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.