Wednesday, August 22, 2007

UP 844 To Lead Colorado Mountaineer

Don't forget this great opportunity for Front Range railfans!

By the way, the UP 844 will be substituting for the 3985. While we won't see an articulated in action, it should still be worth the time to see it. Here is the schedule.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Back In One Piece -- Unlike Georgetown Loop

After a brief hiatus, I'm back. Summer got the best of me and boy, am I tired! My apologies, especially to Kevin.

*Rummaging around desk*

Ah, here's one item you might not have heard yet, but it was predictable. The Georgetown Loop Railroad has closed its doors. The banner at the top of its site says quite plainly, "No trains until further notice." Heedless, the Denver Post includes it as a "one-tank trip" in its August 11th issue. The blame can be thrown everywhere you want, but I think I could speak for the businesses of Clear Creek county when I say, with some sadness, that things were better before with the previous operator.

Who should fix this mess? It's my opinion that it should certainly not be the same people who created it. They've had plenty of time to salvage the situation. No one wanted this situation, including those responsible, and they should do the right thing and step aside as legally and quickly as possible. Some things just don't work well together, and now the jewel of Clear Creek is sits shuttered.


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?