Saturday, December 24, 2011

POTD - All Is Calm, All Is Bright

 It's late on a snowy evening in December 2007. Union Station is lit up in all her glory, but the lights belie the cold rails and deserted platforms that await any weary traveler looking for warmth or maybe a room at the inn. The station sleeps in early winter slumber, a few years before the redevelopment claims the platforms seen here and subterranean concourse under DUSPA.

Amber hues and blowing snow stretch out in this somber photo
of Denver Union Station the night of December 8, 2007
Photo: Patrick Boury

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

POTD - Looking Down The Line Toward Christmas

The Polar Express is making runs three times an evening all this week from Durango to "the North Pole." It's approach toward the platform at the Durango station mirrors the approach of Christmas, now just a few days off. Rather than get caught up in the business and hassle of the season, it's my hope that you take a moment to step out on the platform with a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate) and gaze off down the track at the coming beauty and wonder of Christmas. It may not be convenient, or even on your schedule. Nevertheless, it may be necessary.

Polar Express arrives Durango
The Polar Express makes it's way past the back of the roundhouse on its way to
pick up scores of children and their parents in Durango on a frosty evening
Photo: DHLake

Monday, December 19, 2011

POTD - Winter Snows Roll Freely By Amtrak's California Zephyr

In honor of those who will be travelling this week, I thought I'd see if I could turn up a Photo of the Day or two on the subject of travel.

It was near my birthday that rail photographer Mark Hyams took this terrific shot of Amtrak's California Zephyr rounding the corner at Cliff, Colorado. I know it doesn't look like it, but the train is in the middle of a near 180° turn and,  a few moments after the picture is taken, will pass through tunnel 29, directly beneath the photographer. The remains of Tunnel 28 after it was daylighted are behind the first two sleeper cars at left. All the while, Boulder Creek is swollen with winter snows and it runs freely away from us and down the canyon for the Gulf of Mexico.

Amtrak's California Zephyr pulls through Cliff, Colorado late for it's appointments at
Fraser, Granby and Glenwood Springs at the height of summer, July 11, 2011
Photo: Mark Hyams

Friday, December 16, 2011

POTD - 50 Years Ago, Waiting In A Winter Wonderland

Well, it's been a while since I've posted any Photos of the Day, hasn't it? Too long, I know. Let's get back into it, shall we?


John West is a favorite photographer of mine, and it's not just because he had the good sense to be in Colorado photographing Rio Grande narrow gauge in the 1960s. It's because he didn't have any common sense standing out there in the cold snow waiting for two Rio Grande locomotives to chatter past with a load of Gramps Oil cars headed for Cumbres Pass and the oil fields beyond. Remember, pain is temporary, but film is forever. Thanks, Mr. West!

A double-headed narrow gauge freight headed by K-36 No. 480 puts on a wintry show
as it charges across the San Luis Valley tangent track 50 years ago this month
Photo: John West

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Follow Up: State's Sale of Railroad Has Colorado's Citizens Fearing the Future

Following up on last month's post, State's Sale of Railroad Has Colorado's Citizens Fearing the Future, V&S Railway has indeed thrown the switch, taking the Towner Line, a rail route connecting Pueblo with Kansas and the east, one step closer to oblivion by announcing its intention to abandon service and rip up the rails. The Pueblo Chieftain has more with "Owner plans to scrap Towner Line." If Colorado wants to keep the line operational, it has the option. But finding $15 Million, what the Chieftain claims it may take, in a budget already fairly stripped down, may take some serious effort. On the other hand, the alternative may be more costly to the future of Colorado.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Englewood Selling Its Santa Fe Station

Editor's Note: A cold, chronic illness symptoms, and Christmas shopping have had the cumulative effect of blocking at least two major posts and a few POTDs from reaching you this week. I hope to get them out this weekend.


"Anyone want to buy, renovate and use a historic train depot?" So begins an article from the Englewood Herald.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

UP 844 Goodwill Tour Videos Show A Classy Main Line Steam Engine, Crew

Rail photographers Skip Weythman and Dan Barker work as a two-man video team that does a very good job capturing the beauty of locomotives as their trains travel the broad expanses of western railroads, especially in Colorado. Their pacing shots of Union Pacific Steam are exceptional, considering the difficulty of steadying the shot, keeping an even rate of speed, and the physically demanding nature of the work. Their work stayed true to form despite the cold weather during Union Pacific's goodwill Centennial tour of the southwest states, which is winding down in Ogden, Utah, at the time of writing. Their work shows in the first four videos in the playlist below.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Railroads Celebrate A Colorado Christmas

The Polar Express arrives at Durango's 125 year old station

Colorado has many traditions and celebrations associated with Christmas. Denver's Civic Center, across the park from the state capitol, is lit each Christmas season with an impressive display that brings thousands to the city center on every night it's lit. Christmas stars light several Colorado towns like Castle Rock and Palmer Lake. As I've noted other years, Colorado also has a global role with Christmas as NORAD tracks Santa Claus while he travels around the world each Christmas Eve.

Also as with years before, I have a list of railroads and layouts across Colorado that host special Christmas events. This year I have them grouped by metro area. One final note before the listings: Reservations, where possible, are strongly encouraged as these events have a tendency to sell out at the last minute.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

State's Sale of Railroad Has Colorado's Citizens Fearing the Future

Eads, Colo. Sept 30, 1989 Photo: Jeff Van Cleve
There was a time, 25 years ago, when a long stretch of rail in eastern Colorado was a vital link for Rio Grande, connecting Pueblo to Kansas City via trackage rights that Rio Grande picked up when Rock Island fell into Union Pacific. Long before that, the Colorado Eagle brought countless passengers across the Kansas prairie to Pueblo Union Depot and up the Joint Line to Denver's Union Station using Rio Grande crews. The Missouri Pacific built 152 mile-route to Pueblo in 1887 as a means for Jay Gould to rival the Union Pacific.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

POTD - How Does One Fire An F9?

The characteristic curve of the window should be a tip to the railroad-minded about the location of the photographer when they snapped this picture of the Colorado River and the railroad right of way in July 1977. The shot is from the fireman's seat aboard the Rio Grande Zephyr in the cab of EMD F9 5771 heading east out of Glenwood Springs into Glenwood Canyon. In 25 years, the last remnant of the old California Zephyr will be a distant memory and the last of the Rio Grande covered wagons are preserved at the Colorado Railroad Museum..

Photo: Eric Sherrill

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank You, Veterans

Today is 11/11/11. At the 11th hour on November 11th, 1918 hostilities were concluded in the Great War, World War I. In March 1917, the United States committed itself to the war when the Zimmerman Note was intercepted and made public. As many as 9 Million combatants died. Today, it's almost a footnote, which troubles this historian.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

POTD - Ski Train F-40s Led Home By Familiar Face

Jim Burrill presented at the Hugo roundhouse meeting in March with Steve Lee on UP Steam. Back in December of 2000, he managed to catch Rio Grande GP-60 3154 resting at the southern end of Union Station with the then-active Ski Train after one of the F-40PH engines developed trouble on the run to Winter Park. Only recently replaced by the F-40s purchased from Amtrak by ANSCO, 3154 was a common sight on the Ski Train up to the 2000 season.

Photo: Jim Burrill

Friday, November 4, 2011

POTD - Snow And Hunter Orange On the Western Slope

If there was one thing this picture reminds me of, it's hunting! Yes, to keep their crews safe during hunting season, BNSF paints their locomotives in hunter orange! Well, maybe. But even so, it makes for a nifty side benefit, right? A BNSF coal drag makes it's way past Dotsero early on in February 2010.


Photo of the Day: Scott McClarrinon

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

POTD - Snow and Steam

Chris May, known popularly as GhoSStrider, is no stranger to POTD, but the last time he was featured he was chasing the Cheyenne Frontier Days special and his feature ran in early August! Quite the change here as he catches a volunteer dismount Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad engine 346 one cold December morning.

Dismounting His Trusty Steed
Photo: GhoSStrider

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Durango & Silverton Hosts the Polar Express 2011

The Polar Express, of book and movie fame, is coming to Durango for this Christmas season. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad put this video together promoting it. It's worth watching, even if you're a little cynical about how much fun a train full of kids can be.



For under 5 minutes, this is one of the best promotional spots I've seen in years. It's very true to the spirit of the book and I hope the same holds true of the ride. Highball, Polar Express!

Monday, October 31, 2011

POTD - Early Snowy Weather

This week will have three Photos of the Day, all themed towards snow, since snow has already fallen--and stuck!--on most of Colorado's mountains and plains last week. So, for all you snow hounds, dust off the skis and find your snow gear, because this week's for you.

If you are looking for a seasoned veteran, Chris Nuthall has been around Colorado's railroads for quite some time now, as evidenced by the following shot of Rio Grande SD40T-2 #5358 at Glenwood Springs with green leaves to the left and snow gracing the mountains above, definitely inconsistent weather that's consistent with Colorado! Incidentally, this was taken October 31, 1981, 30 years ago today! With such composition, I have to say she still looks great!

Photo: Chris Nuthall
If you like this one, you can always go back for seconds

Sunday, October 30, 2011

UP 844 Tours Colorado, Fuels Positive Perceptions

As I write this, Union Pacific 844, the FEF-3 that never retired, sits at the top of the world ...well, the top of the Palmer Divide, anyway. It is as high in elevation that it will get along the entire goodwill tour, edging out Altamont, Wyoming by only 7 feet in elevation, according to UP elevation measurements.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rio Grande 463 Scheduled to Return In 2012

The Monte Vista Journal did an article that serves as an update on Mudhen 463, under restoration in the San Luis Valley. The Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic have set March 31, 2012 as the completion date, despite the restoration requiring more work than anticipated, resulting in a $240,000 shortfall. Hopefully, next season sees the smallest and oldest of the surviving 2-8-2 Mikados back on the rails!

Monday, October 24, 2011

DUSPA: Public Invited to Interior Redesign Meeting Nov 3

The Denver Union Station Project Authority is hosting a meeting to hear presentations of two competing ideas for the interior re-development of Denver's Union Station. The press release follows below.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Colorado Springs' Depot Restaurant Closing Monday

2 photos: springsgov.com
The restaurant that preserved the D&RG depot in Colorado Springs, Colorado from the wrecking ball in the 1970s is closing tomorrow. The building that was built originally to suit arrival of small, narrow-gauge trains of travelers, transplants and tourists will have a new purpose as an events center, not unlike--at least on paper--Pueblo's Union Depot.

Friday, October 21, 2011

UP Goodwill Steam Tour Has Several Colorado Stops

Update: 
10/21/2011 2:55 PM - As promised, I have a full map of the stops in Colorado with arrival and departure times.


Union Pacific has announced an extensive tour of the southwest US to participate in state-wide centennial celebrations for New Mexico and Arizona. Since Colorado is currently located between those two locations and Cheyenne, perpetual home of UP Steam, several stops have been scheduled in Colorado to give folks a chance to come out and see Union Pacific 844.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Rio Grande's Tennessee Pass in 1984

In 1984, the Rio Grande was in its prime, and the video camera was just becoming semi-affordable. Primitive by today's digital standards, it stood head and shoulders above the movie cameras of the previous generations. Enjoy this blast from the past. I've added it to the Rio Grande Memories - Std Gauge playlist available on Colorado Railroads' YouTube channel (note: this is the corrected link to the active YouTube channel)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Train Shows In Denver and Along the Front Range

The aspen colors have nearly faded across the Rockies, and pro football is in full swing. The days are getting colder, and furnaces are beginning to fire up again. Indoor activities are just beginning to sound appealing. Model railroading looks like a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. What sounds good is a train show! That will get the creative juices flowing and give you a chance to learn from some seasoned modelers. Here's what's available....

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Follow Up: 17 Year Old Severely Maimed In Near Fatal Stunt

Anna Beninati, the 17 year-old student who followed her friends in a near-fatal attempt to hop a freight train and fell beneath the wheels of the rolling train, suffering two severed legs, has survived and by all I can tell, she has begun rehabilitation in Utah, her home state.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Carving Up A Diesel Locomotive

I watch a lot of documentaries and non-fiction TV. Up until now, however, I'd never seen a show about scrapping locomotives. It's sad to see any locomotive cut up and parted out, but, if you have ever wondered about what's under the hood of those huge diesels, this video shows how the vultures--er, reclamation specialists carve up a KCS engine that has turned its last mile.

Play the video (in Shockwave player) above or watch the video at National Geographic

Friday, September 30, 2011

As Old As the Hills

I happened across an anecdote today that comes from the days of widespread passenger rail. It's a simple one that I've taken the liberty of re-telling here.
A gentleman boarded a train he'd never ridden before and was surprised to find that his first class ticket gave him access to the same car as second and third class passengers. What was more, the seats and other accommodations were all the same. He had heard about small railroads, but he couldn't figure out what he had bought with his ticket, at least until the train came to the first hill. The train came to a stop, and the conductor came into the car. "Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention. First-class passengers, please keep your seats. Second class passengers, please disembark the train and begin walking. Third class passengers, get out and push."
I hope that gave you a smile to round out the week. Have a good weekend, and happy train hunting!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tennessee Pass Update: Rust, Dust, Weeds and Little Else

If you wonder, like I sometimes do, what Tennessee Pass looks like about now, with all the aspens aglow and fluttering in the early fall breezes, head on over to Colorado Railfan and check out Kevin Morgan's pictures taken just last Saturday. The rails are 15 years rusted and the signals are shot, but the colors are beautiful!

Monday, September 19, 2011

POTD To Resume Soon On Limited Basis

So what is up with CR's Photo Of The Day? Well, you may not like it or you may not even care, but I have an admission to make. I am realizing that while I may be at least an average or better blogger, I find maintaining a constant feature very tedious. Routine is boring, and schedules are at best a necessary evil. Do I apply that to people? No, I admire others in their dependability, their steadfastness, and commitment. These are good qualities to cultivate. I have, repeatedly, tried to do so in my own life. I have failed often enough to find that holding to a schedule limits my very limited energy and dries out my passion for a subject.

Photography and especially railroad photography have captured my passion, as you've already seen. The last thing I want to see is my passion crushed under the relentless drumbeat of a schedule, especially when it is in my ability to change it. Therefore, POTD will continue on a sporadic, unplanned and impromptu manner. If you want to see the most recent, please use this link: http://www.corailroads.com/search/label/POTD

Friday, September 9, 2011

Rio Grande Tunnel Motor In Brazil - An Answer To Wednesday's Question

Sorry about being off-schedule yesterday for a POTD. I've been under the weather. Your prayers and kind thoughts are appreciated.

In the meantime, Wednesday's POTD question caught the attention of no less than the photographer himself, Johannes Smit, who commented in. He actually has an entire category of US railroad engines that have crossed the equator. He answered the question with a photo and caption, mixed with a bit of Portuguese:
SD40 #4820, detalhe da inscrição “Rio Grande” reaparecendo. A #4820 era Denver & Rio Grande Western #5386. Brejo Alegre - Araguari MG
Uma foto do “original”:
www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=223100 
which means,
SD40 # 4820, detail of the words "Rio Grande" reappearing. The # 4820 was Denver & Rio Grande Western # 5386. Heath Alegre - MG Araguari
A photo of the "original" www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=223100 *
*(courtesy Google Translate)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

POTD - A Secret Hideout From UP Patch Kits

The Picture of the Day is a bit of a secret. Did you know at least one Rio Grande tunnel motor went to Brazil? Yup.

She seems to have been extensively modified. The trucks are B-B+B-B instead of C-C. and the signature low-level vents have vanished. The frame must have been lengthened for the trucks. Finally there's a non-standard door for the engine crew.

Does anyone out there have the story on this? Please comment.

Editor's note: The photo is "All rights reserved" on flickr. I won't use such photos typically,, although today is an exception. Even then, the photographers don't get as much exposure and I can't credit them. Too bad, huh?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

POTD - Steaming On Toward Colder Days

A sudden dip in the temperature this weekend reminded me that winter is only a little over 3 months away. Former D&RGW class K-28 engine 473 makes her way northward past the tank at Hermosa,Colorado toward the wye at Cascade on a cold, clear Saturday morning in December 2003.
Photo: Kevin Wood


Monday, September 5, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Amtrak Resumes Zephyr Service, ...Sorta

Since the accident last week, Amtrak hasn't been running the California Zephyr, owing both to the accident and damage from the floods further east. Today, Amtrak resumes service from Ft. Morgan west to the end of the line in Emeryville, California.

Friday, September 2, 2011

POTD - One Train - Part V

Today is Friday before Labor Day (Yeah!), and so we're wrapping up the theme for the week of One Train. Five different photographs of one train by Kevin Morgan of ColoradoRailfan.com have illustrated different aspects of railroad photography.

Perspective seems to be my favorite aspect of railroad photography, I guess, because I've been talking about it for most of the week. This shot illustrates a near perfect vanishing point.

Thanks to Mr. Morgan for the great shots and for use of these photographs to illustrate my points on perspective and railroad photography. It was awesome that even without any planning this whole series worked so well. Spontaneity sometimes works wonders, something you can also take to heart in photography. Experiment, try new things, and be willing to live with the results. You never know what you'll come away with until you try!


A meet between BNSF trains in Boulder yields a great perspective shot as
a double stack passes a dormant unit train on the siding on August 24, 2011
Photo: Kevin Morgan


If I don't post later this weekend, have a great Labor Day! Enjoy summer while it lasts, and if you can't find anything better to do, pop on by your local railroad museum. I'm sure they'd be glad to have you!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

POTD - One Train, Part IV

For POTD this Thursday, I'm continuing the theme of One Train. Today's is very similar to yesterday's in terms of angle, but it has something very different. It's from a lower angle, which leaves room for the inclusion of a very unique cloud formation. While there may or may not be a statement in including the cloud, such as wings, for Boeing's cargo in the first car, at right, there can always be such angles if you work for it, using the right focal length, and so on. The elements that you include that are non-train related give you the ability to express your art however you want.

A BNSF double stack train rolls past a tied down unit coal train. The first
car of the double stack is bound for Boeing in the Pacific Northwest.

Photo: Kevin Morgan

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Trainstar: Review of Unstoppable

Trainstar, says that Unstoppable is "great train porn." While I may not agree with her wording, it's a great way to sum it up. Check out her review. With two of my own favorite actors, Denzel Washington and Chris Pine (Sgt. Getraer's son, Captain Kirk) in the lead, I realize it's about time that I check it out.

POTD - One Train, Part III

Continuing with part III of this week's theme:


Perhaps the most classic pictures known in railroad photography circles are the approach photos, where a train is approaching on a single set of rails toward the photographer's position. It's a simple shot that a lot of photographers rely on as their "go-to" shot when capturing a train. It doesn't depend much on topography or distance available, unlike the previous two POTDs.

The feeling is one of imminent anticipation. The train is a traveler, passing in only moments. It bears a load from incognito toward parts unknown. It is arriving in only seconds, unrelenting and unhesitating toward its eventual destination. In the moment, it is everything we know of railroads.  It can be a brawny diesel, like this one, or a speeding 4-8-4, a miniature 4-4-0 of the wood-burning, narrow gauge variety, or an F-7 (or even an E-8) with the graceful curves and beauty that made her an icon of American railroading.

By stepping down next to the right of way, Kevin Morgan has put the point of view into the same vantage point most of the world sees trains in their most powerful and acclimated setting. 

Headed by locomotive 5338, a BNSF double-stack intermodal train comes in
for a meet, holding the main with a rather quiet train tied down on the siding
Photo: Kevin Morgan

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

POTD - One Train, Part II

This week's theme is:

I have always been an acolyte of long lens work. There's something about being able to take a great distance and smash it into one 2-dimensional image. It's photography doing what it does best, and photographer Kevin Morgan makes it work well here.

In this case, a telephoto shot that doesn't close the distance, but instead takes a great distance of rail (a half mile?) and shows all the wobbles, variances and sags in something that--at least conceptually--should be stable, straight and strong. The haze on the horizon and subtle air distortions close to the rails makes the shot feel all the more heat laden as the rails all but melt into pools of silver.

A BNSF stack train trundles along under an ardent August sun
toward a meet over rails that look too hot to ride this afternoon
Photo: Kevin Morgan

Monday, August 29, 2011

POTD - One Train

I've had this idea for a theme of POTD, and I'm going to try it out. It's simple:

One train.

That's it. One train for the week. Obviously, we'd need five photos, and not just any photos. Five good photos that show different aspects. What's even better? The guy doesn't even know he did it for me.

Kevin and I have spoke very seldom, but he knows I am a fan. If you've read here for any period, you'd know it too. His web exposure is great because he has his own web site. This site lets you do searches by railroad, location, and even by weather. He e-mails his subscribers when he has new work, describing--sometimes in great detail--his shots and the stories behind them. He's doing what he can to get a core of loyal followers that take an interest in his work. Is he a regular producer? No, but if your work is of sufficient quality, that shouldn't matter. My point in this little diatribe is that it takes more than a good camera and average skills in railroad photography to make things happen.

In the decades before the internet, it took photographers the effort to find receptive clubs to come display their work, to sit down and organize their slides in trays, then haul them off in their car to the club meeting place, usually in the dead of winter, set up a projector and sit in the dark with a bunch of other grown men, and even women, and put your talent on display in front of everyone. Today, it requires a little less physical work, but effort is still a vital part. Learn how to use the tools like Blogger, Twitter, Flickr/SmugMug, Facebook, FeedBurner, Constant Contact, web forums and other, often free tools to increase your ability to interact and bring out your better photos. Making full use of the internet can change everything for you as a photographer and artist.

Diatribe over. Thanks!

Today's Photo of the Day is the basic high-angle, shot from a hill, overpass or other feature that enables a high view showing the tops of the locomotives and cars. Shot usually from the same side as sunlight, the effect is to show the train in the context of it's route. Interesting features of landscape fall second to the features of the train itself. This particular shot has the added benefit of the train curving between two trees that create a natural frame for the shot. The train is now part of the land, not just passing over or through it. What looks like just a shot of train at first glance is instead a carefully composed subject in its context.

Time: 11:52 AM

BNSF Double stacks are rare on the Front Range of Colorado
but this train seems as much a part of the land as the earth itself
Photo: Kevin Morgan