Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Train Show in Denver This Weekend

There's a big train show in Denver this weekend. The Great Train Expo returns to the National Western Complex this Saturday and Sunday, November 8th and 9th. Doors open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Adults are $7 and kids 12 and under are free. Admission is good for both days.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

New Amtrak Funds To Explore More Service From Denver

The Amtrak improvement bill (Railroad Safety Enhancement Act of 2008) signed into law this week by President Bush contains instructions for Amtrak to look for additional service options out of Denver Union Station. This is a tremendous boost for commuter service options, even if it doesn't result in corridor service via Amtrak like Chicago's Illinois Service. It could simply bring back the long-dead Pioneer service from Denver to Seattle, expanding rail service for residents of the northern Rocky Mountain states currently served by only the Empire Builder. If it does, mandated improvements to trackage would serve Amtrak and any other commuter service that starts up over the same route.

More details will emerge in the future, but also in the bill is $18 Million to build an underground rail transit safety test center at the Pueblo DOT railroad facility. The text specifically says,
There are authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary $18,000,000 for the period encompassing fiscal years 2008 through 2011 to design, develop, and construct the Facility for Underground Rail Station and Tunnel at the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado. The facility shall be used to test and evaluate the vulnerabilities of above-ground and underground rail tunnels to prevent accidents and incidents in such tunnels, to mitigate and remediate the consequences of any such accidents or incidents, and to provide a realistic scenario for training emergency responders.
This is a minor boon for Pueblo, especially in light of the financial meltdown currently taking hold on Wall Street.

I'm going to keep searching this legislation to see what else made it, but this is a great help to the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Christmas Trains

I have updated the Colorado Railroads Special Events Calendar to include the Christmas trains slated to run this season. The Colorado Railroad Museum, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic, the Rio Grande Scenic, the Manitou & Pikes Peak, and the Durango & Silverton all plan to run trains this year. Only C&TS's Cinder Bear train is scheduled to run during the day.

If you have kids ages 3 to 10, I'm sure they'll get a kick out of riding a Christmas train. Prices are much reduced from the regular season fares with many running at $10 per child and $20 per adult. Hear the sleigh bells yet? You will.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Finding Mears' Ridgway

The Ridgway of the days of Otto Mears is long gone, but local historians are getting down to doing some serious archeological work. Catch up with them in Original Ridgway Grew Up As A Railroad Town. If you're in the area, the museum is a must-see for anyone interested in railroads, history, or just the beauty and grandeur of the San Juan Range.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

So What Will It Look Like?

If you want to know exactly what is going on with Union Station these days and what's on the agenda for its "coming soon" redevelopment as the transportation hub for metro Denver, Westword has a 7 page article (print version) that serves as an interesting read, at least for a Sunday afternoon. With no "artist concept" drawings, it's hard for me to envision it. Honestly, I just hope they fix the ceiling soon.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Morgan Captures UP Special On the Moffat

Kevin Morgan caught some great photos of the UP Board of Directors special on the Moffat Route. The Rio Grande Heritage unit 1989 and the C&NW Heritage unit 1995 provided the motive power. As usual, he got some great shots! He also managed to capture a rarity, an Amtrak California F59PH on the California Zephyr eastbound. Eastbounds in the afternoon are hard to catch with the right light, but Kevin's all pro.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bum Luck

Emo Phillips once said that some days it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps. I'm sure he was thinking of this guy. While the first incident--finding himself the victim of a hit-and-run--might not have been his fault, the second--getting run off a railroad bridge by a passing train--would definitely find him culpable.

Just another case of trying to beat the train and losing. Hope this guy has better luck in the future.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Article On Former Great Western Decapod #90

Way back before Denver's suburbs ever thought of going past Northglenn and Thornton, folks on the northern part of the Front Range were treated to a rare sight: a 2-10-0 Decapod steam engine operating over the Great Western Railway. Today, #90 is the newest and strongest in the stable at the Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania. (Read the article)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

For Sale - 1:1 Scale Passenger Train

After ceasing operations last month so suddenly their web site still announces future trips, Colorado-based GrandLuxe Rail Journeys, LLC, is selling the train. Libra Securities is coordinating a private, appointment-only viewing in Napa Valley in California to facilitate the hopeful sale of the entire train to a single owner.

Friday, September 19, 2008

New Round of R2C2 Open Houses

All the way back in May, the Colorado Department of Transportation (known locally here as CDOT) had a initial batch of open houses to present the idea of creating a new rail line between Las Animas (the largest town between Lamar and La Junta on US 50 in the south and either Wiggins or Brush on I-76 (US 6 & 34) in the north. Bofh of the proposed routes would cross through Limon on I-70.

The idea is to pass the through freight over this route from and to the UP and BNSF corridors and keep only local freight to the existing rails. This would create the capacity for commuter rail service along the Front Range as far as Cheyenne or Laramie, WY and Raton or Santa Fe, NM, where it would possibly meet the New Mexico Rail Runner (or whatever it is called at the time).

As with most government agencies, the progress is extremely slow. They are having a second round of community meetings next month, which is fully five months after the first round. Here are the dates and locations, as announced.

* - Date has been changed and updated


It's difficult to imagine that commuter rail will ever become a reality at this rate. Public discussion and village politics are not the way to get things like this done. Rail is the most efficient means of transportation, yet in the days of $4 for a gallon of gas, commuter rail is only being taken half-seriously. It's past time to lay rail, and we're getting people only to think about what commuter service would mean to Colorado.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Shank You - Creede Wins Anti-Train War

Love him or hate him, Donald Shank has fought all he could to bring a train from the San Luis Valley into Creede on the rails of the former Denver & Rio Grande Western. Now, finding himself sliding from a pitched legal battle into a ravine as steep and deep as the canyons of the Creede river, Shank has quit and says that he will begin salvage operations to pull the rails up within Creede city limits.

The Valley Courier quotes Donald Shank,
Our historical foundation, whose mission it is to preserve Colorado’s rich railroad history, is charged with the dismal task of removing what was so difficult to bring to Creede ... the rails that built the town. ... And so it will be with a profound sense of loss that I will pull the first spike, unbolt the first track bolt and lift the first rail ... The biggest loss will be to history.

The impact of this announcement is yet to be felt. Of particular concern is this month's scheduled trip over the Creede branch by the Rocky Mountain division of NARCOA (North American RailCar Operators Association is a group of track speeder afficianados, a railfan sub-species).

What is truly disappointing is that this comes in the face of the apparent success of the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad operating out of Alamosa in the heart of the San Luis Valley. On the other hand, every cloud over Creede has a silver lining. Depending on a lot, there is the off chance that a deal could be struck in the future for the RGSR to operate or purchase part of the line between South Fork and--just outside of--Creede. Plenty of mountain scenery awaits those travelling to the stomping grounds of Soapy Smith, and a standard-gauge steam engine already operating nearby could do the pulling. Who knows what the future brings, but some residents of Creede will fight it tooth and nail, to Donald Shank's dismay.