Saturday, December 15, 2007

Colorado Railroad Museum 2008 Events

The Colorado Railroad Museum has announced their special event schedule for 2008.
  • March 22 - Bunny Express
  • April 19/20 - Post Income Tax Days
  • May 31/June 1 - School's Out Steam Up
  • June 14/15 - Father's Day Steam Up
  • July 19 - 4th Annual Wine and Cheese Event
  • August 9/10 - Back to School Train
  • August 22/23 - Political Whistle Stop Campaign Train
  • September - Day Out With Thomas
  • October 25/26 - Halloween Train
  • November 29/30 Thanksgiving Train
  • December 13/14 - Santa Claus Express

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New 346 Photos From Invitation Debut

Christopher May has some great photos from the Colorado Railroad Museum's invitational event welcoming back D&RGW #346, recently rebuilt at Strasburg, PA. Have a look here.

Coal Train Derails, Then Hit By Light Rail

A south-bound Union Pacific coal train derailed in southern Denver at 6:30 a.m. this morning between Oxford and Mineral. Some of it's cars fell on the RTD Light Rail right-of-way and a Light Rail car struck the obstruction, derailing the car. It is unknown what might have caused the initial derailment, but cold weather may have been a factor. Santa Fe is closed in the affected area and RTD is using buses to maintain service between the Oxford and Mineral stations.

More details available at

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Review: Colorado's Mountain Railroads

With winter comes a bit of a slowdown on the railroads of Colorado, and Colorado Railroads blog is no exception. Because there’s not much news besides the Christmas trains, I'm going to do some more product reviews. You’ve already seen the Gunnison DVD offered. Now to the books!

There is no shortage of books on Colorado railroads but if I had to pick books that would be the best to have in any railfan's collection, Colorado's Mountain Railroads by Robert A. LaMassena would be near the top of the list. Covering roughly 100 years of Colorado railroad history, this book is an exhaustive listing of any and all mountain roads laying a rail in the Centennial State.

Having appeared as separate volumes dating from 1963, LaMassena consolidated and revised his work and Sundance Publications Limited printed it in 1984. It is still the most valuable in researching obscure railroads in Colorado. For example, most railfans know the Rio Grande and possibly the Colorado Midland, but not many know about the Midland Terminal or its use of rail buses to help with passenger traffic after World War I. Likewise, not much coverage has been done of the larger, out-of-state roads including the Union Pacific, Missouri Pacific and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. Finally, every short line that laid rail (and even some that never did) get at least some treatment. Here’s a partial listing:
  • Colorado Central
  • Colorado Yule Marble Co., along with the Crystal River railroads.
  • Coors Brewing Co.
  • Denver, Boulder & Western
  • Denver, Lakewood & Golden
  • Denver Pacific
  • Denver & Santa Fe
  • Denver, Texas & Gulf
  • Dolores, Paradox & Grand Junction
  • Fairmount (yes, to the cemetery in Denver)
  • Gilpin
  • Golden Circle
  • Grand River Valley
  • Great Western (the sugar beet short line)
  • Kansas Pacific
  • Laramie, Hahn’s Peak & Pacific
  • London, South Park & Leadville
  • Magic Mountain (now Heritage Square in Golden)
  • Montezuma Lumber Co.
  • Northwestern Terminal Railway (Denver Union Terminal)
  • Pagosa Lumber Co.
  • Pueblo & Arkansas Valley
  • Rio Grande & Pagosa Springs
  • Routt Pinnacle Coal Co.
  • Salt Lake & Eastern
  • San Cristobal
  • San Luis Southern
  • Santa Fe Southern
  • Silverton Northern
  • Southern Colorado Power & Railway Co.
  • Stone Mountain Railroad & Quarry Co.
  • Texas, Santa Fe & Northern
  • Treasury Mountain
  • Uintah
  • Union Pacific, Denver & Gulf
  • Utah Central Railroad
  • Wasatch & Jordan Valley
I don’t think I’ve listed more than half the railroads covered. Some of them are simple interurbans and streetcar lines. Yet all of them contributed in a real way to Colorado and her vast network of high iron.

The photo illustrations are very illuminating as well. Rare photos abound including,
  • Balwin’s 2-6-6-2 narrow-gauge, single expansion Mallets made for Uintah’s sharp curves
  • Close-up shot of the Corkscrew Gulch turntable near the Red Mountain townsite
  • A triple stub switch on the Rio Grande Southern outside of Rico
  • A full color depiction of the travesty of RGS engine 42 painted like a circus train for the Magic Mountain railroad
  • D&RGW 821, a 2-6-0T used by the Salt Lake shops in 1923
  • Several pictures of Rio Grande’s affair with Fairbanks-Morse
  • Denver & Salt Lake’s true (double expansion) 2-6-6-0 Mallets
  • Colorado & Wyoming’s Ford truck with flanged wheels (a la RGS Galloping Goose)
This is one of the best books on Colorado railroads, period.

This review also appears in its abridged form on since 2014-Dec-05. - SW

Christmas Trains

December is here and so are the Christmas trains! For those of us missing a model train at the foot of our Christmas trees, here’s a chance to go out and see the real thing. While the first regularly scheduled passenger train first ran on Christmas Day in 1830, the history of the relationship between Christmas and trains is elusive. Nevertheless, the connection couldn’t be more apparent. What else moves massive quantities of toys and other gifts? Santa Claus must have ditched the sleigh and reindeer for steel wheels on steel rails to deliver all those toys.

Here’s a list of the Christmas trains with runs remaining this season in Colorado. While some have already passed, there are still some good opportunities.

DatesRailroad/LocationWebsite Details
Dec 8, 9, 15, 16Rio Grande Scenic RailroadNorth Pole Express, routes vary
Dec 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 24Manitou & Pikes Peak
(cog railway)
Santa Train, Two departures each day. Combine this with a visit to Santa's Workshop.
Dec 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 27Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge RailroadThe Polar Express, two to three
departures each evening
Dec 8Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RailroadAntonito Cinder Bear Express
Dec 15 - 24Royal Gorge RouteSanta train departs daily 12:30 pm

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Gunnison DVD Shares Special Beauty of Marshall Pass Route

DVD - Gunnison - Buy it here

Culled from the footage of the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club, this DVD explores the Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) narrow gauge lines around Gunnison, Colorado.

Length: 59 minutes
Video: Black and white with some color
Audio: Synchronized
Locations: Gunnison, Ohio Creek, Crested Butte, Marshall Pass, Sapinero, Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Cerro Summit.
What makes this DVD special: Rare footage, especially of a flanger car in action as it plows the tracks clear of snow.

Otto Perry and Irv August both made trips to the Gunnison area in the 1940s and 50s to capture the narrow gauge action in and around this mountain town. Their efforts give us a glimpse into the final decade of operations over the Marshall Pass route, the original narrow gauge mainline of the D&RG to Utah. When the standard gauge route over Tennessee Pass was completed, the Marshall Pass line became a backwater with steam engines hauling livestock specials and the odd shipment between Montrose and Salida. A few fall aspens and gorgeous vistas form the backdrop for D&RGW 268 in Bumblebee livery (now on display in that livery in Gunnison) and her sister engine 278 (preserved at Cimarron) both make several appearances as do the Mikado-style engines that serve as the engines for today's Cumbres & Toltec and Durango & Silverton lines.

So much history comes alive on this DVD. Several locations shown are now beneath the waters held by dams on the Gunnison River west of Gunnison. Livestock extras and a flanger plow in action viewed from the caboose also separate this DVD from the pack. This film is a must for any serious narrow gauge modeler as well as the average enthusiast looking for an alternative to the ho-hum, standard-gauge fare. A worthy addition to your collection.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Coming Soon: Resource Reviews

The aspens have all shed their golden leaves and the first snows of the season are on their way. There's a chill in the night air and morning coffee feels just that much better. Time to fire up the DVD player, break out the books and get the summer dust off those models!

As a fifth-generation Coloradoan, I have a passion for the mountains and the railroads that ventured through them. I envy the lives of William H. Jackson, Otto Perry and many others who saw steam working such places as Red Mountain Pass, Telluride, the Chili Line, Marshall Pass and Leadville. Places like Silverton, Durango and Antonito are magical to me. I've spent hundreds of hours perusing books, studying maps and physically following ghost railroads all over Colorado. Railroad DVDs and past VHS volumes have graced my screen on many a cold winter night. I simply love Colorado railroads.

With this in mind, I'm announcing that I will begin reviewing and recommending DVDs, books and assorted resources that I've found. Most often, you'll be able to get them through Colorado Railroads' relationship with, but a few will be hidden gems or just plain unavailable stuff that you might be able to find down at your local library or museum. I'll bring out the good stuff as much as I can. As always, you can chime in with your own reviews using comments.

I will roll out the first review soon. Until then, keep the fires banked and the glass full. Bring on the snow!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Grande Web Photographers Craft Their Art

Kevin Morgan of snapped these shots on Friday the 21st while the Colorado Rockies had their last homestand against the Arizona Diamond Backs. Though the D-backs would top the Rockies 4-2 that night, it wouldn't prevent the Coors Field staff from setting off some fireworks, lending a spectacular backdrop to Kevin's shots of Grand Luxe rail's passenger cars at Union Station a few blocks away.

Meanwhile, CJ Lamas has been playing around with stuffed animals (or is the proper term "mascot" or possibly "character of dubious gender?") down in Antonito and Chama on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic. The costume didn't interfere with these shots, as he picks some beautiful views of Colorado narrow gauge steam. The autumn rains really add to some of these shots too.

Congratulations to both photographers for excelling in their art!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

RTD Fastracks Overview

Recently found this Fastracks overview by Railway Gazette from June helpful, if a little hard to read because of the tiny font. Still worth reading if you want to catch up on the generalities of what RTD is planning.

More News at

ND Holmes of has news about D&RGW 315, a BN rotary (!), and narrow gauge odds and ends as of Sept 17th. Go check it out.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Georgetown Restaurant Owner Seeing Red

It's an unfortunate story, but one that seems to be dominating railroad news. Georgetown Loop Railroad's abysmal season has affected Clear Creek county's tourism in such a way it's making shop owners nervous. It's disappointing to see Mark Greska, the former operator of the Loop, so accessible to the media. At best, it looks like he's gloating over the failed season. Observers of the situation will note that neither the CHS or Railstar has been especially adept at managing affairs, but Greska's sour grapes doesn't exactly sweeten the chill air off of Clear Creek. Greska's on top of his game at Royal Gorge with his standard gauge diesels, but he's going to need to find a home for those five narrow gauge engines he has. They're not getting their proper use at the Colorado Railroad Museum, and when D&RGW 346 returns to the grounds, there will be--oddly enough--a surplus of power there. Questions remain:
  1. Will Railstar and CHS make the changes necessary to improve reliability and lessen or even eliminate downtime in 2008? I hope so.
  2. Will the businesses of Georgetown and Idaho Springs recover from this difficult season? Probably, but only if the point above is sufficiently resolved.
  3. Will Greska tack down a third rail and run narrow gauge through the Royal Gorge to Parkdale for the first time in nearly a century? Or will he sell them off and hope they don't end up in the hands of his rivals? There's only so many places that want Shays, and the Loop is one of them.
None of the questions will likely be answered before March 2008, when preparations for the summer begin. Until then, it's going to be a cold winter in the valley.

Taking a Garden Railway Seriously

Dick Maddock is living a fantasy, and I envy him. Imagine running and maintaining your own private railroad, with a working, coal-fired locomotive to boot! I was especially gratified to see that he and his son "play trains" on weekends. This is what trains are all about for me, bringing fathers and sons together. Nothing is more worthwhile.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

D&RGW 315 at Railfest

I'm still awaiting word on whether the D&SNG ran the D&RGW 315 as announced (PDF) at their 9th annual Railfest. This being the last day of Railfest, we should hear something about it soon.

UPDATE 9/23: No such luck, but there's a rumor about it being available for a fall color special or two.

Colorado State Fair Express Chase

I could post all the footage and photos I got of UP 844 as it came south from Denver to Pueblo, but I would be hard pressed to keep up with Kevin Morgan of Seeing him near Larkspur and again in Pueblo, I saw how easily the pros drift through the amateurs and somehow make it all look so easy.

I still might post a few. I'll have to recover my ego first. In the meantime, I'm offering an editorial, although it will likely just add to the consensus of the railfan community at large.

I was reminded yesterday that mainline steam tends to bring out the very worst of railfans. I will spend little time citing what's wrong, but it's still worth noting that:
  • Slowing traffic to a crawl on a major Interstate highway just so they can pace a train that is still 100 to 200 feet away from them causes active and thorough resentment from not only the general public, but other railfans trying to get to the next photo location
  • Walking in front of the photo line to get their own shot reveals just how unprofessional and ridiculous some railfans can be, especially when the same person shows up in shot after shot after shot. His wearing a pale yellow T-shirt makes it all the worse
On the positive side, I appreciated so many of the fans finding discrete places to photograph the train. Positioning themselves in the bushes, below the grade or generally out of the way, many of the photographers were decent to each other and respected each other's desire for the perfect shot. Following the golden rule--even in a hobby--by talking with folks already set up about where you can go to stay out of their way helps everyone feel respected and yields some good rewards. The challenge of catching a locomotive at speed is challenging enough without climbing all over each other to do it.

While it's not unique to railfanning the events, there is a great opportunity for connecting with others. Among railfans, you can easily spot loyalties and what sub-category of railfan they find themselves in. There's the big steam fan, the narrow gauger, the local historian, the obscure short-line fan, the camera geek and the dabbler, to name a few. One usually finds a mixture of two or three interests in a single railfan, but there is usually a chief love, proudly proclaimed somewhere about the person on their shirt, cap or jacket, making it easy to spot each other. Striking up conversation about such a love is easy and opens up roads to long and true friendships.

Speaking of great loves, I was gratified at the UP's surprising good taste in letting the Rio Grande Heritage unit, UP 1989, assist the 844 over the Palmer Divide. It's always a beautiful sight to the eyes to see the flying Grande in gold and black on home rails, especially the joint line. It was 136 years ago, before Colorado was even a state in the Union, that the Rio Grande's founder directed the Grande to build south from Denver. When so many "& Pacific" railroads were going east-west, Palmer was the true entrepreneur, defying convention and running north-south to tap the riches of the Colorado piedmont on the way to Mexico City. That he never made it past Raton is dwarfed by the fact that his work still survives today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

UP 844 To Lead Colorado Mountaineer

Don't forget this great opportunity for Front Range railfans!

By the way, the UP 844 will be substituting for the 3985. While we won't see an articulated in action, it should still be worth the time to see it. Here is the schedule.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Back In One Piece -- Unlike Georgetown Loop

After a brief hiatus, I'm back. Summer got the best of me and boy, am I tired! My apologies, especially to Kevin.

*Rummaging around desk*

Ah, here's one item you might not have heard yet, but it was predictable. The Georgetown Loop Railroad has closed its doors. The banner at the top of its site says quite plainly, "No trains until further notice." Heedless, the Denver Post includes it as a "one-tank trip" in its August 11th issue. The blame can be thrown everywhere you want, but I think I could speak for the businesses of Clear Creek county when I say, with some sadness, that things were better before with the previous operator.

Who should fix this mess? It's my opinion that it should certainly not be the same people who created it. They've had plenty of time to salvage the situation. No one wanted this situation, including those responsible, and they should do the right thing and step aside as legally and quickly as possible. Some things just don't work well together, and now the jewel of Clear Creek is sits shuttered.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Operation Lifesaver in Delta

Operation Lifesaver will be pairing up with Union Pacific Railroad to promote grade crossing awareness in Delta, Colorado in early July. Visit the Delta County Independent for more details or tickets. has speculated that it might involve UP's Rio Grande Heritage unit, 1989.

All Systems Go

Denver's 9News reported yesterday that the test on #12 went okay and it may just salvage this summer's season for Georgetown, Silver Plume and the rest of Clear Creek county. Most telling is the interview with one store owner that says that it's been dead without the steam on the loop.

Meanwhile, I've received a tip that the management of the loop has not been particularly spotless and that the blame placed on the Colorado Historical Society is not fully justified. Obviously, neither entity is willing to speak their corporate mind, being that they hope things resolve internally. One only wonders what will happen at the end of the five year term of the contract.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Denver's Watching the Loop

From the Denver Post in today's briefs section:

Georgetown - A mechanical problem has sidetracked the Georgetown Loop's only working steam engine, postponing the train's summer opening and leaving the town without its signature tourist attraction for this weekend's Railroad Days festival.

Ongoing repairs to the axle broken on the antique engine, No. 12, in August means the unique corkscrewing narrow-gauge line won't start running until June 15.

The delayed opening gives fodder once again to critics of the Colorado Historical Society, which three years ago dropped its relationship with the train's former operators after 30 years and awarded a contract to New York-based Railstar Corp., which has been beset by operating problems and diminished passenger loads.

Like I said, hopefully the test goes well today or tomorrow.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Signs of Life At Silver Plume?

The latest on the Georgetown Loop is that they will open next weekend, June 15th. I've heard from at least one source that C&S No. 12 is going to be steamed up this weekend, presumably to run tests. Hopefully, we'll have a live locomotive and a lively season. If not, there will be a lot of finger pointing.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Got Douglas County Railroad Stories?

Douglas County Historical Research Center is looking for stories about railroads that pass through Douglas County. E-mail Douglas County Library for details. - San Luis & Rio Grande Trip Report

Nathan Holmes made a trip report from his trip to Alamosa to view the return of Steam to La Veta Pass. Among the highlights,

The newly painted GE diesel on hand to help out. The color choice is not pure Grande, but the logo sure is and it's a welcome sight in this Rio Grande town.

Alamosa's newest celebrity arriving at Alamosa's depot for the opening ceremony. Could restoring the depot be on the agenda, given the new railroad business the SLRG has brought?

The rest of the photos are at Take a look!

Other shots of the San Luis & Rio Grande. Treasures

I don't normally rant and rave over the work by Kevin Morgan, because his work really does stand on its own. Yet, I'm really impressed with this batch. He seems to be improving his timing with shots and catching the moment just right. For example,

Notice the following elements:
  • The eye immediately goes to the early light catching the locomotives
  • The skyline is immersed in early morning haze, but the buildings are still visible
  • The curve squeezes as much train as possible into the frame
  • The late spring foilage lends a great deal of rich texture to the scene
Here's another one...

The shot is practically begging Amtrak for space in it's 2008-9 route guide. If I were their editor, I would take it and put text bleeding into the right side of the frame to cover up the quonset huts, but Kevin's angle makes that an option, not a necessity. His work should be seen a lot more. He's got the talent to make it in Trains on a regular basis. Why I don't see more of him in the by-lines in that mag has got to be because he's not letting them see his work.

Keep up the good work, Kevin!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Opening Day Coverage

Friday of this Memorial Day weekend was the day for newspaper ads and articles for the mountains "second season" of summer, the first being winter and skiing. Not surprisingly, the news outlets cover mountain recreation and one of the best family activities is riding a scenic mountain railroad.

The New Mexico Business Weekly covered the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic, although it's not clear what "four new locomotives" are referred to in the article. All research results point to the same roster as last year. I did find a new tamper sitting in Antonito on slim rails in April 2007.

The Associated Press put out an article on Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad workers training in wildfire prevention.

More interestingly, the Denver Post encourages everyone to ride the train in Georgetown when, just the day before, they told us that the railroad will not open until June 15th. This oversight obviously reveals that one article was written before the other one, yet in an industry that seldom has urgent, breaking news, questions continue to circulate on the internet regarding the lateness of the announcement that they will not be open this weekend.

Finally, what didn't make the news is that the San Luis & Rio Grande, better known as the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, has opened for the first time with live steam over the standard gauge line. It marks the first time in over 50 years that standard gauge steam has run in the San Luis Valley. It will run between La Veta and Alamosa pulling the San Luis Express.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend everyone! Remember our armed forces and the work they continue to do to keep us safe.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Georgetown Loop Delays Opening By Three Weeks

It's Memorial Day weekend, the traditional opening of the summer tourism season and one critical player is in critical condition. The Georgetown Loop Railroad is silent this Memorial Day 2007, a victim of its own management. Not even a diesel will be running. Why? How could this happen?

The origins of the current equipment troubles originate in 2004, but the property's owner, the Colorado Historical Society, bears at least some of the blame for the present condition. Wanting a veritable star on its rails, the CHS restored Colorado & Southern engine 9 to working order and ran it last season to the thrill of narrow gauge fans. Yet, No. 9 was forced to haul shortened trains alone on the steep grades. This contributed to premature wear and tear, sidelining the engine for most of this 2007 season. The Loop's other steam engine, No. 12, was expected near the start of the season, yet it was clear it would miss the opener due to repairs and weather delays. Back-up engine 1203, a diesel, is at Sumpter Valley and will not be back until mid-June either. What is left is lowly engine 21, a diesel kept in the shops as a rescue engine. Someone apparently thought it would be acceptable to use it as a service engine to make it through the first three weeks. Sadly, this engine has been deemed less than reliable for such use. Now the citizens of Georgetown find theirselves at opening day without an engine.

One can't help but recall that steaming narrow gauge engines are a short distance down Clear Creek in Golden, where engines that are the property of the Georgetown Loop Railroad, Inc. are stored on the grounds of the Colorado Railroad Museum. More than capable, these engines have proven themselves on the very tracks that will lay silent this weekend. These engines and their rolling stock are the victims of a failed relationship between a former long-time operator and the state historical society. The belief in 2004 was that with enough capital and the right partner, the state historical society could have a successful go at the railroad. After looking at the breakdowns and other problems encountered since then, one can only guess at the wisdom today.

The real victims are the ones in Clear Creek county who depend on income paid by tourists from far and near, tourists who won't be coming this weekend or the next. After that, who can say? Engine 12 may be operational by then, but no amount of money will bring back lost time and lost wages. Clearly, the 2004 gamble by the Colorado Historical Society has not paid off for the citizens of Clear Creek county.

Media Coverage:

Monday, May 14, 2007

California Zephyr Bomb Scare

Media outlets are reporting that yesterday's eastbound Calfornia Zephyr (train #6) was evacuated after a passenger threatened the crew by saying he had a weapon and a bomb. Authorities searched the man and found a knife in his luggage. A bomb-sniffing dog alerted to the bag of the passenger and around 220 passengers were ordered to evacuate the train. They were bused to Denver Union Station where they eventually rejoined the same train and continued their trip to Chicago.

FBI officials are now stating that after extensive questioning of the man, it was all a misunderstanding and he was booked on a flight out of DIA today.

I don't know who should be ticked off more, the guy who was "detained and interrogated" for hours or the 220 passengers who were massively inconvenienced. The CZ has encountered more than it's share of delays lately courtesy of both BNSF and UP, but leaving at 4:45 a.m., over 9 hours 20 minutes behind schedule is probably a record, at least for the last week. I have ridden the Zephyr and every time it is at least 4 hours late into Denver from the west (UP territory) and 2 hours late coming in from the east (BNSF territory). This turns their schedule from a somewhat reliable estimate to an absolute joke. If you take Amtrak, you're not in a hurry, but you should at least be able to tell the party picking you up what day you'll arrive.

Could it get any worse?

Monday, April 30, 2007

RTD West Light Rail Construction Begins Mid-May

The first construction phase of FasTracks, RTD's Light Rail & Commuter Rail expansion plan is scheduled to start mid-May. A ceremony is scheduled to start May 16th at 1 p.m. at Quail and 13th Street where they expect to begin removing the existing rails from the right-of-way.

The Denver, Lakewood & Golden originally laid down rails as their main line between the Platte River and the town of Golden in 1891 with the last spike being driven in Golden at the corner of Washington and Third Streets on September 7, 1891. In 1904, the Denver, Lakewood & Golden became the Denver & Intermountain, an interurban line, and in 1909, overhead catenary wires were installed to permit the use of electric locomotives and self-propelled passenger cars (trolleys).

In 1953, the line was abandoned, but the Denver to Simms Street portion was sold to Associated Railroads, a corporation owned equally by the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe, Chicago Burlington & Quincy, Chicago Rock Island & Pacific, Colorado & Southern and the Denver & Rio Grande Western. This was to service the Denver Federal Center, formerly the federally-owned Denver Ordinance Plant created in 1940 and operated by Remington during World War II to manufacture .30 caliber rounds and then added the capacity to make artillery shells. After the war, the Federal Government retooled the site for office space, becoming the Federal Center and the largest concentration of Federal employees outside of Washington DC.

Over the years, traffic on the line dwindled and the Rio Grande was handling all traffic. Interestingly, a catenary pole was mounted on a diesel switcher solely to activate the signals for grade crossings. Eventually by the mid-1990s, a century after the rails were laid, the line lay dormant, with the grade crossings mostly paved over and crossing signals removed. The right of way still existed, however, and RTD acquired it under their new FasTracks program.

The goal of the West Corridor, as the line is now called, is to reduce congestion along Colfax Avenue, two blocks to the north. The line will navigate past the existing end-of-track near Simms on a new extension past Red Rocks Community College to the Taj Mahal-like Jefferson County Administration and Courts Facility.

On a personal note, having grown up in the area and only seeing one or two trains on the line my entire lifetime, seeing the line in use for a very practical and helpful purpose will be very gratifying. It's still a question, however, how the north-south arteries like Sheridan, Wadsworth and Kipling will handle the double trouble between Colfax and the new traffic on the line.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Work With History at the Colorado Railroad Museum

As many tourist and scenic railroads begin to shake off the last bits of winter, the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden has plenty of work for those who want to contribute as they can to preserving the railroad history gathered there. Please look over the list below, and call or email David Williams, volunteer coordinator, to sign up for the tasks and times that work best for you. (720) 274-5147

Note that many of the jobs can be done any day of the week, not just weekends. Let us know when you are available.

Upcoming Events

The grounds and equipment should be made really spiffy for the spring season.
  • General grounds clean-up. Raking, picking up leaves and trash, etc.
  • General museum clean up, including washing windows.
  • Clean interiors of cars and cabooses.
  • Move a pile of iron to the back of the property.

Urgent Tasks and Projects:

  • Wax and buff the Coors switcher and the Rio Grande 5771 diesel-electric. (These projects will take many hours over several days, but we need people to start right away.)
  • Move boxes of store inventory to another storeroom.
  • Dig hole and install new fence post in cement base.
Ongoing Tasks and Projects
  • Remove boxes stored in a passenger car, and clean it out.
  • Library:
    • General cataloging
    • Inventory boxes of materials to be sure they are posted on the computer files.

  • Roundhouse:
    • Skilled woodworker to rebuild a cowcatcher.
    • Roofers to re-roof Burlington 96 and Midland 111.
    • Lay down crossings between tracks at two locations.
    • Scrape down locomotive #5629 and get it ready for painting.
The roundhouse has an ongoing need for:
  • Painters
  • Letterers
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Skilled carpenters
  • Skilled wood refinishers
  • Skilled machinists
Reminder: those volunteers who are qualified for train operations should sign up for Steam-Up dates on the bulletin board in the Roundhouse. See the website for the full 2007 schedule:

Friday, April 13, 2007

Spring Preparations Continue For 2007 Season

The condition of tourist and scenic railroads across the state has been something of speculation lately. Specifically, a cloud hangs over the Georgetown Loop railroad operated by the state historical society and Railstar. After a season which most would describe as lackluster in 2006, their featured star, Colorado & Southern engine No. 9, needed repairs after only a few months in operation. It’s uncertain whether it was the heavy grades of the loop, the large passenger loads or the fatigue brought by mechanical efforts to compensate for the grades and loads. What is certain is that No. 9 will not be in operation on opening day 2007. Their remaining steam engine, Colorado & Southern No. 12 is questionable for the 2007 season as well. Repair work must be done before the engine is serviceable. It could be that the Georgetown Loop will be without regular steam for a considerable part of the season. The diesels they have secured are likely up to the task, but as evidenced in Durango and elsewhere, diesels just don’t draw the fans that steam does.

Meanwhile, the San Luis & Rio Grande has promised that the engine they purchased, Southern Pacific 1744, will be running over La Veta Pass this summer. SP 1744, a Baldwin 2-6-0, has a storied past, along with a troubled second life as an excursion steamer. The engine will be trucked in hopefully at the end of this month.

Opening Days:

Friday, March 23, 2007

Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Funding Still Lopsided

According to a news story in the Pueblo Chieftain, funding for the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic line from Colorado is painfully low.
...the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad won't see the $1.35 million it wanted to cover track rehabilitation costs, but it will get $80,000 to rehabilitate its car shop and engine house.
This is unfortunate, but not without its own causes. Wade Hall on the Narrow Gauge Railroad Discussion Forum offered this as part of his insightful commentary on the situation:
Out of the 100 Colorado legislators, about 13 hail from rural Colorado. Time was when that numerical disadvantage was somewhat overcome by many of the legislative leadership positions being held by rural legislators. Those days are gone. Add to that Colorado's budget inflexibility imposed partly by TABOR, and it's not hard to see why securing Colorado funding for the C&TS is such a challenge. The Front Range effectively controls the budget--and will continue to do [so].
While this certainly is a possibility, Nathan D. Holmes of states,
For those of you in Colorado, remember that if you want to see money for the C&TS, you need to make it known to your legislators. Like any good politician, they'll pay attention if enough people make enough noise about an issue. If you're not happy with the way the budget came out this year, writing them isn't a bad idea...
It certainly couldn't hurt the chances of the C&TS to do so. It could be that as long as the Colorado legislature pretends to fund what it owns, the C&TS will likely pretend to work. While New Mexico continues to fund the railroad it jointly owns, Colorado, for all the opulence of its natural beauty, fails to own up to its fiscal end of the bargain despite its joint ownership.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

SP 1744 Steam Locomotive To Run On La Veta

It appears the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad just completed the purchase of former Southern Pacific Railroad standard-gauge steam locomotive #1744. This engine was listed recently for $800,000 by Ozark Mountain Railcar.

Built by Baldwin for SP in 1901, the 2-6-o Mogul is an oil burner. She has been reconfigured a few times, including going from compound to simple and having a superheater added and boosting the boiler to 200 p.s.i. After serving mostly in Califronia, her first service life effectively ended September 24, 1956, when SP retired her, placing her in stand-by status because of her good condition. According to Ozark, she saw occasional excursion service until the fall of 1958 when she starred in a feature film, entitled This Earth Is Mine released the following year.

She was donated to the National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers on May 9, 1959, where the locomotive was on static display at Corine, Utah along with Union Pacific 2-8-0 #264, sitting pilot to pilot as a representation of "the driving of the golden spike." This was prior to the actual rail park at Promontory, Utah.

She went to the Heber Valley Railroad (the Heber Creeper) in the 80s. According to Christopher Hawkins,
I learned to fire on SP 2-6-0 #1744. At that time, this engine just wasn't a good steamer at all, it's 63" drivers were designed to sprint down the San Juaquin Valley at 50mph, not climb a 2.5% mountain grade at 15mph like we were running her. Even retired SP hogheads [engineers] couldn't get her to steam; damper wide open, damper closed, fire door propped open, blower set for takeoff, she just didn't cooperate, and that made excellent firemen out of us, because there was no mercy, you had to plan ahead for everything. Later, we found that by cutting an auxilliary breathing hole in the oilpan near the burner, it allowed the fire to rise up and fill the corners of the firebox, she steamed like a firecracker after that!
In the 90s, rebuilding began for excursion service in Ft. Worth, Texas but work was not completed until she was sold to the New Orleans and Gulf Coast, a subsidiary of the Rio Grande Pacific Corporation, in 1999. Work was begun in Ft. Worth and a few break-in trips were made before she was shipped to the Big Easy. The next year, she began her work for the NO&GC. All too quickly, the venture folded in a couple of months and the 1744 has been for sale, serviceable, but will need some work before a full season can be expected out of her.

Here's hoping that the 1744 can leave her troubled past behind and begin to boost interest in the La Veta Pass route.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Richardson Memorial Service Scheduled

From the Colorado Railroad Museum...
You are invited to attend a Memorial Service for Bob Richardson on Saturday, May 5 2:00PM at the Colorado Railroad Museum to celebrate his life and his important contributions to railroad history and preservation. The locomotive #346 restoration fund has been created to honor Bob. All donations to the fund will be used to complete the last phase in the restoration of the 346. Donations should be made to "Colorado Railroad Museum" and designated to the 346 restoration fund.
For more information, visit the Colorado Railroad Museum web site. For directions, visit the site for a general map or get specific directions using Google Maps.

Monday, March 5, 2007

CRRM Co-founder Robert W. Richardson Dies at age 96

By Ron Hill, Colorado Railroad Museum, Photo by Mallory H. Ferrell

Photo by Mallory H. FerrellFondly called “Uncle Robert” by all those who know and admired him, Robert William Richardson, age 96, passed away peacefully in State College, Pennsylvania, on February 23, 2007. Although plagued by short bouts of illness in recent years, Bob had remained basically healthy and in full possession of his remarkable memory and sharp wit right up until the end. Perhaps best known as the co-founder and longtime Executive Director of the Colorado Railroad Museum and a distinguished railroad author and photographer, Bob’s career could easily have gone in a different direction. Born in Rochester, Pennsylvania, on May 21, 1910, he moved with his parents to Akron, Ohio, in 1915 and later graduated from high school there. Diverted from a college education, Bob went to work for a local hardware concern until the depression cost him his job. Along the way he had learned the printing business and proceeded to start his own small print shop in Akron. The depression years were especially hard for printers, and Bob’s shop closed in 1937. Stamp collecting was one of his major hobbies, and George Linn hired him as the second editor of “Linn’s Weekly Stamp News,” the principal publication dealing with that interest. Fortunately, for rail hobbyists and historians, Bob’s other hobby was railroading.

As a teenager, Bob enjoyed watching and photographing trains in Ohio and Pennsylvania. His insatiable curiosity led him to study railroad operations and history, and later he wrote articles for both “Trains” and “Railroad” magazines. In anticipation of forthcoming military service, he quit his job with “Linn’s” but then learned that he would not be called up for some time. Thus, he took a job as an advertising representative for the Seiberling Rubber Company, which required him to travel extensively through the southern states as he assisted Seiberling tire dealers and sought out interesting short line railroads.

In the summer of 1941, Bob and a friend came to Colorado for the first time, making an unforgettable circle tour on the narrow gauge. Bob become completely enamored of the slim gauge railroads of Colorado. After military service with the Army Signal Corps during WWII in Iran, where he studied the Persian railroads and learned to read Farsi, Bob returned to his job with Seiberling, but the lure of Colorado remained strong. He made repeated vacation trips to narrow gauge country in 1945, 1946 and 1947, eventually deciding to make his home here. In 1948 he quit his job, and he and a friend from Ohio pooled their resources to open the Narrow Gauge Motel in Alamosa. The motel grounds offered a fine place to display some of the narrow gauge equipment he had purchased, along with that saved by the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club. While at the motel, he began the sporadic publication of a very significant newsletter called simply “Narrow Gauge News” which later became the Colorado Railroad Museum’s “Iron Horse News.” At Alamosa, Bob Richardson tirelessly railed against the abandonment of the historic narrow gauge lines. It can accurately be said that his untiring efforts and the publicity he generated were among the primary reasons that the Silverton Train and the Cumbres and Toltec were preserved for future generations to savor.

While in Alamosa, Bob amassed a formidable collection of railroad artifacts and equipment, including famed D&RGW locomotive No. 346, which he purchased with his own funds in 1950. Then Cornelius W. Hauck, another prominent railroad enthusiast from Ohio, acquired D&RGW 318 and placed it at the motel. Bob’s friendship with “Corny” Hauck led to the establishment of the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, which is today recognized as one of the truly great railroad museums in the country. Purchase of the former farm just east of Golden was completed in 1958, and the museum was officially opened to the public in July of 1959. Construction of the Iron Horse Motel next door was intended to be an additional source of operating revenue but instead proved to be overly time-consuming and was sold. Several years down the road, the motel was purchased and razed to make way for the roundhouse restoration facility and to enable completion of a loop of narrow gauge track. The Robert W. Richardson Railroad Library at the museum was created and named in his honor. Bob served as the distinguished Executive Director of the Colorado Railroad Museum until 1991 when he made the decision to retire and move back to Pennsylvania in that part of the country where he had been raised and where his nephews and niece reside. Even in retirement he continued to produce significant volumes dealing with railroad history, especially here in Colorado. Today, persons treasure their friendships and even casual meetings with him and will long remember his myriad contributions to Colorado railroad history. It is no exaggeration to say that he did more than any other person to preserve Colorado’s unique railroad heritage. We are indeed fortunate that his photographs and writings will be available for future generations of railroad enthusiasts and historians.

Bob Richardson was truly one of a kind and will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, Uncle Robert.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Colorado Railroad Museum for the restoration of Locomotive 346.

Special thanks to the Colorado Railroad Museum for making this available to Colorado Railroads.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Friends of the C&TS Work Sessions

Ever want to get your fingers out from behind that keyboard and doing something real? The Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad have announced their work sessions for 2007. Sessions are planned for 2 weeks in May, June and August. There is also a special first session May 7-11. Visit their worksession page for more information, documentation and photos of previous work sessions.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Bob Richardson

Update: The Denver Post had a nice write-up on Richardson's life. HT: Stourbridge Lion, Linkman

Update: Confirmed
There is an unconfirmed report that Robert W. Richardson, 96, has died this morning, February 24, 2007. He was born May 27, 1910.

Few people have done more than Bob Richardson to preserve the history and memory of the narrow gauge in Colorado. His legacy remains the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, where most of his preserved engines, rolling stock and railroad memorabilia are on display. Richardson started the Narrow Gauge Motel in "South" Alamosa, which grew into a museum and eventually relocated to Golden. Richardson was also an author, photographer and "abandoned line reporter" for much of the narrow gauge empire that circled Colorado. People who knew him characterized him as a railfan's railfan and a patient teacher of railroad science and history, especially when he frequented the museum. His numbered Rail Annuals were published under the Colorado Railroad Museum. Prior to that, they were often circulated on mimeographed sheets to the community of interested historians and narrow gauge-minded ferroequinologists.

With his passing, the narrow gauge fans of the world have lost one of their best.

Monday, February 5, 2007

A (Sort of) Familiar Face

Update: as of 2/16, the regular motive power (F40s) are back on point, not that they look all that bad either.

Kevin Morgan of captured the photo below along with several others near Tunnel 1 on the Moffat Route. The Ski Train is powering it's way up to Winter Park along the Front Range of Denver using 2 of it's 3 F40PHs along with Union Pacific engine 1989, the Rio Grande unit of UP's heritage series. Ski Train F40PH unit 289 was down due to a bad bearing, opening the roster for UP to put a (sort of) familiar face in a very beautiful place.

The UP1989 was unveiled in June 2006 at the North Yard facilities in Denver to a crowd of enthusiastic rail veterans and railfans.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Kyle Plow Train In Action

A plow train for Kyle out on the eastern plains of Colorado busts 20 foot drifts in this awesome 2 minute video. It's hard to ignore this much horsepower, but snow can plow like cement sometimes. FYI, the plow was not permanently stuck.

HT: Friscobob

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Video Of C&S 9 On Georgetown Loop

Thanks to Karl S. of Trainboard. He put up video of Colorado & Southern No. 9 that he shot vertically using a small handheld back during the short fall season. Yes, that's real snow coming down. To quote Karl, "...On the next run, it was snowing so hard you couldn't barely see from one end of the train to the other. Riding behind No. 9 in an open car in the blinding snow was AWESOME!!!"

Thanks, Karl, for some decent video of Colorado's newest old locomotive!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Two Derailments In 36 Hours

Great Western had a road unit in the ditch on Monday out on US 34 west of I-25 near Kelim just south of the bedroom community of Windsor. No injuries were reported. A crane was brought in from Cheyenne to lift it out of the mud. Longmont FYI has the story.
HT: John Barnhill

Additionally, BNSF lost some coal hoppers at the stock show in Denver on Tuesday. The mainline was cleared relatively quickly. No injuries reported at this derailment either. Additionally, no cause has been determined in either derailment, but no one has ruled out the recent spate of cold weather that's been in the state for weeks.
HT: Steve Brown

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Governor Takes UP Train Today

According to the Denver Post's coverage of freshly inaugurated Governor Bill Ritter, the Governor is embarking on a special UP train today from Brighton to Pueblo. The Post says,
Early Saturday, Ritter and O'Brien plan to continue the inaugural festivities with a whistle-stop tour along the Front Range. ... They'll board a vintage Union-Pacific train - described as the Brown Palace Hotel on wheels - in Greeley and make stops for rallies and speeches in Brighton, Littleton, Colorado Springs and Pueblo. The day will end with a spaghetti dinner at the Pueblo Union Depot. reports that the power for this trip is unknown. However,
The tentative schedule, as posted by "mojaveflyer" on Trainorders, is as follows:
  • 9:30 AM - Train arrives in Greeley
  • 10:00 - Depart Greeley
  • 10:45 - Arrive Brighton
  • 11:20 - Depart Brighton
  • 12:00 Noon - Arrive Denver (19th and Little Raven St. The train will not apparently be able to use Denver Union Station)
  • 12:35PM - Depart Denver
  • 2:35 - Arrive Colorado Springs
  • 3:05 -Depart Colorado Springs
  • 4:45 - Arrive Pueblo
  • 5:00 - 7:15 Reception and spaghetti dinner at Pueblo Union Depot
The freshman Governor will be touring the rest of the state by plane next week. There are no indications as to whether this indicates Ritter's openness toward commuter rail service along the Front Range or a rail-oriented option for the I-70 corridor, but given most liberal's favorable predisposition towards collective mass transit, it is certainly a possibility that there may be new passenger routes within the Centennial state by the end of his term.

Update: 4:12 PM - Nevermind.
Update: 9:42 PM - has a trip report

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Plow Trains

Kevin Morgan of has photos of the plow train extras that were run by the UP on the old Kansas Pacific line to counteract the effects of the Christmas and New Years Eve blizzards. As always, the photos are excellent. Here's a sample:

Of particular note is the DRGW Jordan spreader, which Kevin notes was used on Tennessee Pass before the UP closed it.

Colorado Railroad Museum 2007 Steam Up Dates

The Colorado Railroad Museum ( has announced the steam up dates for 2007. They are,
  • February 10 -- Valentine's Express
  • April 7 -- Bunny Express
  • April 14 -- ARM Conference
  • June 16-17 -- Father's Day
  • July 21 -- Wine and Cheese Train
  • July 22 -- General Steamup
  • September 15-16 & 21-23 -- A Day Out With Thomas™
    (This is a special event - Tickets $16.00 each, ages 2 and up, on sale June 1st)
  • October 27 -- Trick-or-Treat Train
  • December 1-2 -- Santa Claus Special
If you love steam or want to give your kids a memorable experience, consider taking them down to Golden on one of these dates between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Any day is a good day to visit the railroad museum, but these days have an air of excitement and enjoyment.

Note: The SCFD days (free admission days) have yet to be announced.