Wednesday, February 25, 2009

DP: Union Pacific Engine Examined As Possible Wildfire Source On Moffat in Arvada

Photo by Kevin Morgan, - Click to visitThe Denver Post is reporting that as many as nine wildfires were started by a Union Pacific train on the Moffat Route through Arvada. Grass fires stretched for five miles on Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. A Red Flag warning was issued by the National Weather Service for the area at the time, meaning that conditions were ripe for any wildfires to grow quickly. According to Scott Pribble of the Arvada Fire Department, numerous witnesses claimed they saw sparks from the train ignite dry grasses next to the tracks. The fires stretched from West 72nd Avenue and Oak Street to near the junction of Colorado 72 and 93, near Rocky.

The fires set by the train engulfed the home and barn of 92-year-old Margery Kusulas, who escaped with her daughter Angela only seconds before the fire reached them from the tracks, some 60 yards away. The fire burnt both structures to the ground and threatened the Pioneer Ridge subdivision before being extinguished.

While mechanical crews cleared the cars of both trains that were in the area at the time of any mechanical problems that would cause sparks or ignition of wildfires, they have isolated one engine that they want to get a better look at as the source of the fires. Union Pacific spokesman Marc Davis said that the two possible sources on a locomotive, arcing electricity from a bad motor or diesel flashover in one of the vents, were very rare. Union Pacific says they are already working with the parties affected, even while the investigation continues.

For more details with photos and the original story by Howard Pankratz, visit the Denver Post.

Kevin Morgan has pictures as well.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Great Western Trestle Fire Ruled Arson

Great Western, the short line on the northern Front Range that served the Great Western sugar plant, suffered a serious blow to its infrastructure when a trestle crossing the Cache la Poudre River northwest of Greeley caught fire the morning of February 9th. The fire was reported by an employee of Noble Energy. OmniTrax, which manages the short line, says it will be seven weeks before materials to repair the trestle arrive. The source of the fire, which started in some weeds next to the trestle and spread from there, is now believed to be arson because all non-human sources have been ruled out. A full beer bottle and a half-empty (half-full?) whiskey bottle were found nearby.

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The loss of the trestle has effectively severed the line from Greeley to Windsor. OmniTrax is working with area clients to find alternative shipping until repairs are complete, currently estimated to be in late March or early April. Damages are estimated at $1 million. Anyone with information about the fire should call the Union Colony Fire Department at 970-350-9500.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

R2C2 Public Benefits And Cost Study Results

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) released the results of a Rail Relocation for Colorado Communities (R2C2) study on Tuesday, February 10th. The Public Benefits and Cost Study examined the cost and benefits of building a bypass routing through freight trains along the eastern plains of Colorado away from the Front Range cities of Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Denver and Ft. Collins. Such a move would leave local freight service to the cities intact while freeing up capacity for some type of commuter rail service.

The study concluded that while the project may cost between $1.0 and $1.5 Billion, the direct and indirect benefits would work out to between $2.4 and $16.3 Billion. The most likely scenario approximates the cost to be $1.2 Billion and the benefits to be $5.2 Billion, a benefits to cost ratio of 4.3 : 1. $3.8 Billion of those benefits would go to the public. While this isn't stellar, the jobs this project would create would have a positive impact on Colorado's economy, which is facing a major recession at best.

Union Pacific and BNSF, the state's competing Class I railroads, would partner with CDOT to build the new rail route, connecting Brush with Las Animas over 220 route miles. No official route has been announced. That will likely come after the RMRA issues its report on I-70 & I-25 high speed rail options.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Train Shows In February

The cold weather of winter can't reach indoors to many a model railroad pike. Most modelers make a lot of progress on their layouts during the winter months and train shows during these months are sure draws, both for the exhibitors and the shoppers in search of those hard-to-find items they need. Two such shows are on the Front Range in the next two weeks.

Rails in the Rockies
This weekend, Estes Park will host Rails in the Rockies. Offered by the Estes Valley Model Railroaders, this show will run this Saturday (Valentines Day) 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Conference Center at the Holiday Inn in Estes Park. Adults are $5 and kids under 12 are free with an adult admission. Visit the EVMR site for more information, including maps, floor plan, and photos from previous years.

Add Rails in the Rockies to your calendar:


The Great Train Expo
Next weekend, the Great Train Expo pulls into Denver at the National Western Complex, 4655 Humboldt St, Denver, CO. Saturday, February 21 and Sunday, February 22, the doors will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Admission for adults will be $7 and kids under 12 are free. This is a large event that pulls in exhibitors and hobby shops from several states around the Rocky Mountain region.

Add the Great Train Expo in Denver to your calendar:

Bring your wallets and your cameras to capture the magic of model railroading, where old railroads never die and new railroads and railroaders get their start.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Proposed Red Cliff Mine Will Need New Rail Spur

Rhino Energy and CAM-Colorado, LLC are planning a new coal mine north of Loma, Colorado (near Fruita) and they plan to build a new railroad spur to service it. The Red Cliff mine will need 14.5 miles of new rail over BLM and private land to connect with the former Denver & Rio Grande Western main line on the Union Pacific Railroad at Mack, Colorado. The rail is needed to handle the anticipated 8 million tons of coal produced each year. This is a separate affair from Rhino's McClane Canyon mine, which is currently served by trucks connecting with the Cameo coal plant in Grand Junction, scheduled to close September 2010. Planning is underway and construction will likely start in 2010. According to the BLM site, CAM would own the spur and UP would operate the trains on it.

Download a map (pdf) of the mine area and proposed rail route from