Friday, June 15, 2007

Operation Lifesaver in Delta

Operation Lifesaver will be pairing up with Union Pacific Railroad to promote grade crossing awareness in Delta, Colorado in early July. Visit the Delta County Independent for more details or tickets. has speculated that it might involve UP's Rio Grande Heritage unit, 1989.

All Systems Go

Denver's 9News reported yesterday that the test on #12 went okay and it may just salvage this summer's season for Georgetown, Silver Plume and the rest of Clear Creek county. Most telling is the interview with one store owner that says that it's been dead without the steam on the loop.

Meanwhile, I've received a tip that the management of the loop has not been particularly spotless and that the blame placed on the Colorado Historical Society is not fully justified. Obviously, neither entity is willing to speak their corporate mind, being that they hope things resolve internally. One only wonders what will happen at the end of the five year term of the contract.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Denver's Watching the Loop

From the Denver Post in today's briefs section:

Georgetown - A mechanical problem has sidetracked the Georgetown Loop's only working steam engine, postponing the train's summer opening and leaving the town without its signature tourist attraction for this weekend's Railroad Days festival.

Ongoing repairs to the axle broken on the antique engine, No. 12, in August means the unique corkscrewing narrow-gauge line won't start running until June 15.

The delayed opening gives fodder once again to critics of the Colorado Historical Society, which three years ago dropped its relationship with the train's former operators after 30 years and awarded a contract to New York-based Railstar Corp., which has been beset by operating problems and diminished passenger loads.

Like I said, hopefully the test goes well today or tomorrow.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Signs of Life At Silver Plume?

The latest on the Georgetown Loop is that they will open next weekend, June 15th. I've heard from at least one source that C&S No. 12 is going to be steamed up this weekend, presumably to run tests. Hopefully, we'll have a live locomotive and a lively season. If not, there will be a lot of finger pointing.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Got Douglas County Railroad Stories?

Douglas County Historical Research Center is looking for stories about railroads that pass through Douglas County. E-mail Douglas County Library for details. - San Luis & Rio Grande Trip Report

Nathan Holmes made a trip report from his trip to Alamosa to view the return of Steam to La Veta Pass. Among the highlights,

The newly painted GE diesel on hand to help out. The color choice is not pure Grande, but the logo sure is and it's a welcome sight in this Rio Grande town.

Alamosa's newest celebrity arriving at Alamosa's depot for the opening ceremony. Could restoring the depot be on the agenda, given the new railroad business the SLRG has brought?

The rest of the photos are at Take a look!

Other shots of the San Luis & Rio Grande. Treasures

I don't normally rant and rave over the work by Kevin Morgan, because his work really does stand on its own. Yet, I'm really impressed with this batch. He seems to be improving his timing with shots and catching the moment just right. For example,

Notice the following elements:
  • The eye immediately goes to the early light catching the locomotives
  • The skyline is immersed in early morning haze, but the buildings are still visible
  • The curve squeezes as much train as possible into the frame
  • The late spring foilage lends a great deal of rich texture to the scene
Here's another one...

The shot is practically begging Amtrak for space in it's 2008-9 route guide. If I were their editor, I would take it and put text bleeding into the right side of the frame to cover up the quonset huts, but Kevin's angle makes that an option, not a necessity. His work should be seen a lot more. He's got the talent to make it in Trains on a regular basis. Why I don't see more of him in the by-lines in that mag has got to be because he's not letting them see his work.

Keep up the good work, Kevin!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Opening Day Coverage

Friday of this Memorial Day weekend was the day for newspaper ads and articles for the mountains "second season" of summer, the first being winter and skiing. Not surprisingly, the news outlets cover mountain recreation and one of the best family activities is riding a scenic mountain railroad.

The New Mexico Business Weekly covered the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic, although it's not clear what "four new locomotives" are referred to in the article. All research results point to the same roster as last year. I did find a new tamper sitting in Antonito on slim rails in April 2007.

The Associated Press put out an article on Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad workers training in wildfire prevention.

More interestingly, the Denver Post encourages everyone to ride the train in Georgetown when, just the day before, they told us that the railroad will not open until June 15th. This oversight obviously reveals that one article was written before the other one, yet in an industry that seldom has urgent, breaking news, questions continue to circulate on the internet regarding the lateness of the announcement that they will not be open this weekend.

Finally, what didn't make the news is that the San Luis & Rio Grande, better known as the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, has opened for the first time with live steam over the standard gauge line. It marks the first time in over 50 years that standard gauge steam has run in the San Luis Valley. It will run between La Veta and Alamosa pulling the San Luis Express.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend everyone! Remember our armed forces and the work they continue to do to keep us safe.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Georgetown Loop Delays Opening By Three Weeks

It's Memorial Day weekend, the traditional opening of the summer tourism season and one critical player is in critical condition. The Georgetown Loop Railroad is silent this Memorial Day 2007, a victim of its own management. Not even a diesel will be running. Why? How could this happen?

The origins of the current equipment troubles originate in 2004, but the property's owner, the Colorado Historical Society, bears at least some of the blame for the present condition. Wanting a veritable star on its rails, the CHS restored Colorado & Southern engine 9 to working order and ran it last season to the thrill of narrow gauge fans. Yet, No. 9 was forced to haul shortened trains alone on the steep grades. This contributed to premature wear and tear, sidelining the engine for most of this 2007 season. The Loop's other steam engine, No. 12, was expected near the start of the season, yet it was clear it would miss the opener due to repairs and weather delays. Back-up engine 1203, a diesel, is at Sumpter Valley and will not be back until mid-June either. What is left is lowly engine 21, a diesel kept in the shops as a rescue engine. Someone apparently thought it would be acceptable to use it as a service engine to make it through the first three weeks. Sadly, this engine has been deemed less than reliable for such use. Now the citizens of Georgetown find theirselves at opening day without an engine.

One can't help but recall that steaming narrow gauge engines are a short distance down Clear Creek in Golden, where engines that are the property of the Georgetown Loop Railroad, Inc. are stored on the grounds of the Colorado Railroad Museum. More than capable, these engines have proven themselves on the very tracks that will lay silent this weekend. These engines and their rolling stock are the victims of a failed relationship between a former long-time operator and the state historical society. The belief in 2004 was that with enough capital and the right partner, the state historical society could have a successful go at the railroad. After looking at the breakdowns and other problems encountered since then, one can only guess at the wisdom today.

The real victims are the ones in Clear Creek county who depend on income paid by tourists from far and near, tourists who won't be coming this weekend or the next. After that, who can say? Engine 12 may be operational by then, but no amount of money will bring back lost time and lost wages. Clearly, the 2004 gamble by the Colorado Historical Society has not paid off for the citizens of Clear Creek county.

Media Coverage:

Monday, May 14, 2007

California Zephyr Bomb Scare

Media outlets are reporting that yesterday's eastbound Calfornia Zephyr (train #6) was evacuated after a passenger threatened the crew by saying he had a weapon and a bomb. Authorities searched the man and found a knife in his luggage. A bomb-sniffing dog alerted to the bag of the passenger and around 220 passengers were ordered to evacuate the train. They were bused to Denver Union Station where they eventually rejoined the same train and continued their trip to Chicago.

FBI officials are now stating that after extensive questioning of the man, it was all a misunderstanding and he was booked on a flight out of DIA today.

I don't know who should be ticked off more, the guy who was "detained and interrogated" for hours or the 220 passengers who were massively inconvenienced. The CZ has encountered more than it's share of delays lately courtesy of both BNSF and UP, but leaving at 4:45 a.m., over 9 hours 20 minutes behind schedule is probably a record, at least for the last week. I have ridden the Zephyr and every time it is at least 4 hours late into Denver from the west (UP territory) and 2 hours late coming in from the east (BNSF territory). This turns their schedule from a somewhat reliable estimate to an absolute joke. If you take Amtrak, you're not in a hurry, but you should at least be able to tell the party picking you up what day you'll arrive.

Could it get any worse?

Monday, April 30, 2007

RTD West Light Rail Construction Begins Mid-May

The first construction phase of FasTracks, RTD's Light Rail & Commuter Rail expansion plan is scheduled to start mid-May. A ceremony is scheduled to start May 16th at 1 p.m. at Quail and 13th Street where they expect to begin removing the existing rails from the right-of-way.

The Denver, Lakewood & Golden originally laid down rails as their main line between the Platte River and the town of Golden in 1891 with the last spike being driven in Golden at the corner of Washington and Third Streets on September 7, 1891. In 1904, the Denver, Lakewood & Golden became the Denver & Intermountain, an interurban line, and in 1909, overhead catenary wires were installed to permit the use of electric locomotives and self-propelled passenger cars (trolleys).

In 1953, the line was abandoned, but the Denver to Simms Street portion was sold to Associated Railroads, a corporation owned equally by the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe, Chicago Burlington & Quincy, Chicago Rock Island & Pacific, Colorado & Southern and the Denver & Rio Grande Western. This was to service the Denver Federal Center, formerly the federally-owned Denver Ordinance Plant created in 1940 and operated by Remington during World War II to manufacture .30 caliber rounds and then added the capacity to make artillery shells. After the war, the Federal Government retooled the site for office space, becoming the Federal Center and the largest concentration of Federal employees outside of Washington DC.

Over the years, traffic on the line dwindled and the Rio Grande was handling all traffic. Interestingly, a catenary pole was mounted on a diesel switcher solely to activate the signals for grade crossings. Eventually by the mid-1990s, a century after the rails were laid, the line lay dormant, with the grade crossings mostly paved over and crossing signals removed. The right of way still existed, however, and RTD acquired it under their new FasTracks program.

The goal of the West Corridor, as the line is now called, is to reduce congestion along Colfax Avenue, two blocks to the north. The line will navigate past the existing end-of-track near Simms on a new extension past Red Rocks Community College to the Taj Mahal-like Jefferson County Administration and Courts Facility.

On a personal note, having grown up in the area and only seeing one or two trains on the line my entire lifetime, seeing the line in use for a very practical and helpful purpose will be very gratifying. It's still a question, however, how the north-south arteries like Sheridan, Wadsworth and Kipling will handle the double trouble between Colfax and the new traffic on the line.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Work With History at the Colorado Railroad Museum

As many tourist and scenic railroads begin to shake off the last bits of winter, the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden has plenty of work for those who want to contribute as they can to preserving the railroad history gathered there. Please look over the list below, and call or email David Williams, volunteer coordinator, to sign up for the tasks and times that work best for you. (720) 274-5147

Note that many of the jobs can be done any day of the week, not just weekends. Let us know when you are available.

Upcoming Events

The grounds and equipment should be made really spiffy for the spring season.
  • General grounds clean-up. Raking, picking up leaves and trash, etc.
  • General museum clean up, including washing windows.
  • Clean interiors of cars and cabooses.
  • Move a pile of iron to the back of the property.

Urgent Tasks and Projects:

  • Wax and buff the Coors switcher and the Rio Grande 5771 diesel-electric. (These projects will take many hours over several days, but we need people to start right away.)
  • Move boxes of store inventory to another storeroom.
  • Dig hole and install new fence post in cement base.
Ongoing Tasks and Projects
  • Remove boxes stored in a passenger car, and clean it out.
  • Library:
    • General cataloging
    • Inventory boxes of materials to be sure they are posted on the computer files.

  • Roundhouse:
    • Skilled woodworker to rebuild a cowcatcher.
    • Roofers to re-roof Burlington 96 and Midland 111.
    • Lay down crossings between tracks at two locations.
    • Scrape down locomotive #5629 and get it ready for painting.
The roundhouse has an ongoing need for:
  • Painters
  • Letterers
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Skilled carpenters
  • Skilled wood refinishers
  • Skilled machinists
Reminder: those volunteers who are qualified for train operations should sign up for Steam-Up dates on the bulletin board in the Roundhouse. See the website for the full 2007 schedule: