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: