Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ski Train Dates Canceled With Judge's Decision

The Grinch showed up right on time. Now, the Ski Train's 70th season is very much in doubt. Trains will not run until at least January 6th, and even that is highly unlikely.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Train Strikes Private Bus In Colorado Springs

According to KKTV 11 News, a private tour bus belonging to the Canadian rap group Swollen Members was smashed by an oncoming freight train last night as it was stuck on the tracks.

McFadyen Suggests Tennessee Pass Be Re-opened

It's hard for anyone to take a name like Buffie McFadyen seriously, but since she's a State Representative, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter had to take her seriously when she asked him to pressure Union Pacific to reopen the Tennessee Pass line.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Derailment Photos

As reported last week, there was a bit of spectacular derailment on the Moffat line right over Colorado Highway 72, dropping a hopper onto the roadway below and spilling several cars down the embankment toward the CDOT depot.

Silverton Mixed & Marshall Pass On YouTube

As the digital age progresses, we'll see more and more digital media used to bring us glimpses of Colorado's railroading past. Of particular interest to a lot of railfans are the operations along the narrow gauge circle.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Derailment At Coal Creek Canyon Closes Highway 72

Derailments are as old as railroading and minor incidents seldom are newsworthy. There is the exception, and this certainly qualifies. An empty freight train derailed 8 cars while crossing the overpass of Colorado Highway 72 at the entrance to Coal Creek Canyon in Jefferson County, dropping a hopper car onto the highway below. No injuries on the train or highway were reported.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Kevin Morgan Returns

After a long absence, Kevin Morgan and his Colorado Railfan site have returned with new content! His coverage of the UP 1989 Rio Grande Heritage Unit heading up the snow bus west of Denver is the first of 9 planned photo essays soon to appear on his site.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Streetcar In The Basement

History sometimes shows up in the oddest places. A couple who bought a new home built on an old foundation recently discovered that they had a streetcar in their basement.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

C-470 Flyover For Southwest Light Rail Extension

It's always been on RTD's to-do list to extend the Southwest light rail extension, currently running from Broadway and Mississippi to Santa Fe and Mineral. Exactly how far and where has been a question ever since they built the original extension in 1999. Now we know.

The main expense will be a flyover taking the light rail line over all 4-6 lanes of C-470 onto the south side of the highway. This would be a separate flyover from the CDOT-planned flyover running the same way from southbound Santa Fe to eastbound C-470, eliminating a nasty left-hand turn that has run at capacity or over capacity ever since the interchange was constructed. The CDOT flyover would go over the highway, over/under the BNSF/UP Joint Line bridges and under the RTD flyover.

All this lacing with concrete will work to eat up the funds of FasTracks, which already is in trouble because of the lost revenues because of the financial depression. Nevermind that one of the two planned stations isn't accounted for in the FasTracks plan. This is not good.

Despite the cost, RTD and Denver need this extension. It will relieve the pressure at the Mineral station, which is currently the southern terminus. Additionally, it will establish a direct link with C-470 at one/two interchanges, which will lure commuters coming in from Ken Caryl, Kipling, and Wadsworth from the west. Finally, it links the Highlands Ranch neighborhood directly to the Light Rail system, which should be a deep mine for RTD to draw from for decades to come. Sometimes a tree only needs to cross a few inches of clay to reach the aquifer for explosive growth. If RTD can cross the belt highway, they may do the same thing.

More on Kevin Flynn's Inside Lane

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Boulder Dinner Train

Could Boulder support a dinner train?

That's the question I find myself asking as I contemplate this announcement by RTD covered in the Denver Post. RTD is hoping to lease the remaining trackage and right-of-way left over from the purchase of a former UP line for FasTracks. The agency volunteering to take up this lease is the Boulder County Railway Historical Society, which of late, lost it's web site, They do have rolling stock, mostly freight and in various states of repair. Would such an agency be able to handle the demand? Would instead the folks at the Royal Gorge or the Rio Grande & San Luis be more qualified and better equipped? A lot of gears are turning. Let's hope something good and railworthy results!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Great Train Expo In Denver

Ever the masters of advance publicity, the Great Train Expo announced this week that they're in Denver this very same weekend.

So, tomorrow and Sunday, November 7 - 8, 2009, visit the Great Train Expo at the National Western Complex. Admission is $7 for adults and kids over 12. Kids under 12 are free. Admission covers both days. The show's hours are 10 AM - 4 PM both days.

Other upcoming shows:
  • Great Train Expo in Colorado Springs at the Phil Long Expo Center on January 16-17, 2010
  • World's Greatest Hobby Tour in Denver at the National Western Complex, February 20-21, 2010

View Larger Map

Buffett Buys BNSF

Financial emperor Warren Buffett has been buying up BNSF shares for years, but even in the first 48 hours since the announcement, this much is known about Berkshire Hathaway's $34 Billion purchase: Buffett is betting the farm on American rail.

Buffett believes that American coal will continue to produce in the long term, carried by Rio Grande-like unit trains from western sources such as the Wyoming and Colorado coal fields. He also believes that the American economy will rebound, once again driving demand for cheap and easy imports from China and the Pacific Rim to Wal-Mart and Sears aboard BNSF container trains from Washington and California ports.

Little if any impact is expected at the operations level. In a letter to BNSFs customers, John Lanigan stated,
You will not see any changes in the weeks and months ahead. Our leadership will remain in place and focused on providing value to our customers.
BNSFs Ft. Worth, Texas-based operations will remain in Ft. Worth. Largely, this looks like a move that's behind the scenes. The funny thing about those behind-the-scenes moves, however, is that they have an uncanny way of driving long-term strategies. Is this the anticipated move that sets the "fabled" next round of mergers in action that pairs BNSF and UP with their East Coast counterparts CSX and NS? What would this mean for the plans of high speed rail? If mergers happen, they will happen in the next 12 months. That's just a hunch based off the last round in 1995-96 where Conrail was divided up between CSX and NS and BN and Santa Fe merged, forcing UP to buy Southern Pacific from Colorado's Phil Anschutz.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Off-Road And On Track At the Alpine Tunnel

An off-road vehicle is often your best choice for exploring the sites of Colorado's extensive railroad history. It therefore follows that some members of the off-road vehicle groups would find some crossover interest. The folks at UTV Weekly put together a nice piece on Hancock Pass and the Alpine Tunnel, complete with photos.

The Alpine Tunnel was an endeavor by the Denver, South Park & Pacific (wikipedia), a narrow gauge railroad founded in 1872 with a small but hardy following among narrow-gauge railfans. In 1889, the DSP&P became the Denver, Leadville, & Gunnison (UP-controlled) and then in 1898, part of the Colorado & Southern system. The Alpine Tunnel was in use from 1881 to 1910, connecting Leadville and the Arkansas River Valley with Gunnison and the western slope.

Having visited the site a few years ago, I can tell you that the progress at the Alpine Tunnel historic district is noticeable, but slow. Hard, grueling work is complicated by the short summer--if you can call it that--along with the high altitude and lack of funding, things that conspired to prevent the original route from completion and continued operation. If you look at the photos, you'll see that even the memorials are not immune to the harsh conditions. Yet it is all worth a visit, if only to see the beauty of the state and embrace the history of men who bravely fought and died facing the worst conditions Colorado's Rocky Mountains could throw at them.

Further & Related

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Derailment in Glenwood Canyon Closes Line For More Than a Day

A thirty-car derailment in Glenwood Canyon forced the UP to close its D&RGW mainline through Colorado for more than a day while crews repaired damaged track and righted cars, from Wednesday night to Friday morning. More than 1,200 feet of track needed replacing after a handbrake was left engaged on one of the cars. The car jumped and derailed, remaining upright, which could not be said for all of the cars behind it in the 103 car, 5 locomotive train. The Grand Junction Sentinel has the story.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Runaway Rail Car Rolls Through Arvada

What happens when you mix morning rush hour, a carload of plastic pellets, no brakes, and Arvada's finest? One wild ride!

Apparently the fun started just before 8:04 a.m. Thursday morning when calls came in to the Arvada police about a runaway freight car. According to the Denver Post, the car reached 40 miles per hour as it rolled out of control on the BNSF railroad tracks west of Denver. With that speed and with the car being so short, the gates at the grade crossings never descended or signaled approaching traffic. The car could have easily struck a car or pedestrian, or several, if any had been in the crossing at the time the car quietly rolled through.

As it was, Arvada police tried to get to the crossings in time to protect the intersections. Whether it was the police or the work of an angel or two, thankfully no one was injured and no railroad traffic was threatened. A BNSF  switching crew was in the area at the time and BNSF's team is investigating the incident.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pile Driver OB Demonstration At CRRM

According to C&TS, we will have the opportunity to see Pile Driver OB in action the next two weekends at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden. On Saturday October 10 & 11 and again October 17 & 18, there will be demonstrations on the museum grounds. The Colorado Railroad Museum opens at 9:00am and the demonstrations will be held at 10:00am, 12:30pm and 3:00pm all four days.

Friday, October 2, 2009

General Palmer To Visit Canon City Tomorrow

A one-man play, General Palmer, focuses on the life of the founder of Colorado Springs and the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. Raymond Purl, father of Linda Purl and World War II veteran, will be performing in Canon City tomorrow. Admission is free.

Take the Royal Gorge Route railroad and make a day of it!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bring Back the Mizpah Welcome Arch

Tom Noel, noted Colorado historian, wrote an Op-ed piece in today's Denver Post about the work to bring back the Welcome arch that stood at 17th and Wynkoop in front of Denver Union Station from 1906 to 1931. The hope is that this will be the first step toward restoring the interior of the station, something the current owner, RTD, has been neglecting. Interested parties can participate here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Ski Train Is Coming!

With enough effort and time, the improbable becomes the probable.

Union Pacific Railroad has agreed to allow a new Ski Train, between Denver Union Station and Winter Park, run by Amtrak and likely using Rio Grande Scenic Railroad equipment owned by the San Luis and Rio Grande, part of Iowa Pacific. Although the agreement between Amtrak and Iowa Pacific has yet to be completed, it appears that the biggest hurdle, an agreement with UP, has been cleared. Denver Union Station Planning Authority plans to accommodate Amtrak traffic at a temporary terminal north of the current station. The Denver Post reports the details.

Friday, September 11, 2009

WH Jackson Photography Exhibit At Western Mining Museum

William Henry Jackson was an early photographer who captured much of Colorado's scenic beauty during the early years of the state. His photograph of Mount of the Holy Cross was widely reproduced and hailed by many as a miraculous sign of Christianity. Much of his photography was taken of and near railroads. He was hired by General Palmer's baby railroad to take many of the pictures that remain hallmarks, showing the infancy and growth of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.
The Western Museum of Mining and Industry, also known as the Western Mining Museum, is hosting an exhibit of WH Jackson's work for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad starting two weeks from now, September 25th, and running until the end of the year. The museum is just north of Colorado Springs off I-25, open Monday - Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit the museum website. The rest of the museum is worth a look for all those interested in history and mechanical engineering, as well as the obvious mining and geology.

Ouray County Railroad Days

Ouray County over in the western San Juan Mountains is hosting Railroad Days this weekend. Indulge your inner rail geek and head on over.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

When the Railroad Moved By ...Station Wagon?

Rare enough are photographs of the days of steam in Colorado. Rarer still are photos of odd equipment like pile drivers and the barrel transfer in Salida. Rarest of all are photos like this. Denver & Rio Grande Western auto 333 sitting at the top of Loveland Pass on US 6 in 1958! Company cars were a rare thing when the company moved on rails. Click here to visit the gallery.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ski Train Reserving A Platform At Union Station

The news continues to be hopeful for the revival of the Ski Train with a letter to Union Station, but the true test will be Union Pacific.

The Union Pacific loves coal. It loves the little black diamonds that come out of the mines of Wyoming's Powder River Basin as much as those that come out of northwestern Colorado, mostly because the grade of coal is so good. Coal means cheap electrical power, but it also means heavy revenue that UP uses to keep its bottom line. Getting them to let a passenger train in the mix will interfere with that. Or will it?

The success or failure of a revived Ski Train will also affect the east-west high-speed corridor proposal. Ed Ellis, head of the San Luis & Rio Grande shortline is doing Colorado a huge favor by going out on a limb with this business venture. Supporting him, the SL&RG and the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad is something most of us can do in some manner.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

B Is For Billion

Now that it's hit the AP wires...

Colorado's future, if a future can be bought, will cost $21 Billion. That is the combined price of linking Denver with Vail and Ft. Collins with Pueblo by high-speed rail, according to the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority. Anyone with experience with Colorado's challenging topography and a hint of engineering sense knows that the prospect of pushing rails through the Rockies, not around them, is an expensive prospect. That it would cost billions of dollars was never in doubt, but the exact number of billions was not known until now. Some might say it's still not known, given that the project has not finished, let alone begun.

The Routes Studied

The merits of the RMRA's report on the feasibility of either link will be subject to the bluster of Nimbys, frustrated commuters, and paid consultants by the Prius- or Suburban-full. The probability of the Front Range line at up to 140 m.p.h. is much more likely than a line at 60 m.p.h. that would shave time off I-70, whether or not it is choked with traffic. It may even prove a good primer for Colorado's east-west venture. Billion, no matter the number, is something many people balk at, no matter the promise of Federal funding. CDOT needs to get moving.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Did Soapy Smith Work For the Rio Grande?

If the letter displayed on the Soapy Smith's Soapbox blog is credible and not a fabrication of Smith or a descendant, Smith worked as a "train baggag" (sic) manager for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad out of Pueblo for 14 months, ending in 1882. But hold on, it doesn't appear to be all it claims to be, as the blog lists several alternatives for the letter's origins.

For those unfamiliar, Soapy Smith was the con man's con man. From Denver to Creede, he ran games, swindled money and even charged money to view a "mummy" found in the mountains (the mummy was later found to be concrete). His end came not in Colorado, but Skagway, Alaska. Nonetheless, he was one of the most colorful characters to ride the railroads of Colorado.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

UP 1989 Assists In Nuclear Fuel Drill

Union Pacific helped Denver Fire and other emergency services in a drill yesterday. The drill involved a truck striking a person and a train carrying a container of spent nuclear fuel. Sharp eyes will spot UP 1989, the Rio Grande heritage unit, on the head end. Denver's channel 7 news has the story.

Friday, August 28, 2009

October 2009 Trains Magazine Special Issue

If you did not receive your October issue of Trains magazine in the mail today, beg, borrow, or steal an issue! "NARROW GAUGE FEVER" headlines the issue and it delivers! Forty years to the month after the magazine's last major look at Colorado's narrow gauge, they come through again.

Map of the Month alone will pay for the issue. Had anyone figured how extensively narrow gauge was used? I would caution you that it's not to scale. Chama is not nearly as close to Durango as it appears on the map. Also, bear in mind that the Narrow Gauge Circle does not appear very well because much of it was abandoned and not converted to standard gauge.

The foldout for Midnight in Durango is beautiful! Summer nights in Durango are laden with coal smoke and the vivid dreams of 4- and 5 year-old boys whose love of trains have just begun.

Don't miss the photo essay, Return to the Land of the Narrow Gauge by John Gruber. Here's the link to the PDF offer of the 1969 photo essay. Back Issue articles also included in the PDF (Colorado narrow gauge articles in bold):
  • “East Broad Top” By William Moedinger Jr., Pages 4-16, August 1941
  • “Narrow Gauge to Santa Fe” By Forest Crossen, Pages 4-13, September 1941, a long, lingering look (for a magazine) at the Chili Line.
  • “Florence & Cripple Creek” By L.C. McClure, Pages 4-5, December 1941, about the already abandoned Phantom Canyon line.
  • “Down in Maine — Two-Footers” By Linwood W. Moody, Pages 28-29, February 1943
  • “Main Line of the Narrow Gauge” By Harold M. Mayer, Pages 18-25, September 1944, details the Alamosa to Durango portion of the San Juan Extension, with a fine-toothed comb aimed at the passenger train named simply San Juan.
  • “Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge” By Lucius Beebe, Pages 14-21, March 1947
  • “Tweetsie’s Last Trip” By Jack Alexander, Pages 24-26, January 1951
  • “Gateway to the Yukon” By F. L. Jaques, Pages 36-43, January 1951
  • “What’s Right in Colorado” By Cornelius Hauck, Page 59, March 1955, a letter from Hauck on Richardson and Helfin's Alamosa efforts at the Narrow Gauge Motel, which would eventually become the Colorado Railroad Museum out in Golden
  • “White Pass Meets Its Match” By Rosemary Entringer, Pages 36-37, February 1956
  • “Into the Freezing Darkness” By Philip R. Hastings, Pages 48-56, April 1956, Hastings sleeps at the Narrow Gauge Motel before bucking the winter snows with now-cold D&RGW engine 499 on Cumbres Pass in 1955.
  • “The Wide, Wide World of Narrow Gauge” By David P. Morgan, Cover, Pages 18-19, October 1969, a single-photo essay of the narrow gauge published on the eve of the abandonment of the narrow gauge from Antonito to Durango
  • “God Made Snow for Farmers and Artists” By John Norwood, Pages 20-28, October 1969, long-time resident of the area, Norwood looks at the Chama turn over Cumbres clearing snow via rotary plow
  • “Extra 498 and 493 West” By John Gruber, Pages 29-37, October 1969 (referenced offer), an effort to look at the Rio Grande's narrow gauge operation from the crew's vantage point
  • “When All Roads Led to Durango” By William Moedinger, Pages 38-47, October 1969,
  • “Out of a Misbegotten Idea, a Not Coincidental Charm” By David P. Morgan, Pages 48-49, October 1969, a single-photo essay on the RGS
  • “The Nation’s Newest Narrow Gauge” By William H. McKenzie, Pages 22-25, April 1971, on the humble birth of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic
At a mere 104 pages, 13.8 MB, it seems a bit skimpy for those whose love of Colorado Narrow Gauge knows no bounds, but at $5.95, can anyone complain? I had practically no money and I still bought this! The profile of the Rio Grande narrow gauge grades from Alamosa to Pagosa Springs on page 33 is amazing! My only complaint is the ink is too light and requires some contrast work.

Forty years is a long time to wait, but it's beautiful, nonetheless.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Three Hobos Halt BNSF Freight In Glenwood Canyon

Three hobos climbed aboard a BNSF train on Saturday night (22nd) and got into one of the engines on the back of the train. Blowing the train's horn and tampering with the controls, they caused the train to dump its air in Glenwood Canyon. Triggering the emergency brakes on a moving freight is a class 3 felony. From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:
According to the Garfield County Sheriff's Office, Bradley C. Sanders, 29, David Michael Delvisco, 25, and Mary Ellen Carter, 31, were charged with endangering public transportation, a class 3 felony, in Garfield County District Court Monday afternoon. If found guilty, the three face a possible penalty of between four and 12 years in prison and between $3,000 and $750,000 in fines, for the felony charge alone.
The train was carrying hazardous materials and, had the emergency braking caused the train to derail, the public's safety could have been endangered. The engineer never lost control, however, according to Steven Forsberg, BNSF media relations. The train stopped near the Bair Ranch Rest Area on I-70 in the canyon. They locked the locomotive's cab and ducked out of sight when the sheriff's deputies arrived. With the engineer's assistance, the deputies gained access to the cab and arrested the three, one of which was unconscious and intoxicated. The cab later required decontamination.

There's a romance to the rails, but I'm not sure this is it.

Ski Train Revival Takes Another Step Toward Reality

Iowa Pacific Holdings, the parent company of the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad and the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, both of Alamosa, took another step toward reviving the Ski Train. The Denver Post explains,
In a letter last week to the Denver Union Station Project Authority (DUSPA), Winter Park Resort president Gary DeFrange and Iowa Pacific president Ed Ellis said: "It is our understanding that DUSPA had plans to fund as well as accommodate the parking, loading and unloading of the Ski Train near Coors Field on a temporary basis during the redevelopment of Union Station."

Noting that the station authority intended to assist the Anschutz-owned train with the temporary platform, Ellis and DeFrange said Iowa Pacific hoped "to step in and operate a new version of the Ski Train this upcoming winter" with railcars that hold more than twice as many passengers as Anschutz's cars, thus making a temporary station easier to build.
By starting a relationship with DUSPA, Ellis and DeFrange are addressing one of two relationships that must be in place for the Ski Train's revival. The other relationship is with Union Pacific Railroad, the company that owns the tracks from Denver to Winter Park. Once those two are in place, we could see a Ski Train, in some form, later this year when ski season starts.

The real work is still ahead. Neither DUSPA or UP have any obligation to a new operator and rates for platform space as well as trackage rights to Winter Park could be so exorbitant that the ticket price, already likely to go up, would be well out of reach for most skiers. When Anschutz sold the Ski Train, he cited rising costs above and beyond what he was already paying to keep the operation going, something no one expected a new operator to take on.

On the other hand, no one expected an expanded, standard gauge passenger train over La Veta Pass a few years ago, but the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad has made it a regular, daily operation. A lot of people can start up a railroad service, but fewer can keep it running year-in, year-out, especially in this economy. Something tells me that Iowa Pacific is serious enough about the Ski Train. The question is, will DUSPA and UP listen?

More to read:

Monday, August 24, 2009

C&S 71 On YouTube From 1988

In 1988, Colorado & Southern #71, a 2-8-o narrow gauge steam locomotive, operated for a time in Central City. The following video shows some action, along with a tour guide talking about mining technology in the early days and some brief action. Thanks to mspeterson for converting this video and uploading it!

While no one can complain about the tax dollars contributed to Colorado's economy, much of the history of the Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek areas has been obliterated and drowned out by the gambling hucksters who mine the pockets of the middle and lower classes. So much has been lost in these historic towns, not the least of which is a functional C&S #71.

5371 Moved To Ogden UT

The Union Pacific purchased the Southern Pacific in 1996. Since then, UP had pursued a re-painting and patching program that actively worked to assimilate all locomotives gained through the purchase. The Denver & Rio Grande Western had purchased the SP years earlier in 1988, but kept the SP name because SP was the larger of the two railroads. As such, many Rio Grande locomotives were kept in their original livery. Then the UP applied its Armour yellow to many of the SP and DRGW units, some in total repaints, many others in patches applied during regular maintenance sessions. The patches were an adhesive decal plastered over the numbers below the cab window, turning a blind eye to aesthetics in an effort to assimilate all road power into one uniform numbering system.

The refugees from this program concentrated in places like Helper, Utah for years, soldiering on as helper units or local power for years, proudly wearing the unspoiled colors of their former road. Alas, one by one, they too fell under the curse of the patch, until only one Rio Grande unit remained: SD-40T-2 unit 5371. Strangely, the unit was spared, continuing to work out of Helper until its motors failed. Sadly, it was hauled dead in tow to Cheyenne where it was the subject of much speculation. Rumors that it had been promised to Ogden, Utah for display at Ogden Union Station have now proven true. Photos of the unit have been posted to TrainBoard.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

San Luis & Rio Grande Files For TIGER Grant

According to the Valley Courier, rails in the San Luis Valley may see some freight sailing along at speeds up to 60 MPH. If the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad and its parent company, Iowa Pacific Holdings, LLC, receive a TIGER grant for $80 Million, it would direct some of the ballyhooed stimulus money into the SLV economy. The catch is that everyone is gunning for the funds aimed at transportation, which is "only $1.5 Billion," says CDOT commissioner Steve Parker.

A map of the San Luis & Rio Grande, from their website

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monarch, Marshall & Vail Passes Revisited

I wrote about Monarch and Marshall Passes on CR in 2006, and why the name of Vail Pass was moved from Monarch to a crossing west of Dillon. Today, Vail Daily ironically, covers the history of Monarch and Marshall Passes, with no mention of the original name.

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad Trip Report

I found a trip report that you might find interesting, although I also rode the same route this year. Nascent rail fan, Rod (BlakeCO20) of my hometown of Wheat Ridge, Colorado, has produced a trip report on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad over the La Veta Pass route. His pictures are worth the click alone.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

KM: Rio Grande Heritage Unit Leads California Zephyr

The Rio Grande heritage unit, UP 1989, was sent out to Utah on Saturday last week and when an eastbound California Zephyr P42 engine wouldn't take a load (run its traction motors), Union Pacific loaned the heritage unit to lead the way from Utah through Denver. That's right, through. Kevin Morgan reports that there was no Amtrak power on hand at Denver and so the Rio Grande continued on east toward Chicago and BNSF territory. If anyone out there spots our unit, let me know! In the meantime, here's Kevin's pictures from the Moffat Tunnel eastward.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ski Train Revival?

The Denver Post and the nightly news outlets in Denver all ran stories about a possible operator for a new version of the Ski Train, which had it's last season this year before Phil Anschutz sold the equipment to a Canada operator for use on their line.

Iowa Pacific Holdings, owner of the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad in Alamosa, indicated in a June letter to Union Pacific that they would be interested in succeeding Anschutz as the operator of the train that runs from Denver to Winter Park Ski Area during the winter. They plan to existing rolling stock largely idle during the winter months.

Although Iowa Pacific is trying to downplay the idea, saying it's premature to talk about resuming the train, Governor Bill Ritter is planning on hosting a meeting with the parties involved to see how this might happen. To contact the Governor's office and tell him you support reviving the Ski Train, use the form linked here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Future Is Knocking

This commercial's a few months old, but folks are seeing the not-so-subtle writing on the wall about the future of transportation. If Amtrak keeps their schedule improvements up, the future may already have arrived.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Looking Back 40 Years At the San Juan Extension

Forty years ago, it was still possible to travel from Alamosa to Silverton via narrow gauge rail. Today, it's all a distant memory. Yet, looking back, Durango was a town that stood to lose much if the Denver & Rio Grande Western abandoned southwest Colorado's San Juan Extension. As it turned out, not all of the rail was pulled up, but the narrow gauge circle, which was already broken, quickly vanished after August 1969.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tanker Driver Burns Locomotive To A Crisp

Colorado Railroads does not cover every grade crossing incident, but we can't ignore stuff like this.

According to the only surviving Denver newspaper, the Denver Post, a tanker truck in--where else?--Commerce City tried to beat the train and tied-lost. As a result, 5,200 gallons of ethanol were spilled, producing a fireball that was captured on private surveillance cameras. The truck, the switcher and pretty much everything at the crossing were burnt crisper than a tortilla chip and a total loss. The three men on the locomotive had injuries and a nameless driver for Roger Morris Trucking Co. escaped unharmed.

On further examination, the railroad involved was not indicated, but the switcher was a formerly cascade green Burlington Northern EMD SD road locomotive. The accident appeared to be a spur in the vicinity of the UP/BNSF crossover for the two lines northeast out of Denver, CP DS902 UP Junction.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Photos Of Union Pacific's CFD Special

Every July, Union Pacific runs the special to Cheyenne Frontier Days from Denver to the parade and rodeo in the Wyoming capital. Thanks to Kevin Morgan, we have some great photos of UP Steam engine 844 for Saturday the 18th and Sunday the 19th.

Cheyenne Frontier Days UP Special: A Story Worth Reading

It's not too often that railfans get their own press space, but when we do, it's a story worth reading. Favorite quote:
After touching the engine, steam piping from it moments before it left Union Station, Bob Phillips got a tear in his eye. "This is what America was and what it should be," said Phillips, who lives in Golden and owns a steamboat. "It's when America made stuff that mattered."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Future of the Region Written In Transportation Plans

In the early days of the automobile, a state's commitment to passable roads, also known as highways, varied. The difference of commitment could be so stark at times that a car that passed the border from one state to another went from an all-weather asphalt and concrete roadway to a rutted pit that snarled the tires and reduced travel to a veritable crawl. The U.S. Highway system, and later the Interstate network, eliminated the disparity and altered the method of travel in the United States on a fundamental level from rails and wagons to buses and cars. American culture, its way of life itself changed as a result, all within the period of about 50 years.

Another 50 years before that change started, an American pioneer surveyed a route to Denver for the Kansas Pacific Railroad. That surveyor was General William Palmer. It was no small migration he was a party to, and with this westward focus, Palmer saw a unique opportunity. While routes were strung west and east from the Mississippi River to the Pacific, no one had made a serious endeavor at a north-south connection between these lines. A connection between these routes would open up a new way of passing commerce between the two points. His initial plan was to connect Denver with El Paso, Texas. Eventually, he hoped to reach Mexico City and build trade relationships from there. Additionally, Palmer likely reasoned that the flow westward would eventually stabilize. The west coast was not a bottomless pit; it would eventually fill up and people would fill in. It did, about a century after his journey.

Since the westward expansion, just like water in a miner's pan, people have sloshed about, following the direction of money, prosperity and the hope of a better life and a brighter future. It has been a pursuit of happiness, some lives successful and others not as much. What has stuck, even through the liquidity of economic upheaval, is that people and the directions they travel have a sympathetic relationship. Good sources of revenue in a given location bring better roads. Better roads bring more people, and more people facilitate more good sources of revenue. Conversely, no revenue leads to poor roads. Poor roads leads to fewer people, and fewer people produce even less revenue. Therefore, it stands to reason that proponents of transportation, whatever their motive, ultimately advocate prosperity while naysayers advocate shrinking decline. This is a timeless principle, borne out over centuries of Western Civilization, from Roman roads to the latest commuter rail line. Why then, are naysayers given any credence when they raise the tired dogs of cost and doubt? We listen to them at the risk of our future.

Palmer's baby road was stopped by the snake of the Santa Fe Railway and never crossed Raton Pass on Colorado's southern border with New Mexico. Instead, it's westward wanderings to tap the Rocky Mountains gold and silver deposits to drive the rails further south became an end unto itself, eventually driving all the way to Salt Lake City, Utah. Had the Rio Grande actually reached El Paso, Denver's history and the remainder of the west would have looked far different today. What future will today's transportation efforts bring us? Will Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas be successful in their joint effort to secure the 11th high speed rail corridor for a vision similar to Palmer's ultimately succeed? Let's hope so, for our future's sake.

Please note that this is indirectly related to the R2C2 efforts by CDOT because it involves part of the same regional railroad structure. This is also not directly related to the Ports-To-Plains DOT Studies.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fuel Cell Switcher Set To Test In Pueblo

BNSF Railway and Vehicle Projects Inc recently unveiled a new hydrogen fuel cell locomotive to a Topeka, Kansas crowd. The switcher will test at the DOT Test Center in Pueblo before taking its place in service in Los Angeles along side other "clean burning" switchers. The time of the move is unclear, but being the first of its kind, it has a lot to prove.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Done Deal - RTD Buys Boulder Line From UP

Despite slumping revenues and a continuing shortfall for it's FasTracks project, Denver's RTD has secured the right-of-way for a commuter rail line to Boulder. Well, kinda. They didn't secure the rail line into the city proper. In fact, they've gotten as far as Valmont.

To make sure no one is mistaken, this is not the BNSF line from Denver to Boulder, a logical, direct approach which might be accomplished by the Northwest Rail Corridor (pdf). Instead, this is the North Metro Corridor (pdf), the Union Pacific line that follows I-25 to north of the NW Parkway interchange near 162nd Avenue (?!) and then turns west toward Boulder, following a serpentine right-of-way, dodging farms most of the way. RTD has transfer agreements governing the next three sales which will help them build the East Rail Corridor (pdf), the Gold Line (pdf) (Arvada) and a small portion of the West Line (pdf) already underway in Lakewood.

Opinion: Why are we going to Boulder... and, if money is tight, why are we going twice?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

2009 Colorado Coal Loadings Continue To Lag Behind 2008

According to, Union Pacific is experiencing a lag compared to last year's coal loadings out of Colorado and the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. While several utilities have slowed down due to decreased demand, a few other factors have come into play. The article states,
“Several utility plants have been experiencing higher-than-usual occurrences of breakdowns and slow unloading situations, which has delayed the return of empty trains for loading,” UP officials said in a weekly coal train loading report.
According to the same report, they've had a few mine production issues as well.

Could it be that some preemptive belt-tightening has led to the delays? There's no conclusive evidence of this, but sometimes taking such steps has a tendency to worsen a situation instead of making the company more capable of weathering the current one.

The article did not mention any figures for BNSF.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Garden Railway Open House

Garden railways come into their glory in the summertime. If someone ever offers you the chance to view their layout in their back yard, don't let it slip by! In case you're wondering when you'll ever be invited, today's the day!

Greg Posta of Ridgway, Colorado, has a backyard 1:10 scale model railroad emulating the Rio Grande Southern with about 2,500 feet of track. He is doing a double fundraiser open house to benefit the San Juan Historical Society in their efforts to restore the Silverton caboose and to help his wife, Mary Posta, fight Multiple Sclerosis with an adult stem cell procedure. A donation of $10 covers the entry fee (the Silverton caboose) and the picnic lunch (Mary's MS). The open house is on June 27 & 28 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. See the Events Calendar entry for directions and more information!

June 27June 28

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Media Relations On Cumbres Pass

A man believed to be an employee of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is a suspect in an assault on a Valley Courier reporter Wednesday. What could have precipitated this?

Apparently, it's a traffic accident. A truck and trailer tried to sneak past the C&TS train bound for Chama, New Mexico on a foggy afternoon, and the trailer of the truck was clipped. Engine 484 had minor damage, and the passengers were bused back to Chama. When a reporter from the Valley Courier started poking around and taking pictures, the last thing he might have expected to see was fireworks.

Draw your own conclusions from the article, but I'm wondering why would someone from the railroad deny that any accident happened twice and then take a cheap shot at a photographer? Business may be down, but that's not how you handle media relations, unless you're Sean Penn.

Let's see what develops.

Update 6/17/09
It seems like whatever did happen, the reporter blew things out of proportion when he wrote the story (linked above). According to Westword,
...It was a pretty wimpy punch," he [Winget] concedes. However, at the urging of Valley Courier publisher Keith Cerny, he reported the incident to the Conejos County Sheriff's Office due in part to what it symbolized. "It was an assault against newspapers and the freedom of the press,"...
It isn't the first time a person has cited their first amendment rights after they've annoyed people and gotten a sour response. If the reporter had been injured, or if there was a concerted effort to suppress a story, it might have actually been newsworthy. Up to now, all that's been injured is a reporter's ego and a publisher's notion of superiority.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What's A Drylander?

Railroading may figure prominently in the Northern Drylanders Museum in Nunn, Colorado, but it still makes me wonder what a drylander is.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Knowing The Facts About Trains

Trains Magazine has an article online backing up this month's cover article. The cover article itself posed an interesting question. You're at a party when, wonder of wonders, someone discovers that you're a train geek and they start talking about the "little known facts" of railroading, which actually could be myths. Do you know which are true facts and which are mythical falsehoods?
  • Standard gauge came from the width of a horses backside/a Roman chariot
  • Rails-to-trails and then trails-to-rails actually works
  • A passenger train's carbon footprint is less than the number of fully-loaded automobiles
  • Trucks are losing the battle against freight trains
  • Money-losing Amtrak costs more than highways or airlines
  • A mile of railroad costs more than a mile of highway
  • Maglev will never be more than a novelty
Are any of these true? You'll have definitive answers to these issues and more if you read the current issue of trains. Next time you're at a party, you might save yourself with these answers. Or maybe you'll just smile and nod as they go on in their ignorance.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Brief Video of Rio Grande Scenic Railroad's Steam Engine 18

Taking advantage of the ticket sale for the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, I headed down to Alamosa on May 23rd to catch the San Luis & Rio Grande #18. Using my small hand-held, I captured this video of the steam engine pulling up in front of the Alamosa depot. I hope to have a modest trip report available soon, conditions permitting. For now, here's the brief video.

By the way, can anyone explain what the lever is by the air compressor? I'm looking at the thing that is clicking as it rotates.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

ColoRail Filing Suit To Halt Current Union Station Plan

The Colorado Rail Passenger Association, one of the pro-rail advocacy groups in Colorado, is filing a lawsuit aimed at stopping the current plans of the powers at work re-developing Denver Union Station. According to the ColoRail press release,
ColoRail finds the proposed plan short on transportation services that were committed to in the earlier planning processes and published documents. Specific concerns include the lack of expansion capacity for future transportation services, including planned passenger rail on the I-70 and Front Range corridors; insufficient passenger convenience and connectivity; and proposed project design features that are excessively costly to construct, will seriously disturb the neighborhood, and entail unnecessarily high operation and maintenance costs that have yet to be fully explained to the public.
ColoRail got its start 20 years ago when Denver Union Station was threatened with being demolished. The group's original name, Save Our Station, was changed when they accomplished their goal. Their mission has since expanded to advocate state-wide and inter-regional passenger rail service. It seems they're returning to their roots when they seek to preserve the vitality and centrality of Union Station from the greed of land developers who treat rail like an afterthought.

I know that RTD has a real penchant for underestimating demand. In 1995, I cruised the parking lot at I-25 and Broadway forever looking for a parking space, even after emergency arrangements for "unpaved parking" in adjacent lots had been made. They never expected that their baby light rail line would be so wildly popular and their future growth was stunted because of inadequate planning.

That same year of 1995, Denver International Airport opened, replacing the old Stapleton International Airport. It's triumph was that it would likely never run out of concourse space like Stapleton did, as Concourses A through C were straddled on a straight line, connected by a tram system (why not more efficient rail vehicles?) that could be extended as far as necessary to accomodate future concouses farther out. With the forward thinking the planners used, we will be able to accomodate future generations of aircraft beyond the A380.

I can't help recalling Stapleton and RTD's failure to plan as I look at the present plans which freeze off any similar expansion possibilities with two massive ice cubes of buildings. ColoRail is right to file this suit and should be supported. In 50 or 100 years, DIA will definitely be in use. We should be able to say the same about Denver Union Station, but we won't unless these plans are stopped in their tracks.

More about DUS and the future of rail in Colorado

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Denver HO Model Railroad Club Feature On Colorado Getaways

Since the 80s, KCNC Channel 4 in Denver has worked to boost Colorado tourism by producing features like Colorado Getaways. They recently profiled the Denver HO Model Railroad Club, the layout that's been in the basement of the Colorado Railroad Museum for over 40 years. Take a look at their video segment here. Want to visit the layout when it's open? Happen by the first Thursday evening of every month.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Greeley Museum Opens

The Greeley Freight Station Museum has finally opened! Read more here...

Colorado Midland Roundhouse Renovated For New Occupant

For over 50 years, Van Briggle Pottery had its home in the old Colorado Midland roundhouse located at US 24 and 21st Street in Old Colorado City in Colorado Springs. Now, Van Briggle has relocated to South Tejon and a new client is renting the space. Carmichael Training Systems, most famous for coaching seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, has moved in after an extensive renovation. From the article in the Colorado Springs Gazette,
Griffis/Blessing spent $2.5 million renovating the 122-year-old building, which once housed the Colorado Midland Railroad's locomotives and is on the National Register of Historic Places. A few railroad artifacts, including rails and spikes, turned up during the renovation, while the building received a face-lift and massive new windows covering the arched entries where train engines once rolled
On a brief inspection, the roundhouse is still intact. You can still tell its original purpose, although the turntable pit location is masked by the parking lot. It's good to see the building retain its appearance and character while remaining useful and functional.

Some railfans may not recognize the Colorado Midland Railroad. Indeed, it was a major player in the Colorado railroad boom of the 1880s and the Midland Terminal, a remnant, survived until after World War II. A synopsis is available at Wikipedia and a "brief history" is at Richard Stamm's homepage.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Kyle Railroad Sold To Rail America

In 1984,14 counties from Colorado, Kansas, and southern Nebraska came together to form the Mid States Port Authority to take over the Kyle Railroad in Kansas and Colorado. The former Rock Island line from just northeast of Salina, Kansas to Limon, Colorado parallels I-70 (old US 40). It continues to serve 35 customers, include Scoular Grain, with a grain terminal in Salina, Kansas and Tamko Building products in Phillipsburg, Kansas. Now, Rail America, long a client of the Kyle, is buying it outright from the MSPA for $1. Read the full story...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Statue of Palmer Used for Suicide Attempt

The statue of General William Jackson Palmer, founder of the Denver & Rio Grande railroads and of the city of Colorado Springs where the statue is displayed remains undamaged after a man drove into the base in a suicide attempt early Friday morning

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rio Grande Heritage Unit At First Light

Thanks to Kevin Morgan and his willingness to get up early on a Friday morning, we have some great shots of Rio Grande Heritage unit UP 1989 to go with our coffee. Thanks, Kevin!

Suicide By Train Leaves Path Of Destruction

It's been said that suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness. It's hard to disagree with that, especially when someone chooses to do something like this:
LOVELAND — Investigators say a woman struck and killed by a train committed suicide by lying down on the tracks.

The Larimer County Coroner’s office says 46-year-old Sherry Sowers of Loveland died from multiple blunt force injuries and that her death was a suicide. It happened Monday afternoon when she was hit by a BNSF Railway with two locomotives moving between 20 to 30 empty cars.

BNSF Railway spokesman Steve Forsberg says Sowers may have been lying on the tracks.
What happens to the crew of the train? They had no choice in being captive witnesses to her death. Their memory of her death will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Whatever the problems this woman faced, suicide by train was one of the worst solutions she could have picked. My prayers are with the crew and their families, as well as the family of Sherry Sowers.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ride La Veta Pass For $18.78!

On June 22, 1878, the Rio Grande reached Alamosa in the San Luis Valley. The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad is drawing inspiration from the date.
Kicking off the 2009 season over Memorial Day Weekend, May 23 - 25, the train is offering a special daily ticket price that harkens back to 1878, the year the train’s route to La Veta, Colo. was first established. Throughout opening weekend, roundtrip tickets are just $18.78 per person. Passengers can board the train in either La Veta or Alamosa.
Please note, I checked with the office and this fare is for round-trip, not one-way. Interested? You can visit the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad web site and click the link at upper right to buy tickets or call 877-726-RAIL (877-726-7245).

Have a great time on the newest steam mileage and let them know you saw it on Colorado Railroads blog!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Early Railroad Photography Exhibition In Denver

Early railroad photography consisted mostly of advertisements for the railroads, which hired photographers like William Henry Jackson. In Jackson's case, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad even provided a special 3-car train with a mobile dark room to develop the plate glass negatives he used. Jackson used a combination of photography and lithography, providing eye-catching color advertisements in an era of black and white.

The Colorado Historical Society is displaying these advertisements in an exhibition at the society's Byers-Evans House Museum, 1310 Bannock Street in Denver. The exhibition is free and will run through the end of May. Visit the CHS site on the Byers-Evans House for more information.

Monday, April 27, 2009

One Last Look At The Ski Train

Kevin Morgan of Colorado​ has done an excellent job following the Ski Train under Ansco's ownership. He has some real talent and we couldn't have asked for a better photographer to document her last years. Here are all of Kevin's photos of the Ski Train, starting with his most recent, when he visited Burnham Yard yesterday to take one last look.

James Griffin, a published Rio Grande historian, built his own un-official home of the Ski Train. It's present incarnation at is its best-looking thus far. He's modeled the Ski Train for years and published a bit of a how-to on the same site, as there was no ready-made set in HO scale.

The Denver Post has compiled a slide show of Ski Train photos taken over the years. Additionally, people have been responding to the Denver Post's editorial on the newspaper's discussion page, similar to a neighborhood meeting. There have been some good comments and observations. Here are the other DP articles on the Ski Train's departure:
One good note that came out of that last article above was that the name and the logo were not sold with the equipment, meaning that we could conceivably see a revived Ski Train in the distant future, or some other rail-related endeavor. Whether this includes the flying Rio Grande seen on the cars and engines is undetermined

Here are some other links regarding the Ski Train, in no particular order:
Farewell, Ski Train, for now.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dispute Involves Railroad History

I suspect there's more to this land dispute than meets the eye, but the fact remains that the property in question is historic.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How Does A Cog Railroad Work?

Visitors looking to do something to do along Colorado's Front Range don't have to look very far to find anything. Yet there is something that is uniquely Colorado right in the middle of the Front Range. Long before there was a state called Colorado, or even a Denver City, people knew of a mountain far into the Kansas Territory called Pike's Peak. The cry of the 1859 Gold Rush was, "Pike's Peak or Bust!"

Today, Pikes Peak presides over the 2nd largest city in the state, Colorado Springs. Like the settlers of 150 years ago, it is the first landmark that people from the east look for in their trek westward across the plains. Early visitors could hike to the top, and later a burro train would carry folks to the top. In 1889, Zalmon Simmons (as in Simmons mattresses) started the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway. Using a Abt rack system to climb the mountain in a fraction of the time and distance it would take a regular adhesion locomotive and cars, the railroad first began carrying passengers to the top in 1891. The cog railway saved so much time it was possible for any tourist to make the excursion to the top a day trip, turning it into the first-rate tourism attraction it is today.

Maintaining and operating a rack system makes for some interesting workings, interesting enough for Trains Magazine to use their fledgling TrainsTube service to show their subscribers and the world how the Cog Wheel Route actually works, starting with a view from between the rails at how the cog mates with the track. The video also shows one of the most curious workings: how the switching works when you have a rack in the middle that must synch up with the teeth that it connects to. It's worth the time to take a look at this Swiss and American technology that continues to prosper on Pikes Peak 120 years later.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rio Grande Ski Train Sold, Moved To Canada

It is with great sadness that I report that the Ski Train has been sold and will no longer operate in Colorado.

I'll let that sink in for a moment. The last remaining standard gauge operation that was truly a Rio Grande original is now gone. Started by the Denver and Rio Grande Western in 1940 as a means of getting the residents of Denver to their city-owned Winter Park ski area, the train operated over 69 seasons. It originated at Denver's Union Station and dropped skiers off for a day of skiing after emerging from the Moffat Tunnel, just 12 years old in 1940. The train would be wyed at Tabernash and wait in the siding at Frasier until the day came to a close, when it would return to the same curve and pick up happy and tired skiers for a relaxing ride home.

In 1984, Denver businessman Phil Anschutz purchased the Rio Grande and then in 1988, purchased the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP), merging the two under the larger railroad's name. As part of the deal, a subsidiary of Anschutz Company would buy the Ski Train and operate it as a separate venture. They continued losing some money in the venture, but it was something they "wanted to do," according to company spokesman Jim Monaghan.

As for the reasons leading to the sale of the historic train, it was a combination of things. Monaghan cited four problems faced by the Ski Train, in no specific order.
  1. overall cost increases, particularly for liability coverage
  2. operating issues with freight trains over the route owned by SPs successor, the Union Pacific railroad
  3. uncertainty surrounding the redevelopment of Union Station and the Ski Train's place in that development (I blogged about this here)
  4. a weakened overall economy
While no control can be exerted over issues 1 and 4, issues 2 and 3 should have been mitigated or resolved before the sale became an option. One could wonder if issue 2 was a monster of Anschutz's own making when the company sold SP to Union Pacific in 1996. The Union Pacific is no lover of passenger trains, as riders of Amtrak over the years can readily attest to. By losing ownership of the route, Anschutz lost control of whose trains get priority treatment. Additionally, recent maneuvers by the Obama administration and a Democrat-controlled congress have put pressure on the Big Four railroads to make Amtrak trains on their routes a priority, resulting in better on-time performance for Amtrak. This is all well and good, but could this well-intentioned maneuver by the government have lead to the California Zephyr taking the Ski Train's priority ranking over the crowded Moffat Route? It's a logical possibility, as the Amtrak effort coincided with the end of the 2009 Ski Train season. The sad irony is that by pushing state-sponsored trains, Obama and company are sending the capitalist private-sector trains to the scrap yard or, in this case, out of the country.

Issue 3 appeared on this blog back in January. As I said in the post,
RTD feels a "social obligation" to it, but that's different than a contractual obligation. Where do the skis, poles, boots and people go if the platforms are spoken for by the local commuter train to Brighton? Putting more cars on I-70/US 40 to Winter Park is not an option.
Now it appears that the non-option is the reality. Since the RTD announced plans for redeveloping Denver's Union Station, they never publicly specified where the Ski Train would fit in the plans. Translation: The Ski Train is not welcome. The cars on the pavement in Denver are now being moved to the mountains by the neglect of an agency designed to improve transportation in Denver. Parasite or patron, Denver has historically shown that it is for Denver's cause above that of Colorado in general, and this fits right in.

This is indeed sad news. At the age of 69, a wonderful train is being sold off, with no replacement in sight.

HT: Kevin Morgan