Thursday, February 12, 2009

Great Western Trestle Fire Ruled Arson

Great Western, the short line on the northern Front Range that served the Great Western sugar plant, suffered a serious blow to its infrastructure when a trestle crossing the Cache la Poudre River northwest of Greeley caught fire the morning of February 9th. The fire was reported by an employee of Noble Energy. OmniTrax, which manages the short line, says it will be seven weeks before materials to repair the trestle arrive. The source of the fire, which started in some weeds next to the trestle and spread from there, is now believed to be arson because all non-human sources have been ruled out. A full beer bottle and a half-empty (half-full?) whiskey bottle were found nearby.

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The loss of the trestle has effectively severed the line from Greeley to Windsor. OmniTrax is working with area clients to find alternative shipping until repairs are complete, currently estimated to be in late March or early April. Damages are estimated at $1 million. Anyone with information about the fire should call the Union Colony Fire Department at 970-350-9500.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

R2C2 Public Benefits And Cost Study Results

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) released the results of a Rail Relocation for Colorado Communities (R2C2) study on Tuesday, February 10th. The Public Benefits and Cost Study examined the cost and benefits of building a bypass routing through freight trains along the eastern plains of Colorado away from the Front Range cities of Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Denver and Ft. Collins. Such a move would leave local freight service to the cities intact while freeing up capacity for some type of commuter rail service.

The study concluded that while the project may cost between $1.0 and $1.5 Billion, the direct and indirect benefits would work out to between $2.4 and $16.3 Billion. The most likely scenario approximates the cost to be $1.2 Billion and the benefits to be $5.2 Billion, a benefits to cost ratio of 4.3 : 1. $3.8 Billion of those benefits would go to the public. While this isn't stellar, the jobs this project would create would have a positive impact on Colorado's economy, which is facing a major recession at best.

Union Pacific and BNSF, the state's competing Class I railroads, would partner with CDOT to build the new rail route, connecting Brush with Las Animas over 220 route miles. No official route has been announced. That will likely come after the RMRA issues its report on I-70 & I-25 high speed rail options.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Train Shows In February

The cold weather of winter can't reach indoors to many a model railroad pike. Most modelers make a lot of progress on their layouts during the winter months and train shows during these months are sure draws, both for the exhibitors and the shoppers in search of those hard-to-find items they need. Two such shows are on the Front Range in the next two weeks.

Rails in the Rockies
This weekend, Estes Park will host Rails in the Rockies. Offered by the Estes Valley Model Railroaders, this show will run this Saturday (Valentines Day) 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Conference Center at the Holiday Inn in Estes Park. Adults are $5 and kids under 12 are free with an adult admission. Visit the EVMR site for more information, including maps, floor plan, and photos from previous years.

Add Rails in the Rockies to your calendar:


The Great Train Expo
Next weekend, the Great Train Expo pulls into Denver at the National Western Complex, 4655 Humboldt St, Denver, CO. Saturday, February 21 and Sunday, February 22, the doors will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Admission for adults will be $7 and kids under 12 are free. This is a large event that pulls in exhibitors and hobby shops from several states around the Rocky Mountain region.

Add the Great Train Expo in Denver to your calendar:

Bring your wallets and your cameras to capture the magic of model railroading, where old railroads never die and new railroads and railroaders get their start.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Proposed Red Cliff Mine Will Need New Rail Spur

Rhino Energy and CAM-Colorado, LLC are planning a new coal mine north of Loma, Colorado (near Fruita) and they plan to build a new railroad spur to service it. The Red Cliff mine will need 14.5 miles of new rail over BLM and private land to connect with the former Denver & Rio Grande Western main line on the Union Pacific Railroad at Mack, Colorado. The rail is needed to handle the anticipated 8 million tons of coal produced each year. This is a separate affair from Rhino's McClane Canyon mine, which is currently served by trucks connecting with the Cameo coal plant in Grand Junction, scheduled to close September 2010. Planning is underway and construction will likely start in 2010. According to the BLM site, CAM would own the spur and UP would operate the trains on it.

Download a map (pdf) of the mine area and proposed rail route from

Friday, January 30, 2009

Young Father Collapses, Dies While Clearing Moffat Road

Union Pacific lost a very well-loved employee this last week when Kevin McCoy of Yampa, Colorado, died of an undiagnosed heart defect. McCoy was working to clear a rock slide from the line near Toponas on the Craig branch of the Moffat Road when he collapsed with heart failure. A celebration of his life will be tomorrow (Saturday, January 31) at 1 p.m. at the McCoy School in McCoy, Colorado. Kevin, who would have been 26 on Sunday, leaves behind a wife and 18 month-old son, as well as an unborn baby due this September.

My prayers are with his family. May God bring peace in this terrible time of heartache.

WeCo NRHS To Host UP Locomotive Engineer As Guest Speaker

The Western Colorado Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (WeCo, NRHS) is bringing in a Union Pacific locomotive engineer for its February 4th meeting at 7 p.m. at the Glenwood Railroad Museum. This meeting is open to the public. Steve Wareham, 16 years an engineer for UP, has been active in Operation Lifesaver Colorado and will be on hand for a question and answer session.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

DBJ: Future Denver Union Station May Squeeze Existing Services

When RTD purchased Denver Union Station as part of the FasTracks plan, it seemed a natural fit. RTD would be using DUS as a central hub for its Light Rail and Commuter Rail routes for the entire Denver metropolitan area. Without RTD, the future of DUS was at best uncertain. The facility was constructed when passenger rail was the main method of intercity travel. As the glory days of passenger rail faded, so did the glory of the station. The schedule of the Rio Grande Zephyr and later Amtrak's California Zephyr couldn't generate the funds needed for upkeep on a cavernous waiting room, underground concourse, and network of tracks.

Now, with the ownership of Denver Union Station comes the rights of RTD to make changes. According to the Denver Business Journal, Amtrak has expressed its concerns to Congress and the private rail excursion companies have their own needs to look after as RTD plans the 4 year overhaul of the downtown terminal. What passenger rail traffic flows through Denver is directly related to RTD's plans.

If Amtrak does not get adequate space and placement at the station for the California Zephyr and the proposed Pioneer service from Denver to the Pacific Northwest, could Amtrak passengers possibly be greeted to Denver by an Amhut like the one in Provo, Utah, a featureless platform with a generic shelter that offers no ticket office hours, no Quik-Trak hours, no checked baggage hours, and no help with baggage?

As the DBJ article also points out, what of Denver's love story with the Rio Grande Ski Train? RTD feels a "social obligation" to it, but that's different than a contractual obligation. Where do the skis, poles, boots and people go if the platforms are spoken for by the local commuter train to Brighton? Putting more cars on I-70/US 40 to Winter Park is not an option.

There's also the future of high speed rail service along I-70 at least to Eagle-Vail and probably to Grand Junction and even Steamboat Springs and Craig. Skiers spending 8 hours--eight!--in a car for a day on the slopes is poisoning the future of ski tourism in Colorado. The Rocky Mountain Rail Authority continues to champion what remains a vital link to Colorado's future within the I-70 corridor. The RMRA is also exploring the possibility of regional service between Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Walsenberg, Raton and beyond, along with Ft. Collins, and Cheyenne, all along the Front Range. With the axes of both routes crossing in Denver, accounting for such an expansion is imperitive. Most notably, Denver Union Station must have a functional southern entry and egress for regional trains to access the I-25 route. The snake-like light rail shoe-horned onto Denver's street grid would never fit a train designed for intercity service, much less high speed rail.

Finally, space has always been available for private car excursions to park their plush, often historic passenger equipment for extended stays in Denver. If RTD hangs out the No Vacancy sign, how likely is the business and tourism that result from such extended stays?

RTD serves Denver, but the Regional Transporation District needs to be thinking regional on a much larger scale than just the capital city and its suburbs. Denver prospers so long as the region prospers. Building national and regional facilities to meet the growing demand benefits RTD's tax base and will keep Denver on track in the next 50 years.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Molten Sulfur Tank Train Derails in Littleton Friday

Ed: Forgive the high number of posts yesterday and today. A lot of railroad news has happened lately, most of it noteworthy.

Kevin Morgan of Colorado captured pictures of the clean-up of a tanker train derailment in Littleton (AP story) that happened late Friday night, the 16th. According to Kevin,
BNSF's Bonneville, WY to Galveston, TX molten sulfur train (the GBNVGAT) derailed about 24 hours ago. The train runs down BNSF's Front Range Subdivision and then down the Joint Line. The derailment occurred in the "Littleton Trench" around midnight. The trench was dug in the late 1980's so the town of Littleton would no longer have to deal with grade crossings. Denver's Light Rail also uses the trench for its tracks. ... The derailment damaged the retaining wall separating the lines. It disrupted the roadbed beneath the northbound track for Light Rail and even dumped some debris on the track. Not sure how long it'll take before Light Rail will re-open.
Thanks to Kevin for the great pictures! AP couldn't do any better!

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Century of Railroads In Steamboat Springs

What does the railroad mean to you? An article from the Steamboat Pilot & Today describes what the railroad meant to Steamboat Springs 100 years ago when the first train arrived January 6th, 1909. It describes Argo's Squirrels, immigrant men who lowered themselves by rope into Gore Canyon to stake out a route for the young Moffat Road. It gives a historical perspective to a route that survives on the whims of the energy industry.

West Corridor Light Rail Officially Receives Federal Funding

Today, Denver's RTD officials will meet with Federal Transit Administration acting Administrator Sherry Little in Golden's Taj Mahal, also known as the Jefferson County Government Center, to sign over $308 Milllion in federal funds to complete the West Corridor light rail route. When completed, the line will link Union Station in Downtown Denver with Golden, Lakewood, and west Denver utilizing the old Associated Railroads right-of-way for much of the route. In 2012, the West Corridor Project is going to be the first to be completed as part of RTD's FasTracks program.

Friday, January 9, 2009

One Big, Black Mess

A derailment of 39 coal cars from a BNSF train near Manzanola yesterday is still in the process of being cleaned up. No injuries were reported, but several coal cars were damaged. An aerial photo of the wreck can be found in the story from the Pueblo Chieftain. The cause is still unknown.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Galloping Goose For Breakfast

Editor's Note: Happy 2009, everyone! Later this month, Colorado Railroads blog will celebrate completing it's 3rd year of posting news and items of interest to fans of Colorado railroading. Like you, I can't wait to see what the future holds!

Ronald Tallman, Executive Director of the Colorado Railroad Museum, made an appearance on Denver's 9News yesterday. He presented RGS Goose #7 and Goose #2 to early morning viewers and mentioned the Mother's Day Goosefest planned for May. Click above to play the video. Watch also for the dramatic helicopter shot showing Tallman by the restoration roundhouse on the museum grounds.