Thursday, December 18, 2008

RMRA Presents I-70 & I-25 Options To DRCOG Today

The Rocky Mountain Rail Authority will meet with the Denver Regional Council of Governments today. They plan to present the framework for their Colorado Department of Transportation study to use rail or other fixed guideway technology to alleviate congestion along the I-70 and I-25 corridors. The study will look at feasibility of different technologies as well as plan station locations along both routes. The meeting is planned from 3 to 5 p.m. at the DRCOG offices, 1290 Broadway in Denver. Similar meetings are planned for Pueblo and Ft. Collins. More information...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

RGS Goosefest Photos

Donald Tallman of the Colorado Railroad Museum has put his pictures of the Thanksgiving Goosefest on Webshotz (fair warning about ads). With the snow they got that day, the Geese looked right at home.

Could it be that a contraption built to help a railroad survive the Great Depression finds new relevance helping the museum bring in customers on a regular basis by running low-cost exhibitions of Colorado history? It could very well be.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

D&SNGRR Offers Annual Pass

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad will offer annual passes for the first time in its 28 years operating the railroad between its namesake cities. Annual passes were nothing new in the days of Otto Mears, whose Rio Grande Southern Railroad connected with Durango and issued its annual passes in solid silver for a brief time. This time, no silver. But you will part with a nice C-note to grab one of the adult passes and half that for the half-pints. Visit the site to find out more.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Grade Crossing Accidents Claim Two

Two grade-crossing accidents in Colorado exactly 36 hours from each other claimed the lives of two men. That's where the similarities of the two end.

The first accident happened Tuesday December 2nd at 12:45 a.m. in Mesa county near Clifton, CO when 28 year-old Aaron David Rudder of Grand Junction was struck near a grade crossing by a Union Pacific train bound for Provo, UT. The train went into emergency but was unable to stop before colliding. Rudder was last seen at a bar about a quarter-mile from the scene where he had drank a pitcher of beer. He had refused a ride home from the bar owners. His remains were scattered by the accident and it's believed he died instantly. He leaves behind a wife of three months.

The second accident happened Wednesday the 3rd at 6:45 p.m. in Denver at 66th and Franklin Street where Jerry Rivera, a 33 year-old switchman for the Denver Rock Island shortline railroad was riding the end of a local freight train backing through the crossing at 5 m.p.h. when a Freightliner semi rig entered the intersection and pinned Mr. Rivera between the railcar and the rig. He died at the scene, leaving behind a wife and three daughters. The driver of the semi was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The grade crossing is marked by crossbucks, but no lights or gates.

Two lives cut short at Christmastime. Both accidents were preventable by safety precautions that were ignored. It didn't have to end this way, but it did. Our prayers are with the families affected by these accidents.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rocky Ford Grade Crossing Claims Three

Two teenaged sisters and their grandmother were killed when they drove in front of a BNSF freight train in Otero County here in Colorado on Friday evening. According to the Denver Post article, Trooper Gilbert Mares of the Colorado State Patrol said that Devonna Griffin was driving a blue Dodge Durango north on Otero County Road 20.5 about a quarter mile east of Rocky Ford at 4:49 p.m. when the train struck the vehicle. Driver Devonna Griffin, 17, front-seat passenger Krystal Griffin, 19, and back-seat passenger Joan Griffin, 66, were all killed in the accident.

According to a more detailed account in the Rocky Mountain News,
The SUV was hit on the driver's side, which sent the vehicle spinning counterclockwise. The vehicle went off the east side of the roadway and came to rest on its right side, facing southwest.

The train was a local BNSF freight working out of Denver, crewed by three employees based out of La Junta. None of the crew were physically harmed.

The reason for the driver's failure to yield to the train is still under investigation, although at least one article interviewing the victims families posits a few theories. US Highway 50, the main highway in the area runs parallel to the tracks just north of the grade crossing. It could be possible that the most inexperienced driver of the three victims ignored the crossing because she was approaching the highway, a danger perceived by the young driver as more imminent or more threatening.

Whatever the reason, the tragedy is that three women lost their lives in an accident that could possibly have been prevented by railroad crossing lights and arms. This same grade crossing claimed the lives of two men earlier this year and Otero county officials prioritized the crossing for the improvements. In fact, one report presented that Otero County had taken delivery of such safety devices but had not installed them. The improvements will come next year, too late for the three victims this weekend, and not soon enough for the other residents of Rocky Ford.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

D&SNGRR Ridership Down But Evens Up By Cutting Expenses

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad released that its ridership was down 11% from last season. Pre-emtively, the railroad scaled back operations earlier this year by removing its fourth train from the schedule. The move helped keep their budget on track this year. For more information, view the article from the Durango Herald here.

The D&SNGRR begins its winter schedule later this month on the 26th with runs to Cascade Canyon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Union Pacific Strikes Preliminary Deal With RTD For FasTracks

Union Pacific and RTD have struck a preliminary deal worth $210 Million for railroad relocation to allow RTDs FasTracks light rail/commuter rail project to proceed after negotiations failed earlier this year. RTD will pay to relocate UP assets to create its planned corridors. The deal specifically mentions the West Corridor, the Gold Line, the North Metro Line and the East Corridor from Union Station out to Pena Boulevard. RTD acquires UPs Boulder Industrial Lead from Denver to Boulder.

The differences were resolved. The projects moved foward. And there was much rejoicing.

Having Galloping Goose For Thanksgiving

The news from Donald Tallman out at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden is that they're having Geese for Thanksgiving. Rio Grande Southern Galloping Goose No. 2, Galloping Goose No. 6, and Galloping Goose No. 7 will both be operating on the museum's loop of track on Thanksgiving weekend, with passengers allowed to ride in Goose No. 7. Special event admission applies, which puts the adults at $12 a person.

More details regarding the museum's flock of 3

Note: it was previously listed that only Geese 6 and 7 were operating, but Mr. Tallman says all three will be running.

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.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Best Side of the DNC In Denver

In 1908, Democrats came to Denver to nominate William Jennings Bryan in an unsuccessful bid for the Presidency. One hundred years later in 2008, Democrats came to Denver to nominate Barrak Obama. While the success of this bid is unknown, the convention is in the books and delegates are returning home. The convention brought together a little of the old and new, even in locomotives. One that has its roots in the last century and one that has its future in the next century sat side by side in Denver on the last day of the convention. Kevin Morgan captured this one shot among many others that day.

One word: Beauty!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

UP, BNSF Put On Show During DNC

Link to site

Christopher May, one of the better contemporary rail photographers in Denver, went downtown to capture a mini-convention of trains currently in town for the Democratic National Convention that wraps up tonight at Mile High.

Capturing the night shots in front of Union Station can be a challenge but the results, as you can see on his page, can be magical if you do it right. He notes, "Lighting was mostly ambient, but I was adding some fill light with multiple blasts with a hand-held Canon 299T flash on some shots, though."

Very impressive, Chris!

Colorado-based GrandLuxe Ceases Operations Tomorrow

Colorado-based GrandLuxe, formerly the American Orient Express, has folded. The luxury train operator has officially pulled the plug making tomorrow the last day of operations. Current ticket holders for future trips are left with the option of taking the ticket charges up with their credit card companies or to wait and see if the company can get a new lender or partner.

Reasons for the closure, other than financial difficulties, have not been disclosed by management. Trains magazine states,
It is not clear whether GrandLuxe will actually declare bankruptcy or what will happen to the equipment, which presumably will deadhead back to the company's Fort Lupton headquarters tomorrow.
The closure has taken some off guard, including some of their employees who showed up to work unaware of the announcement. This closure comes in the face of a popular standing among patrons and industry insiders. According to the LA Times, "earlier this year [GrandLuxe] was named one of the world’s Top 25 trains by the Society of International Railway Travelers."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

RGS 20 Boiler Work Continues

The Colorado Railroad Museum continues to oversee the out-of-state repairs being done on Rio Grande Southern steam engine #20. Linn Moedinger reports in the Narrow Gauge Discussion Forum on the boiler work, complete with photos.

The museum continues to raise funds for the restoration. Donald Tallman, Executive Director for the museum states,

We have recently received a challenge donation of $250,000 to help defray the costs of the restoration. We have received nearly $30,000 in donations to meet the match, but we have a long way to go.

Those interested in helping the museum with this grant can call 303-279-4591 or 1-800-365-6263 with your pledge of support. Once restoration is complete, RGS 20 will return to steam at the museum for years to come.

Pedestrian Struck By BNSF Train in Ft. Collins

BNSF and Ft. Collins Police are reporting that a man was apparently run over by a train and is in serious condition at a regional hospital. What the man was doing on the rails (adjacent to a city park) and the man's identity are both still unknown.

Price Of FasTracks Continues To Rise

RTDs FasTracks continues to revise its cost estimates for completing the FasTracks project on time. As oil and other energy prices soar and sales tax revenue dips, the finishing price will likely continue to rise, placing the latest estimate at $7.9 Billion (up from $6.1 Billion).

Opinion: This is not unprecedented, nor wholly unanticipated. The price of oil and hassles of driving will continue to push commuters away from cars and onto cheaper, efficient Light Rail. New growth around the completed Southeast Corridor reinforces the principle that better transportation brings prosperity and opportunity, two things Denver will need to continue to thrive. Politicians will continue to wrangle over the cost, but there's no getting around the triple constraint.

In the News:

Durango Railfest 2008

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad's 10th annual Railfest concludes today. Both Galloping Goose #5 from Dolores and the 315 of the DRHS made appearances this weekend. Hopefully, someone will e-mail me with pictures I can link you to.

Durango Herald Online article

UP Steam In Denver For DNC

Editor's Note: There's a lot to report on, lately, so there might be a few more posts than usual.

The Union Pacific Steam team is displaying their locomotive 844 in Denver for the Democratic National Convention this week. They are scheduled to be in town until this Thursday, August 28th. It departs back to Cheyenne on Friday the 29th. Kevin Morgan caught the trip into Denver last week. (view this and all special events on the Colorado Railroads calendar)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

C&TS Returns K-36 Mikado 489 To Active Service With Ceremony

This Wednesday, August 20th, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad will return to service the Rio Grande K-36 locomotive 489 after a five year absence. Nearly $1 million was spent restoring the engine to operating condition. An official ceremony with all the fanfare and trimmings is planned for 9 a.m. on the 20th in the Chama yard. At 10 a.m., #489 will depart with her train for Cumbres Pass and onward. For further details, please contact the railroad.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Grande Men

Those who received the July 2008 issue of Trains magazine were treated to a profile of short line Wheeling & Lake Erie. Today, Salida's Mountain Mail published a follow up on the article, talking about the former Salida area residents, long time railroad men of the Rio Grande who have now found themselves in Ohio working on W&LE's CEO Larry Parsons the "Rio Grande Eastern." Indeed, looking at the cover of the issue, it was hard not to think that the Grande had returned to its place in the railroading constellation. The mere continuance of these men so far east of home just might prove that the Rio Grande was something special in the railroading world.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Trolley To Run August 9th At Denver Federal Center

According to Dave Schaaf, Rocky Mountain Railroad Club will be rolling out their trolley car 25 at the Denver Federal Center. Dave writes,

The public is invited to see and ride this beautifully restored antique railcar. Visiting hours will be on Saturday, August 9th, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m at the Denver Federal Center. Enter the Federal Center at gate #1 from Kipling Street, between 6th Avenue and Alameda. Tell the guard that you would like to go to Building 78 for the trolley open house, and then follow the signs. Government issued photo IDs are required for all adults. Pets and firearms are not permitted, and there are no nearby restroom facilities. Rides are free but donations are gratefully accepted. Books and memorabilia will be for sale.

Update: Darren Hadley with Railroad Adventures captured this picture of the car at the presentation.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Colorado Day Quiz

A railroad question made it into the Colorado Day quiz offered by the Denver Post.

Spoiler warning: Stop reading unless you want some serious clues as to the answer.

Interesting enough, the Denver & Rio Grande pulled up the narrow gauge rails over this pass as they withdrew from the Blue River basin early on in its history. Few railfans realize that the Rio Grande reached all the way to Summit county, and did so by first going to Pueblo and then up the Arkansas all the way to its source. There would have been no Ski Train to Breckenridge however. Aside from the length of the trip, Breckenridge was still just a mining town and Copper Mountain was still just a hillside above non-descript Wheeler Junction. Nevermind the fact that skiing was relatively unknown in 1923 at the time Rio Grande abandoned the 36 miles of rails on the Blue River Extension.

One final hint: The pass is still reached by rail, although the trains don't quite reach it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Colorado Railroad Museum Needs Volunteers For Day Out With Thomas

The call is out for volunteers in the Denver area for the Colorado Railroad Museum's Day Out with Thomas event. The last three weekends in September, each Saturday and Sunday (no Fridays this time), the museum will host what Executive Director Donald Tallman calls "our most important fundraiser of the year."

Thomas & Friends has been on television since 1984, making the series 24 years old. While not every railfan enjoys the little blue engine, Thomas has introduced many a toddler to railways, Brittish railways but railways nonetheless. What the Day Out With Thomas event does is bring out people to the Colorado Railroad Museum who would not otherwise have cause to visit. Each year, those visitors are exposed to the museum and its presentation of Colorado's unique and storied railroad history, including children who have never heard of Galloping Geese, rotary snowplows or garden railways. What starts out with a little blue toy could end up as a life-long love of all things railroad and a special fondness of the railroad museum. The event itself is the key and it can't happen without volunteers.

"This event has been successful in the past due to the outstanding volunteers we have had. It takes nearly 100 volunteers per day to run the event. We can't do it without volunteers," Tallman says. Contact for more information or to sign up to help with the Day Out With Thomas event. You can also call 303-279-4591 and ask about volunteering. You can even tell them Colorado Railroads let you know about it.

Here is a YouTube video of an early Thomas event at the museum. Be warned, however, that if you don't like bouncy, happy children's songs sung by children with English accents--and really, who doesn't?--it's best that you mute the audio.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

RTD Ponders Future of FasTracks

Denver's RTD is pondering unpleasant options as its initial $4.7 Billion estimate for completing FasTracks is falling short of actual costs by a considerable percentage. Now admitting to as much, RTD is now considering three main options or a combination of the same to bring costs under control. The age-old triple constraint is at work as illustrated in the civil engineers' mantra: "Quick, inexpensive, or to specifications; pick two."

If Denver wants their FasTracks program on time and (relatively) inexpensive, the third constraint, finishing the job to specifications, they must sacrifice their original objectives of a complete system. When an area that was supposed to get light rail or commuter service gets word that it won't, it's a safe guess that they will be less than pleased at the news. Access to dedicated, efficient mass transit plays a major role in property values. A sagging economy and rising gas prices will immediately impact those values if a proposed light rail line or a portion of it is abandoned or spun as "indefinitely postponed."

If they want it relatively on time and to specifications, the cost is going to go up by more than just a little. The same sagging economy makes this a very painful option that may be out of reach for RTD. Increasing taxes in a recession is similar to reversing the bilge pumps to pump in water on a ship that's already got a hole in its side. The local economy could grind even slower and the property values would eventually sink when people realize they can't make a living in Denver.

If Denver wants the program inexpensive and to specifications, the third constraint of time will overrun the estimates. This will give more time for the existing taxes to raise more money, provided inflation does not become an issue. By far, this is the most attractive option but it may be only partially effective. Waiting longer to complete some or all of the remaining lines will have the smallest impact on property values if the certainty of completing the lines is real. Time seems to be the one thing people have faith in, Eventually, Denver still would have a first-rate transportation system serving its population and adding incentive for further growth, just slower and more sustainable.

As any one of Denver's successful microbrewers could tell you, timely maturation is an art. You can rush things, but that can ruin it. Waiting too long can be equally costly, but this is one time that spacing things out until economics improve seems the best course.

Update 8/24/08: Latest estimate is $1.8 Billion shortfall.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cheyenne Frontier Days Special Train Tops Summer Weekend In Colorado

This is just a reminder to everyone about the activities tomorrow. Any time you're looking for updated information on Colorado railroads, be sure to drop by the Special Events Calendar.

First, we have the Cheyenne Frontier Days Special Train run by Union Pacific between Denver and Cheyenne. The train runs again tomorrow. While the tickets have been sold out, there's likely to be a spot or two open on the photo line. This will be the last scheduled run of UP steam on the Front Range this year, seeing that the 2008 State Fair Express is already canceled.

Second is the Colorado Railroad Museum's 4th annual Wine & Cheese Train. An historic narrow gauge passenger train powered by a steam or diesel locomotive will run at approximately 20-minute intervals between 10 am. and 4 p.m. on the museum grounds.

Third and last is the Colorado Wildflower Special on the Leadville, Colorado & Southern. The train is scheduled to leave the station at 10:00 a.m. The tickets run $40.00.

Have fun this weekend, and don't forget to check the weather!
Chris May's Photos of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Special

Thursday, July 17, 2008

UP Has Change Of Heart Toward Grand County Club

In follow up to last month's post Grand County Residents Scramble To Save Buildings From UP Wrecking Ball, it now appears that Union Pacific has decided to step in and help the club. According to Ski Hi News' Tonya Bina,

The railroad has offered to pay for the removal of the building, Bumgarner relayed to commissioners Monday, rather than have the small club bear the cost of demolition. It also has offered to reimburse the railroad club for improvements it made to the building since last summer when the club acquired it through a county treasurer’s sale for $100.

This is terrific news for the small club, which recently got word that it is likely going to receive a 99-year land lease from the county near Kaibab Park. The group is planning a two-story structure with park facilities and a museum on the ground floor and a large model railroad layout on the second floor. The club is applying for a $100,000 grant from--of all sources--the Union Pacific Railroad.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad Brewfest Draws 500

Alamosa's Valley Courier published an article covering the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad's Rails & Ales brewfest. At least 400 participants came from the Alamosa side and another 100 from La Veta station to soak in some sun, music and special brews from 16 microbreweries in the area.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday, July 4, 2008

Moffat Road Exhibit Opens In Steamboat Springs

The Tread of Pioneers Museum in Steamboat Springs has opened an exhibit called “Cows, Coal and Commerce: 100 Years of the Moffat Railroad in Steamboat Springs.” Read the article...

C&TS Soldiers On Through June Into July

Happy Fourth of July to everyone!

Tim Tennant of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad released this information to us earlier this week regarding ridership numbers for the season.

As of Thursday June 26 the Cumbres & Toltec has carried 8,032 passengers which represents a decline of 3.9% from the 2007 season. However, in the first 26 days of June 2008 the C&TS has hauled 6,467 passengers compared to 6,207 for the same number of days in June 2007 for a 4% increase. The heaviest day of the season so far for passenger count was Saturday June 21 when 462 passengers rode the railroad. Thanks to all who have ridden so far this year and we encourage those who have not to take a ride on the Cumbres & Toltec!

Gas currently hovers around $4.oo - 4.25 per gallon, and that certainly explains the lackluster figures. Yet, this is a relief to those concerned that too many would stay away and certain operations may not survive. At this point, at least for the C&TS, there are signs that this season will not be a disaster.

On a related note, Work Session C photos are also available showing the Friends of the C&TS and their progress.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hogger Heaven? Durango Train Owner Plans Conference Center

Is this heaven?

No, it's Durango, and Purgatory's a few miles down the road. All the same, Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad owner Al Harper and business partner Karen Langhart have plans to build a railroad-themed hotel and convention center, tentatively called Railroad Crossing, adjacent to the train yard. The hotel would have approximately 220 rooms and the 26,000 sq. ft. convention center would accommodate 400 - 600 people, making it the largest hotel and convention site in Durango. The catch is, can Durango foot the anticipated $500,000 annual shortfall the new facility would likely operate with?

Once built, the property would be anchored at College and Camino Del Rio, joining with the existing D&SNGRR property on its south side. This would surround the existing General Palmer Hotel in a U-shape, with the railroad on the east and Railroad Crossing on the south and west.

Lots of hotel chains have approached Harper about building a hotel on site. The problem was that if corporate vision changed, Harper would be stuck with running or selling the property. "My dream," he said, "was to find a partner who believes when you stay at this hotel you'll be immersed in the railroad culture of Durango. This will be a railroad experience like no other."

Railroad Crossing would also have a two-level, subterranean garage beneath the hotel, conserving parking spaces in a downtown area that already sees enough cars with the railroad passengers parking for the day-long trip. Also planned are first-floor retail shops and a railroad-themed central plaza with a stationary engine and rails embedded in asphalt for moving railcars in and out of the area.

If they build it, we will come. The question is, will they be willing to bet the farm? Harper and Langhart are serious. Will Durango go with them?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Man Killed On Road Grader Struck by Train

Only a few days after the Operation Lifesaver specials pulled through Colorado, a Weld County employee on a road grader was broadsided by a Union Pacific freight train in Ft. Lupton, Colo. While the wheels from the grader stayed at the impact scene, the cab was picked up and shoved by the train for 300 feet, at least by one account. Doug Wigham, 30, was thrown from the cab and died at the scene.

If the accident happened at the intersection of CR-6 and the railroad, that crossing is a dirt road (thus the grader) and was protected only by crossbucks.

Say a prayer for the crew and the family of the deceased.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Operation Lifesaver Special In Glenwood Springs

Operation Lifesaver ran a special on Saturday from Utah into Glenwood Springs over the former Rio Grande trackage. On point was Union Pacific #1989, the Rio Grande Heritage unit. Three short round trips were planned to take passengers from Glenwood to Dotsero through Glenwood Canyon. Those of you familiar with the history of the canyon will remember this monument to an idea. The canyon was the original location for the monument honoring the concept of creating dome cars for people to view the scenery they passed through.

Ben from Grand Junction managed to catch this shot of the special as it sat in Dotsero.

Update: Here's an article from the train's trip to Montrose. It made roundtrips to Paonia for employees of Montrose city government.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

RTD Light Rail Hailed On NBC

NBC Nightly News featured Denver's RTD Light Rail D-line on their Wednesday night (6/18) broadcast as part of a piece on fuel prices and improving quality of life for urban centers. If costs are managed better, Denver can be the example of what western cities can do with mass transit systems. The video from the broadcast is embedded below.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

RTD FasTracks Cost Increases Due To Surging Material Costs

The Denver Rocky Mountain News presents a more comprehensive look at why FasTracks is going over budget and why RTD may struggle a bit with the burden. The blame is being laid on rising materials costs:

Since FasTracks went up from its original price tag of $4.7 billion to $6.1 billion in May 2007, there has been another year of hefty inflation in the construction industry - fueled by hikes in steel, concrete and oil. The Colorado Construction Cost Index, a measure of costs for transportation projects maintained by the Colorado Department of Transportation, increased 6.1 percent last year.
Unfortunately, this means that Denver's fledgling light rail network is facing some peripheral cuts, but even that doesn't look like enough to keep the costs under control. Narrower bike trails and fewer cameras only buy you so much and then you're looking at cutting much more than the optional landscaping.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Amtrak Suspends California Zephyr Service East of Denver

The midwest floods through Iowa have prompted Amtrak to suspend several trains, including the Chicago-to-Denver portion of the California Zephyr. reports
Alternate transportation will be provided between Denver and points in Nebraska by chartered motorcoach. Ground transportation to or from Iowa is not being offered due to roadway flooding.
The California Zephyr traverses mainly BNSF trackage in the affected territory, holding to the original CB&Q route from Denver to Chicago. There is no prediction for when service through the midwest will resume. Service west of Denver to California remains as normal as it can be.

RGS Galloping Goose No. 4 Restoration Underway member JCater visited Ridgway recently and took some photos of Rio Grande Southern Galloping Goose #4, under restoration by the Ridgway Railroad Museum. It looks like the volunteers there have split the car body from the cab. Their plans are to survey the car and record its condition extensively before beginning any repairs.

JCater's gallery
Colorado Railroads blog post:
RGS Galloping Goose No. 4 To Be Restored In Ridgway

Saturday, June 14, 2008

DRHS #315 Continues in Chama

The Durango Railroad Historical Society's recently restored D&RGW steam engine, #315, will continue to work on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic railroad over the summer. Click here for the article from the Durango Herald.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Windsor Railroad Museum Reopens After Tornado

The Windsor twister that destroyed buildings and caused one death May 22, 2008, left its mark on the Colorado community, but there are signs that life is slowly returning to normal. One such sign is the Windsor museums re-opening at Boardwalk Park. Although there was damage to a beet shanty showing home life for immigrant sugar beet farmers, several other buildings--including the railroad depot and exhibits--went largely undamaged. The museums will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays this summer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Denver Post: Police Say Derailment No Accident

Apparently, the stump was removed, and 2 hours later it was back. From the article,

... a Westminster police officer had struggled to get it off the tracks after someone called and reported it about 8:30 p.m. Two hours later, the stump was back and a 37-car freight train hit it and derailed, causing major damage to the train and spilling thousands of dollars worth of cargo.

This highlights the necessity of police and other first responders working to communicate suspicious activity to railroad police and dispatchers. I do not work for BNSF, but if a slow order or a high-rail vehicle were dispatched for the next train on that line, the derailment might have been avoided.

Related post from 6/10/08

Volunteer At the Colorado Railroad Museum June 28th

For those in the Denver-Golden area on June 28th, the Colorado Railroad Museum will be hosting its first all-Museum work day. Volunteer coordinator Kelvin Harr says that there will be mini-restoration projects, landscaping projects, track projects, and office projects that volunteers start and finish that day. Have fun, get your museum fix, and end up with a real sense of accomplishment. Contact if you would like to help out!

On a side note, several mechanically inclined volunteers are needed at the Colorado Railroad Museum to put the No. 50 Switcher back together. They need a Project Leader and individuals to work on installing the transmission, clutch, air brake rigging and running gear. If this is your cup of tea, contact Kelvin Harr at the link above.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad Trip Report

Nathan Holmes of has posted a trip report on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad and caught some beautiful shots of their new #18! Go check it out!

BNSF Freight Local Derails In Westminster, Vandalism Suspected

According to Kevin Morgan of, the Longmont Turn, a BNSF local, rammed a tree stump placed on the tracks, presumably by vandals. The train was going near track speed of 40 MPH at 10:30 PM Monday evening and all four engines derailed as well as several freight cars in a massive dogpile. The lead unit, BNSF 8105, an SD-60M managed to remain upright.

The derailment happened at 95th Avenue and Wadsworth Parkway in Denver's northwest suburb of Westminster. Other Denver media, including and the Denver Post (all news outlets), have picked up the story. Three crew members were aboard the local and one was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Police still don't know who may have placed the stump or trunk on the tracks, only that it could have been much more serious had the train been carrying something other than building supplies.

Kevin has more pictures from this afternoon. Crews are still working to remove the debris to re-open the line. There is no current estimate on when the line will reopen.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Grand County Residents Scramble To Save Buildings From UP Wrecking Ball

The news from Granby is not good. After purchasing a pair of railroad structures to model the historic Denver & Rio Grande Western's Moffat Route from Denver to Craig, the Grand County Railroad Club is being forced to abandon their building by the railroad's current owner, Union Pacific. They must remove the building from UP property or it will be demolished by the Union Pacific. Being more expensive to move it than to start over, the GCRC may simply salvage what they can and start over in their search for a home.

Similarly, the Grand County Historical Society is seeking to save the Granby Depot from the same wrecking ball. Ideally, the depot would be removed to a donated tract of land. If not, the society could possibly place it on existing land but it would be "jam-packed."

Entreaties by the Middle Park railroad afficianados to the railroad's central offices in Omaha have thusfar gone unheeded and unheard. The demolition move by the UP is part of their effort to make the railroad property from Denver to Glenwood Springs more presentable.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Meet Phil Johnson, CMO of the CRRM

Here's a good little article on Phil Johnson and his work as the CMO (Chief Mechanical Officer) at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden.

On a side note, I'm glad to see the Denver Leadville & Gunnison engine 191 is finally getting some attention. For years, she's stood as a shadow of what she once was. Will she steam again? I don't know, but with all the steam power coming on line in the last few years and the current projects in the works, anything is indeed possible.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

RGS Galloping Goose No. 4 To Be Restored in Ridgway

The Telluride Watch is reporting that Galloping Goose #4, the only goose that has not undergone a major restoration since the demise of the Rio Grande Southern, has been placed at the Ridgway Railroad Museum for just that purpose. Goose 4 is going to be restored to a complete but non-operating condition for it's owner, the Telluride Volunteer Fire Department. Many hands have had a part in getting Goose 4 this far, but Mary Ann Gaston of Telluride figures prominently in the article.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad's High Altitude Concert Series Returns

Do railroads and music go together? Any blues fan, any country artist would tell you, absolutely they go together! So maybe it's just a natural fit that a railroad already gathering a reputation for delighting the eyes continues its attempts to engage our ears with songsmiths and poets.

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, Colorado's newest scenic railroad, begins its High Altitude Concert Series on July 17. In its second year, the train’s mountain concerts feature the return of cowboy poet and Western Music Hall of Fame inductee, Michael Martin Murphey, along with country and bluegrass singer Ricky Skaggs, among other national recording artists. The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad has the only ticket to this exclusive Colorado concert setting among a natural meadow amphitheater of aspens and pines under clear starry skies. Performances take place on Fridays and Saturdays through August. If this sounds too good to pass up, here's your link to more information on the High Altitude Concert Series.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ridgway Railroad Museum Receives Records of RGS

Earlier this month, the Ridgway Railroad Museum in Ridgway, Colorado inherited a boon this month with 50 boxes of Rio Grande Southern corporate records. These records cover everything from the founding in 1890 by Otto Mears to the wholesale abandonment of the line in the mid-1950s. According to Ouray News, Jim Pettengill of the museum was quoted,

"This generous donation probably makes us the second-largest repository of RGS archival documents. This is an incredible treasure trove of information that will take us years to thoroughly examine."

This is a tremendous opportunity for volunteers to add to the extensive knowledge of the RGS and they now have it in a location convenient to the actual physical remains of the railroad. The Colorado Railroad Museum's generous contribution means very much to the fans and historians of the RGS. As new displays and archives are opened to the public, southwestern Colorado will continue to grow richer in history and culture.

If it weren't for the dedicated work like the volunteers of Ridgway, the memory of the RGS and the people who ran her to serve the area in early times would gradually fade until she was only an apparition reported in fables by tour guides.

This summer, you can catch a little of that living history in Ridgway on June 7th or on the C&TS or the D&SNGRR. Since practically none of the original railroad grade has running rails, the volunteers of Goose 5 have taken to running on these "sister lines." Seeing her run, it's not too hard to imagine her 60 years ago running on spindly trestles between Ophir, Vance Jct., or Dolores. Take a gander--I couldn't resist that one--at her first appearance on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic and another appearance on the Durango & Silverton's high line.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Park Railroads

As a kid, I remember a train that would circle the old Elitch Gardens at 38th & Tennyson in Denver. The year before they closed the ride permanently, I rode it with my parents because I was only 5. For years afterward, I had hoped they would re-open it, but they never did.

The magic of the Elitch railroad lives on in places like Tiny Town, Lakeside and a little park in Loveland, Colorado where the Buckhorn Northern Railroad continues to delight riders to the tune of 75 cents per round trip.

If anyone else would like to post their memories of "less than 2' gauge" or links to their favorite park railroad, they're welcome to contribute!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Durango Cancels Fourth Train to Silverton

Citing soft demand, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has cut their fourth train from the summer schedule. This train was to leave Durango at 7:30 a.m. daily starting June 17th and ending August 8th. Andrea Seid, spokeswoman for the railroad, told the Durango Herald, "There were not a huge amount of reservations for that particular train."

The speculation is the high gas prices are the main reason southwestern Colorado is seeing soft summer demand. How badly other summer railroads will feel the gas pinch remains to be seen as most open this weekend. Yet, one thing is for certain: if the Durango & Silverton feels it already, we won't have to wait long to find out.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tornado Tips Tankers - Windsor Takes It On the Chin

The tornado in Windsor was estimated as an F3, a major tornado. It cut a swath through the southeast section of town. While it's not clear whose railcars these are, it's obvious that the twister packed quite a punch. Our prayers are with the families involved in this storm.

Update: Great Western (OmniTrax) owns the rails, but it might not be their cars.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

FRA Takes An Interest In Georgetown Loop Operations

While lawmakers continue debate and gas prices reach new record highs four times in as many weeks, the Georgetown Loop Railroad finds itself in a unique situation. The Federal Railroad Administration is taking the uncommon step of overseeing the tourist railroad.

Normally, the FRA doesn't usually involve itself in the tourist railroad business beyond the usual Federal boiler regulations because most tourist railroads are "insular." However, Warren Flatau with the FRA says that they are not insular as tourist railroads go because of the occasional freight movements and other operational aspects of the line. Because of one or two incidents last year that would be reportable under FRA guidelines, the FRA has decided to more closely monitor the railroad's activities. Though the Colorado & Southern engines 12 and 9 add a great deal of curb appeal, the FRA needs to not only inspect the locomotives for public safety, but to oversee other operational aspects such as brake mechanisms.

This new attention by the FRA may indicate a renewed interest in tourist railroads by the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee, an industry expert panel for the FRA. According to Flatau, the committee is going to look at extending Federal regulations to the tourist railroads where the FRA deems it necessary for public safety. On the other hand, the open feuding between the former operator of the loop and the Colorado Historical Society has certainly played a role in getting the FRA to inspect the railroad. How it will impact Railstar's operations is still unclear, but it's obvious Railstar did not send invitations to the FRA. Number 12 is still to be inspected and hopefully it will be ready for the opening day festivities on May 24th, Memorial Day weekend.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Times And Seasons In The I-70 Corridor

It seems like another era when I was a kid in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. My dad would take me hiking, camping and jeeping. What I enjoyed most was fishing. There were days when we took our eight-per-person limit of fish from places like Lake Ivanhoe, Allen's Basin and Yamcola Reservoir. We learned that there were times and seasons when the fish were biting. Some times we happened to hit it just right and we couldn't keep our lines in the water for all the fish we were catching. More often, however, we had between few and none to show for our travels.

Right now, articles like this are common because the time and season is right to fund and build a rail-based solution for the I-70 corridor. This is the time that the Interstate 70 driver has nearly every reason to ditch his car and board a train bound for the Colorado high country. Crowding on the highway is at an all time high and likely will continue to climb for at least the next 20 years. Gasoline prices are prohibitively expensive, causing families to cancel or scale back their plans. These same prices are fueling an employment boom on the western slope, which sits on a vast reserve of oil and gas. I-70 figures to be the one highway everyone is talking about and trading in rubber on asphalt for steel on steel sounds more and more reasonable with every penny-per-gallon and every car-per-day.

Though it pains me as a consumer to say this, the worst thing that could happen as far as I-70 rail proponents are concerned is for gas prices to drop or remain at it's present level. Consumer demand would adjust and prices would normalize, and the numbers of voters and drivers willing to support a rail-based option would not expand but contract. Talks of a solution would shift to paving or other low-cost quick fixes.

Strategically speaking, the push for rail needs to grow and change from promoting a "gee, isn't this a good idea" aspect to advocate a lasting, growth-minded improvement that will offer Colorado a 50-80 year solution instead of a 10-20 year fix. Opponents of rail really don't have anything to compete with that, and their only gripe will be the price involved in any lasting change. Colorado has put off this solution for too long and we are reaping the results of such deference today. Our choice is, do we perpetuate the cycle and produce the same-old tired approach of more lanes in finite space or do we end it by instituting an improvement that will last longer and go further to build our economy?

I don't get up to the mountains as much as I used to. That's a refrain we'll hear more and more as the Rockies become our biggest liability, rather than our biggest asset if we continue to pave our way with good intentions. Rail offers true options, and the season has never been better to start building.

Colorado's Newest Steam Locomotive In Action!

As a follow up to my Thursday post, Stirrings of Summer This Weekend, I have one cool link to pass on to you. Nathan Zachman was one of the lucky ones to catch San Luis & Rio Grande #18 out this first weekend in May. Please take a look. Yes, that is a standard gauge engine on welded rail. Yes, that is a flying Rio Grande logo on the side of the tender. Yes, standard gauge steam is alive and well in Colorado!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Colorado's Railroads Driving Fuel Efficiency, Clean Energy

The Denver Post picked up an article titled Rolling With the Wind by Steve Raabe on the ways railroads in Colorado are not only fuel efficient movers of freight. They are also building the clean energy industry by serving a windmill manufacturer in Windsor, Colorado by way of the Great Western Railway. It's a good read, especially for those who want to understand why rail is so vitally important to Colorado's economy, especially in light of the energy boom.

A Hogger Shares His View Of The Moffat Route

When Cyrus Osborne of EMD sat up in a locomotive cab in 1944, he mentioned to the engineer that a lot of people would pay good money to have a seat up front, taking in the grandeur as they rolled through Glenwood Canyon, east of Glenwood Springs. Later that day, Osborne would design the first draft of what would become the Vista Dome car.

The views of western Colorado continue to inspire, as you can see from the photos from an engineer on the Moffat Route available here. These are rare photos that are worth a look!

Amtrak's California Zephyr Detoured, Then Stopped

There's going to be at least three posts today, including this one. Rather than put it all under one mega-post and make you read through all of it. I decided to split them up.

Kevin Morgan, who runs, was out photographing some rare power and unique sidings when he heard Amtrak's California Zephyr on his scanner. This particular train was detoured off the normal Burlington Route rails because a barge rammed a bridge in Iowa. Kevin caught up with the CZ at Leyden, already nine hours late.

It seems this train made it as far as Reno, Nevada, before it was turned around and sent back to Chicago because it was over 12 hours late due to the detour and traffic delays. Whether it's in or out of service on it's return is not known. Because the train was not provisioned at Emeryville, California, stocks on board the dining car will likely be near empty for the return trip. If it is running as number 6, I imagine it's probably going to be making a Harvey House stop (or three) on the way back.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Stirrings Of Summer This Weekend

Despite the previously mentioned canceled work session, this first weekend in May is shaping up to be a busy one for railroads in Colorado. Tomorrow (Friday), Durango will be having their Annual Narrow Gauge Day with BBQ and western music by the Bar D Wranglers out in front of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad depot. This ceremonially kicks off the summer runs to Silverton, which will increase to four trains a day from June to August to accommodate the demand for the black engine and yellow cars so symbolic of southwestern Colorado and of narrow gauge railroading.

On the Front Range, the Colorado Railroad Museum will open it's doors wide to the public on Saturday, offering a free admission day. For families strapped for cash, this is a nice break on the price, although the museum can always use more support. Trains will not be running Saturday. A list of their scheduled steam ups are available at the museum site and are listed on the Colorado Railroads Calendar.

Finally and most importantly, this is the weekend of the La Veta Pass Explorer expedition from Trains Unlimited. According to their site, steam engine #18 is going to make its first revenue run over La Veta Pass with this excursion. Obviously, this trip is sold out, but there is no limit on photographers on the photo line. Good luck and good hunting, gentlemen!

C&TS Cancels One Work Session, Still Offers Charters For 315

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is reporting that the special work session S1 is canceled. The work session was scheduled for the week of May 5-9, 2008.

Additionally, the C&TS reports that the Friends' Locomotive 315 Charter on Saturday June 21, 2008 is sold out. However, the Cumbres & Toltec is still offering a number of 315 charters during its three-week visit to the C&TS. Please call the railroad's toll free number 1-888-CUMBRES for information and reservations.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Local Steam Favored As Gas Prices Climb

The Pueblo Chieftain recently ran this travel feature on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. With gas prices at all time highs, many vacations are going to be scaled back or canceled altogether this summer. Many Coloradoans will be looking for something close to home for a vacation spot. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic combined with the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad as well as the Great Sand Dunes makes Alamosa an attractive offer, especially being less than 4 hours away from Denver and the northern Front Range.

What makes Alamosa even more attractive is the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad's newest addition to its line up, former LS&I steam engine #18. Because of their second steam engine, RGSR is able to advertise a daily steam train over La Veta Pass rather than just weekend steam service with a weekday diesel stand-in. The Rio Grande Scenic seems to be a railroad committed to making Colorado the steam capital of the western United States. It is a welcome thought to many railfans and photographers. The San Luis Valley trains are hidden gems that are finally getting the attention they deserve.

Visit the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad site (sound is enabled) or the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad site for more information.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Royal Gorge Route Offers Rafting Package

Echo Canyon River Expeditions has combined with the Royal Gorge Route Railroad to create a Raft & Rail package. See below for their promotional video, including shots from the train, inside the domes and a shot of the cab.

Looks like a fun time! Just be careful. The Arkansas River is likely to be more of a challenge this year because of the high snowpack.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Video: Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Digging Out Slowly

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is turning to some unique snow clearing equipment to dig out from this winter's record snowfall. With up to 15 feet and no rotary snowplows in useable condition, the C&TS has contracted out with one of its part time locomotive engineers to clear the snow by opening day. See the video below to watch the converted runway plow in action.

With the snow settled in, rather than being cleared routinely as it was in days gone by, the snow has the consistency of wet concrete or worse. Good luck, guys! Here's hoping opening day will be a full run of the line.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Note To My Regulars

To my regular readers, thanks for continuing to read Colorado Railroads. I'm starting to really enjoy this work.

As a reminder, I am continuing to update the special events calendar on Google calendars. The original post continues to show the upcoming events automatically, so you might want to bookmark it and check back there often. In terms of events, I added the swap meet at Arapahoe County Fairgrounds next weekend and a "Big Boy" day at the Forney Transportation Mueuem, along with several other "just announced" events. If you have an event, or you see one that is missing, please drop me a line at about it. I'll be glad to put it up if it meets the guidelines.

I have also added more links, such as an expanded model railroading listing. Check out the new sites and maybe even visit one.

Finally, check out the store I've set up with Amazon. I continue to hand-pick all the items that relate to Colorado railroading, not just railroading in general. I am accepting reviews of products as well.



Spot the RGS #20 Boiler

Modern Marvels profiled the Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania recently. The guess is that the boiler they're poking around just happens to be the Colorado Railroad Museum's Rio Grande Southern #20. The historic steam engine was sent there for restoration last year after two generous donations, the locomotive by the RMRC and over half a million dollars by an anonymous donor for her restoration. Such generosity in the face of a waning economy never looked so good!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rail Symposium Kicks Off Museum Exhibit

The Denver Post came out today with a very good article that takes a current look at how fuel prices are changing the way Americans are thinking about transportation. Could it really come to Americans opting for rail service instead of a car or a four hour flight? It's possible. Money is getting tight and people don't like spending hundreds of dollars to feel like a criminal and then a sardine for hours and little better trying to navigate their cars to the tune of $3.50 per gallon. As a result, it could be that airlines take a back seat to a spacious seating and efficient economy afforded by rail. Could America be ready again for the passenger train?

The article also mentioned a symposium put on by the Colorado Railroad Museum on April 26th, featuring experts on passenger rail travel. Scheduled to appear are:
  • Jim Bain: Rio Grande Ski Train: A Denver Tradition for Generations
  • Steve Patterson and Joe McMillam: Santa Fe Chiefs
  • Bill Kratville: Union Pacific Passenger Trains
  • Peter Hansen: The Railroad Station: Gateway to the Passenger Experience
  • Tom Janake: Colorado Railrcar/GrandLuxe Rail Journeys
  • Bob Briggs: Rocky Mountain Rail Authority
  • Cliff Black: Amtrak - Past, Current & Future

Scheduled also for the symposium is the PBS premier of America and the Passenger Train. This offers a unique opportunity for those interested in passenger rail as well as the general railfan to make sense of America's past and future with railroading.

The following day, the Colorado Railroad Museum will hold a reception on their grounds for the attendees of the symposium. The reception will celebrate the opening of their newest exhibit, America and the Passenger Train.

Here are the details fresh from the Colorado Railroad Museum. Cost for the two-day event is $25.00 and includes Saturday's presentations at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, a box lunch, and a preview/reception of the museum's new exhibit. Admission to the Colorado Railroad Museum for events on Sunday, April 27th, is also included for symposium attendees. The symposium begins at 8:30 AM on Saturday, April 26. The American Mountaineering Center is located in Golden at 10th Ave and Washington Street. For further details and to make reservations for the symposium, call the museum at (303) 279-4591. Reservations must be made by April 24th.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Larkspur Residents Now Support Grade Separation

A long-standing, summer tradition along the Front Range is the Rennaisance Festival in Larkspur. Almost as long-standing is the tendency for traffic jams to lock up the town's main intersection on festival weekends, especially when a string of freights tie up the grade crossing just west of the intersection on Perry Park Ave, the only direct road to the festival from I-25.

If, and this is a big if, Larkspur succeeds in building the underpass, the Rennaisance Festival will likely double in size and surrounding businesses should plan their expansions now. The main reason, however, is still the best reason: A grade separation will allow fire and ambulance services to reach victims much faster, anytime. Separation of the grades will improve response times, improving the chances of survival for those living west of the crossing.

The likelihood of the separating the grade will improve as state and county leaders climb onboard. Union Pacific and BNSF will likely get on board about the same time. The festival organizers have been pushing for it for years, last year suing BNSF over a train that blocked the crossing for nearly an hour and turned away many would-be attendees. The organizers later dropped the suit, but still contended that something needed to be done. Something like a grade separation.

UP Centennial To Pass Through Denver Today

According to Kevin Morgan, Union Pacific's last active DD40AX engine #6936 is passing through Denver today, in the early afternoon. It is en route from Grand Junction, CO to Sharon Springs, KS with a passenger special that is touring the UP system. This cannot be confirmed by's Locotrace, however. Kevin places it in Denver any time between 12:45 p.m. and 1:45 p.m., with the caveat that such time is "subject to a lot of change."

Good hunting, Kevin!

Friday, April 11, 2008

C-DOT Plans Second Study Of Eastern Rail Corridor

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is planning a study called Rail Relocation for Colorado’s Communities or R2C2. This idea has been rolling around for at least a dozen years in its current form. Essentially, CDOT believes there is an untapped commuter rail market along Colorado's Front Range or what is also called the Colorado Piedmont between Ft. Collins and Pueblo. They would know because they count the axles on their own freeways. In order to have commuter rail, however, the steadily increasing flow of coal and other rail freight needs to be relocated. That's where R2C2 comes in.

The study will be to determine the alignment the rails would travel, how to best complete the bureaucratic red tape that would surround such a project, and how to put together a public-private partnership. That last goal confirms my observation about project management that every project needs one or two "gimme" objectives to be able to claim success. It appears that this project is coming closer to a definite reality.

Here's hoping that 2018 will see a passenger embark in New York and never stop riding the rails until they get to Chama, New Mexico. After that much traveling, though, all I'd be looking for would be a bed!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Dick Kindig Passes

According to Donald Tallman, Director of the Colorado Railroad Museum,

Dick Kindig passed away at 1:30PM. His health had slipped significantly in the past week. There are no current funeral or memorial plans

Kindig's work to preserve the memories and physical equipment of the Rio Grande Southern and the Denver & Rio Grande Western as well as other Colorado narrow gauge lines will live on in numerous collections, museums and libraries. His recent honors at the Colorado Railroad Museum were the caboose on a long and successful career.

The New Railfans

This is a bit off-topic since the article isn't based in Colorado, but since it's of interest to most railfans about the growth of their hobby, it's worth posting a link to the article.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Lost & Found in Cheyenne: UPD&G Passenger Car

A vintage railcar from railroading's early days in the west discovered in 1991 is finally getting the attention she deserves. The railcar ran on the Union Pacific Denver & Gulf and then on Colorado & Southern between Cheyenne and Denver before its conversion to a train crew cabin. It survived as a house for decades afterward. Now, its hopes are considerably brighter. Read more from the Wyoming Tribune.

Monday, March 31, 2008

RGS 20 Restoration Coming Along

As readers can see on this thread, the restoration of Rio Grande Southern engine 20, donated to the Colorado Railroad Museum last year by the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club, continues at Strasburg. In February, steam mechanics fashioned the door sheet (photos), the part of the boiler that forms the back end in the cab. The door hatch has been cut and the door cover itself will be put on later.
Seeing an old, storied steamer come back to life will indeed be magic! I imagine that the museum will likely put her in service next to D&RGW #346, which will be something special, but I also hope the museum will seek and find opportunities for RGS #20 to make her way beyond their loop to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad or the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic. It's quite possible that D&RGW #315, RGS #20 and mudhen D&RGW #463 could all be steaming soon on the same rails at the same time. Richardson, Perry and the other early preservationists would be proud, if not a little envious of the railfans to live in these coming days. Without their efforts, we would certainly lack many of the steamers and much of the rails to run them on. The years of 2008 and 2009 look very promising indeed.

Raining Rocks

Ah, springtime in the Rockies! Bring your rebar umbrella and your hardhat; it's rocking outside.

Notices of delay like this one is going to be a repeating theme over the next couple of months as crews struggle to clear errant rock slides from the right of way. The melting snows release their water and it flows down between the cracks in the rocks. When the water re-freezes into ice, the odd expansive property of freezing water works to push on both sides of the fracture, sometimes popping off the side of the mountain and falling on whatever (or whoever) is below.

It's the main way that the mountains lose those stubborn winter pounds in time for summer. The rest is just water weight from the snowpack. It's above average this season, which means an opportunity for some good water shots, especially on the western slope--if you can afford a fill-up. Use a telephoto to pull in those rapids next to the rails. Be safe and have fun!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

LC&S Owners Block EPA Pump Plan

The EPA's work to alleviate water pressure in the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel has just hit a potential snag. Leadville, Colorado & Southern co-owner Ken Olsen, also the Lake County Commissioner who originally warned of the potential disaster, is now demanding that the EPA compensate him for an easement of land needed to complete the relief project.
"They are just absurd in what they are wanting to do," said Stephanie Olsen who
co-owns the tourist train, Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad, with her
husband. "This is taking property without just compensation." Click here for more from
It's the opinion of this blog that unless the Olsen's want to become very unpopular for putting their interest above the community's, they should just let the EPA dig. It's one thing to make a point about landowner's rights, quite another to put the community at risk because you want a few bucks. The point has been made and they should let it go ahead. Or were Leadville's citizens not in that great a danger to begin with?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Opening Days For Colorado Railroads This Summer

Here's an alphabetical listing of Colorado's scenic and tourist railroads and the scheduled date of beginning summer operation schedules.

Please contact the railroads via their web sites for more information or to book tickets. The announced dates have already been added to the Colorado Railroads Calendar.