Dotsero.

Update: Here's an article from the train's trip to Montrose. It made roundtrips to Paonia for employees of Montrose city government.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

RTD Light Rail Hailed On NBC

NBC Nightly News featured Denver's RTD Light Rail D-line on their Wednesday night (6/18) broadcast as part of a piece on fuel prices and improving quality of life for urban centers. If costs are managed better, Denver can be the example of what western cities can do with mass transit systems. The video from the broadcast is embedded below.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

RTD FasTracks Cost Increases Due To Surging Material Costs

The Denver Rocky Mountain News presents a more comprehensive look at why FasTracks is going over budget and why RTD may struggle a bit with the burden. The blame is being laid on rising materials costs:

Since FasTracks went up from its original price tag of $4.7 billion to $6.1 billion in May 2007, there has been another year of hefty inflation in the construction industry - fueled by hikes in steel, concrete and oil. The Colorado Construction Cost Index, a measure of costs for transportation projects maintained by the Colorado Department of Transportation, increased 6.1 percent last year.
Unfortunately, this means that Denver's fledgling light rail network is facing some peripheral cuts, but even that doesn't look like enough to keep the costs under control. Narrower bike trails and fewer cameras only buy you so much and then you're looking at cutting much more than the optional landscaping.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Amtrak Suspends California Zephyr Service East of Denver

The midwest floods through Iowa have prompted Amtrak to suspend several trains, including the Chicago-to-Denver portion of the California Zephyr. reports
Alternate transportation will be provided between Denver and points in Nebraska by chartered motorcoach. Ground transportation to or from Iowa is not being offered due to roadway flooding.
The California Zephyr traverses mainly BNSF trackage in the affected territory, holding to the original CB&Q route from Denver to Chicago. There is no prediction for when service through the midwest will resume. Service west of Denver to California remains as normal as it can be.

RGS Galloping Goose No. 4 Restoration Underway member JCater visited Ridgway recently and took some photos of Rio Grande Southern Galloping Goose #4, under restoration by the Ridgway Railroad Museum. It looks like the volunteers there have split the car body from the cab. Their plans are to survey the car and record its condition extensively before beginning any repairs.

JCater's gallery
Colorado Railroads blog post:
RGS Galloping Goose No. 4 To Be Restored In Ridgway

Saturday, June 14, 2008

DRHS #315 Continues in Chama

The Durango Railroad Historical Society's recently restored D&RGW steam engine, #315, will continue to work on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic railroad over the summer. Click here for the article from the Durango Herald.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Windsor Railroad Museum Reopens After Tornado

The Windsor twister that destroyed buildings and caused one death May 22, 2008, left its mark on the Colorado community, but there are signs that life is slowly returning to normal. One such sign is the Windsor museums re-opening at Boardwalk Park. Although there was damage to a beet shanty showing home life for immigrant sugar beet farmers, several other buildings--including the railroad depot and exhibits--went largely undamaged. The museums will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays this summer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Denver Post: Police Say Derailment No Accident

Apparently, the stump was removed, and 2 hours later it was back. From the article,

... a Westminster police officer had struggled to get it off the tracks after someone called and reported it about 8:30 p.m. Two hours later, the stump was back and a 37-car freight train hit it and derailed, causing major damage to the train and spilling thousands of dollars worth of cargo.

This highlights the necessity of police and other first responders working to communicate suspicious activity to railroad police and dispatchers. I do not work for BNSF, but if a slow order or a high-rail vehicle were dispatched for the next train on that line, the derailment might have been avoided.

Related post from 6/10/08

Volunteer At the Colorado Railroad Museum June 28th

For those in the Denver-Golden area on June 28th, the Colorado Railroad Museum will be hosting its first all-Museum work day. Volunteer coordinator Kelvin Harr says that there will be mini-restoration projects, landscaping projects, track projects, and office projects that volunteers start and finish that day. Have fun, get your museum fix, and end up with a real sense of accomplishment. Contact if you would like to help out!

On a side note, several mechanically inclined volunteers are needed at the Colorado Railroad Museum to put the No. 50 Switcher back together. They need a Project Leader and individuals to work on installing the transmission, clutch, air brake rigging and running gear. If this is your cup of tea, contact Kelvin Harr at the link above.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad Trip Report

Nathan Holmes of has posted a trip report on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad and caught some beautiful shots of their new #18! Go check it out!

BNSF Freight Local Derails In Westminster, Vandalism Suspected

According to Kevin Morgan of, the Longmont Turn, a BNSF local, rammed a tree stump placed on the tracks, presumably by vandals. The train was going near track speed of 40 MPH at 10:30 PM Monday evening and all four engines derailed as well as several freight cars in a massive dogpile. The lead unit, BNSF 8105, an SD-60M managed to remain upright.

The derailment happened at 95th Avenue and Wadsworth Parkway in Denver's northwest suburb of Westminster. Other Denver media, including and the Denver Post (all news outlets), have picked up the story. Three crew members were aboard the local and one was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Police still don't know who may have placed the stump or trunk on the tracks, only that it could have been much more serious had the train been carrying something other than building supplies.

Kevin has more pictures from this afternoon. Crews are still working to remove the debris to re-open the line. There is no current estimate on when the line will reopen.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Grand County Residents Scramble To Save Buildings From UP Wrecking Ball

The news from Granby is not good. After purchasing a pair of railroad structures to model the historic Denver & Rio Grande Western's Moffat Route from Denver to Craig, the Grand County Railroad Club is being forced to abandon their building by the railroad's current owner, Union Pacific. They must remove the building from UP property or it will be demolished by the Union Pacific. Being more expensive to move it than to start over, the GCRC may simply salvage what they can and start over in their search for a home.

Similarly, the Grand County Historical Society is seeking to save the Granby Depot from the same wrecking ball. Ideally, the depot would be removed to a donated tract of land. If not, the society could possibly place it on existing land but it would be "jam-packed."

Entreaties by the Middle Park railroad afficianados to the railroad's central offices in Omaha have thusfar gone unheeded and unheard. The demolition move by the UP is part of their effort to make the railroad property from Denver to Glenwood Springs more presentable.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Meet Phil Johnson, CMO of the CRRM

Here's a good little article on Phil Johnson and his work as the CMO (Chief Mechanical Officer) at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden.

On a side note, I'm glad to see the Denver Leadville & Gunnison engine 191 is finally getting some attention. For years, she's stood as a shadow of what she once was. Will she steam again? I don't know, but with all the steam power coming on line in the last few years and the current projects in the works, anything is indeed possible.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

RGS Galloping Goose No. 4 To Be Restored in Ridgway

The Telluride Watch is reporting that Galloping Goose #4, the only goose that has not undergone a major restoration since the demise of the Rio Grande Southern, has been placed at the Ridgway Railroad Museum for just that purpose. Goose 4 is going to be restored to a complete but non-operating condition for it's owner, the Telluride Volunteer Fire Department. Many hands have had a part in getting Goose 4 this far, but Mary Ann Gaston of Telluride figures prominently in the article.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad's High Altitude Concert Series Returns

Do railroads and music go together? Any blues fan, any country artist would tell you, absolutely they go together! So maybe it's just a natural fit that a railroad already gathering a reputation for delighting the eyes continues its attempts to engage our ears with songsmiths and poets.

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, Colorado's newest scenic railroad, begins its High Altitude Concert Series on July 17. In its second year, the train’s mountain concerts feature the return of cowboy poet and Western Music Hall of Fame inductee, Michael Martin Murphey, along with country and bluegrass singer Ricky Skaggs, among other national recording artists. The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad has the only ticket to this exclusive Colorado concert setting among a natural meadow amphitheater of aspens and pines under clear starry skies. Performances take place on Fridays and Saturdays through August. If this sounds too good to pass up, here's your link to more information on the High Altitude Concert Series.