Monday, July 26, 2021

Email Subscriber Notice

If you subscribe to Colorado Railroads by email, changes are coming. Our syndication is through Feedburner, once an independent company that, after being absorbed by Google, is scaling back its service to just an RSS service, without its helpful email administration. Blah blah blah, corporate-speak, technogargle technobabble blah. 

What this means is that until I find an e-mail service, probably something like Constant Contact, further email contact from Colorado Railroads may be in doubt. If you like what content I've been able to provide and want to keep hearing from me, please let me know. That way, whatever happens, I will be sure to keep you in the list. Hit reply or click here. I hope to hear from you soon!⚒

Steve Walden
editor, Colorado Railroads

POTD - Big Boy Under Threatening Skies

Photo of the Day: BUFFIE

Earlier this month, Union Pacific's Steam collective in Wyoming needed to stretch their Big Boy's legs before beginning their summer trip to New Orleans. A quiet trip to Denver seemed to be in order. Intrepid Denver-based rail photographer BUFFIE caught up with UP 4014 leaving Platteville on the trip back north to Cheyenne. The threatening skies and ideal lighting and classic black-and-white subject make it an easy candidate for Photo of the Day.⚒

Friday, May 14, 2021

Ask the Editor: Loops Like Tehachapi

It's been a while since we've done an Ask the Editor. Here's one from the e-mail bag, which lately has been overflowing.

Question

Last February, we had a chance to see the Tehachapi Loop in California. I'm told something similar is here in Colorado between I-70 near Wolcott and Steamboat Springs.  How would I find it?  Thanks, Ken Harris

Answer

Interesting! I think you might be referring to the loops near Bond

It does not loop over itself, but it does use some significant grade and reversing loops to "cut the contours" or gain elevation. This was part of the Moffat Road beyond the Dotsero Cutoff, which was built by the Rio Grande after they bought up the Denver & Salt Lake Railroad as a means of shortening their Denver to Salt Lake City mileage.

If you hadn't prefaced it with the Wolcott to Steamboat location, I might have just assumed you were being pointed at the Georgetown Loop!⚒

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Commemorating the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad's 150th Anniversary

Over 150 years ago, on October 27, 1870, civil war General William Jackson Palmer and his associates filed papers incorporating his baby railroad in the territories of Colorado and New Mexico. Thus, on paper at least, the Rio Grande, a narrow-gauge startup of a railroad had been born. Any outward symbol of its birth, however, would have to wait while Palmer and his associates like William Bell raised investor funds to begin building.

Gen. William J. Palmer statue outside his namesake high school, August 1980

With General Palmer astride his iron steed in statue above Colorado Springs' main thoroughfare, it's easy to forget that this man wasn't yet 35 years old when he was working the difficult task of convincing investors to part with their funds to raise capital. General Palmer was a former spy, adept at making others believe he was in their confidence. Often the difference between this man and a shifty crook like Soapy Smith is simply the ultimate intentions of the man's heart, to deprive for selfish improvement or for benevolent investment.

Thankfully, Palmer was a man worthy of his Queen, a nickname Mary Lincoln Mellen had already earned by the time she met her future husband. Palmer began to share his vision for the Denver & Rio Grande with his beloved in their correspondence. On January 17, 1870, Palmer wrote to her,

I had a dream last evening while sitting in the gloaming at the car window. I mean a wide-awake dream. Shall I tell it to you? 

I thought how fine it would be to have a little railroad a few hundred miles in length, all under one's own control with one's friends, to have no jealousies and contests and differing policies, but to be able to carry out unimpeded and harmoniously one's views in regard to what ought and ought not to be done. In this ideal railroad all my friends should be interested, the most fitting men should be chosen for different positions, and all would work heartedly and unitedly towards the common end.

From there, he went on to detail an ambitious business plan with specific men to fill out all the critical functions of a railroad, informed by his work experience laying the route of the Kansas Pacific to Denver. Whatever idealism he held from that nearly rapturous dream, it obviously fueled his efforts for the next 18 months until driving the first spike for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad on July 28, 1871 between 19th and 20th Streets in Denver, much in line with Wynkoop. This places it right next to the Chop House Brewery (the former Union Pacific freight offices) near Coors Field in LoDo. 

Dreams, like buildings, take a long time to build to make them last. Foundations are critical, and yet none but a few will ever see what the entire building and the day's occupants completely rely upon. Be thankful for the diligent yet incredible work of Palmer and those like him, founding the Rio Grande and the city of Colorado Springs, while these two entities, changing and growing and enduring all the while, still sustain Colorado and the west today.⚒

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Suits Filed Anticipating Tennessee Pass Activation

Well, that didn't take long.

Proving that there is nothing new under the sun, the action announced on the 31st of December, 2020, Rio Grande Pacific To Lease Tennessee Pass Route, became the subject of at least two separate suits filed by lawyers whose interest in what's best for Colorado is dubious at best. The Union Pacific and Rio Grande Pacific most likely expected this knee-jerk reaction.

The Town of Avon and Eagle County have both agreed to split the cost of a challenge filed with the Surface Transportation Board (STB). Apparently, the occupants of the town and county are already convinced that the rails are mere days away from coursing with crude oil. The idea that the company doesn't want to haul crude and instead haul other freight and possibly provide a commuter service to towns along the line like the one they already conduct in Texas seems to fall on deaf ears.

The second suit comes in a January 8th filing with the STB. A corporation that was seeking to use the Tennessee Pass Route for their own purposes argued the STB should reject the Union Pacific's right to reactivate the line. That corporation is the similarly named Colorado Pacific Railroad, owned by eastern Colorado billionaire businessman Stefan Soloviev's KCVN, LLC. They are the owners of the Towner Line and most recently they failed to force UP to sell the Tennessee Pass route to them. They apparently have no corporate railroad presence on the web.

The STB is limited in what it can and can't decide. According to the Colorado Sun

Michael Booth, a spokesman for the Surface Transportation Board, said the board operates like a court, with strict parameters for approving or rejecting rail plans. The board’s goal is to insure [sic] rail traffic rolls smoothly and that competitive issues are resolved, Booth said. It doesn’t have a lot of leeway for rejecting plans by an operator who promises to fix up a critical corridor that has been neglected for decades.

“We have limited jurisdiction to decide economic regulatory affairs,” Booth said. “The board’s concern is mainly, ‘Does the line serve a public purpose?’” 

The Colorado Sun article continues, 

Before trains roll over Tennessee Pass, there will be much more review and studies by a host of local, state and regional authorities, including the Forest Service and Colorado Department of Transportation. The transportation board is a first step in what will be a long process.

The length of time reactivating this line is something that all parties must be prepared for. It is going to take some time to understand what activating the line means and doesn't mean for everyone involved. Pueblo alone will find its future a little brighter by becoming a junction again and not merely a stop on the Front Range. 

More importantly, if the Tennessee Pass route is rehabilitated, it will be updated and upgraded with Positive Train Control, a much safer means of controlling rail movements than the CTC-based approach that was in place in 1997 when the line was inactivated.⚒