Friday, August 12, 2011

POTD - Silent Testimony in Buena Vista

Editors note: POTD continues, but after today, most will have a photo and a brief caption without the essay. Essays need to be fact-checked for accuracy, each of which can require significant blocks of time.

Life in Buena Vista since 1997 has been considerably quieter than the previous century, thanks to the Union Pacific's decision to mothball the Tennessee Pass route in favor of the Moffat Tunnel route. It's been considerably cleaner, as well. In the 40s and 50s, the Rio Grande's monster steam engines caused a smoky haze to hang over the entire Arkansas River valley, causing respiratory issues for soldiers training at nearby Camp Hale.

Such days seem foreign to the summer scene below captured by Adam Lutt. The Rio Grande bridge has eluded the paint cans of Southern Pacific and--thus far--Union Pacific. The former main line has sat dormant for so long that nearly all the kids in this scene have never seen a coal or TOFC unit train come through this valley. The thrum of diesel engines, the rumble of a rail grinder, and the chuffing of iron horses are all as foreign as can be from this simple day playing in the creek, their echo fading from human memory as the paint slowly fades from the bridge above. It's only a matter of time before the railroad vanishes completely from Tennessee Pass, a matter of time, and money, unless a client develops on these once-heavily traveled rails or Union Pacific gets serious about preserving and maintaining their future options. Yet if they do, they could just as easily paint over the bridge's Rio Grande lettering altogether, disturbing the nostalgic reverie of Grande Fans like me.

I think I'll go skip a rock.

Locals and their guests play beneath a railroad bridge of the Rio Grande in a tame
and cool Arkansas River in Buena Vista, strictly a summer activity in Chaffee County
Photo: Adam Lutt

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