Friday, September 22, 2006

Friends of the C&TS Wins Grant

According to Trains magazine, the Chama-based Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad won a $30,000 grant for the restoration of two Rio Grande RPO cars, one of which is Cook Car 053. It served the Chili line south of Alamosa to Santa Fe. As of 1999, the Friends planned to return Cook Car 053 to "sound and useable, historically accurate condition as a cook car for use in snow plow service." It looks like next time Cumbres needs to be cleared with the rotary, no one will go hungry.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Railroads Shuffling Denver Light Rail Plans

While Denver's RTD puts the finishing touches on its new Southeast Corridor line, both major Class I railroads serving Denver are having some sway over future plans under FasTracks. According to a September 9th article in the Rocky Mountain News,
The BNSF railroad, which owns tracks through Arvada and Wheat Ridge that RTD wants to use for FasTracks, has told the transit agency it won't allow light-rail train cars to operate in the same right of way as its freight trains.
The beer line, called so because it serves the Coors brewery in Golden, would need to be served by diesel or electric commuter rail, which railroad officials deem as more protective in a crash. This contradicts studies that recommended light rail for the line, which is planned to run through Olde Town Arvada. The News continues,

BNSF's decision matches one made last year by the Union Pacific Railroad not to allow light rail in the Smith Road freight corridor that RTD plans to use for FasTracks train service to Denver International Airport.

The line to DIA is overdue. When DIA was nearly completed in 1995, a light rail/commuter rail line should have already been in place. The criticisms that DIA was built closer to Nebraska than Denver would have been lessened or removed. This week, the line to DIA has been recommended by the latest study to be electrified commuter rail. The Smith Road line is the Union Pacific's main line to the east of Denver, the former Kansas Pacific line that UP rehabilitated for more traffic only a few years ago. With this increase in freight, is it reasonable to expect commuter rail service to run on time to DIA?

Clearly, the railroads will choose what is in their best interest first, considering Denver and the public second. RTD will have a hard time selling them on light rail unless they run on separate rails, which would add much to the cost of either line, but ensure timely service for its patrons. Clearly, Amtrak has proven that passenger service on a freight road is secondary and completely unreliable as far as UP and BNSF are concerned. RTD and Denver ought to spring for the extra cost now for these lines. The success of dedicated right-of-way light rail has proven it can more than support the cost such an upgrade and service will be reliable and therefore very popular with their clients. The alternative is an unreliable service, which would scare most riders away.

Denver's Southeast Corridor Grand Opening

Denver's newest addition to its light rail network, the Southeast Corridor, will have its grand opening on Friday, November 17th. Ceremonies will be held at the Lincoln Station with free rides starting at 11:00 a.m. According to Trains, on Saturday, November 18th, rides will be offered on the entire Denver light rail system.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Rocky Mountain Canary

John Hubert relates the following story of the Pioneer Zephyr's record-breaking 13-hour run from Denver to Chicago.
Colorado officials wanted to send along a "Rocky Mountain Canary" as a mascot to bring good luck to the trip. Train officials prepared for a bird cage in the baggage car. At the last minute the trainmen discovered that the Rocky Mountain Canary was really a burro. They hurriedly asked Mr. Budd what they should do. Mr. Budd looked around at the dignitaries and reporters who were preparing to board the train and replied, "Why not, one more jackass on this trip won't make any difference. Fix a pen in the baggage car."
A Rocky Mountain Canary was a burro that prospectors would use to carry their gear as they went into the mountains. The name was earned by the burros for their high-pitched cry from their perches high in the mountains.

Rio Grande Railfan Meet

The next Rio Grande railfan meet will be at the park in Palmer Lake on Sunday, October 1 at 10:00 AM. Bring your camera and dress for the weather. The line is currently seeing between 5 and 9 trains the last few Sundays.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Day Out With Thomas

The first of the Day Out With Thomas weekends starts tomorrow September 16th at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden. The next one is on September 22-24. Even though the event is sold out, the Colorado Railroad Museum is still open that day. This means that if you have a Thomas fan in your family, it is still a good idea to go out there. First, you're not paying any more than the standard admission to the museum. Second, almost all of the events are still open to museum patrons. The event tickets that are sold out buy you a 25-minute ride behind Thomas (and another engine to help him pull). For some kids, getting to watch Thomas is just as fun as riding behind him.

Parking is arranged with nearby properties and they run a shuttle to accommodate all the extra visitors to the museum. For more details, visit the Day Out With Thomas FAQ. The museum's admission is re-posted below.
  • Adults: $8.00
  • Seniors (over 60): $7.00
  • Children (2 yrs to 16 yrs): $5.00
    Children (under 2 yrs): Free
  • Family (two adults and children under 16 yrs of one family): $18.00