Saturday, March 8, 2008

RTDs Northwest Rail Corridor Hits Hurdle With BNSF

BNSF and RTD are at odds with each other over the planned FasTracks commuter line between Denver, Boulder and Longmont, also known as the Northwest Rail Corridor. The question is who gets the rails between Boulder and Longmont around lunchtime? RTD had planned on running the entire commuter rail route all through the day between rush hours to keep the passenger traffic moving. BNSF seems to think that they need that time to move freight in addition to the off-peak night hours. From the Rocky Mountain News,
The $684.4 million, 41-mile line would use BNSF's existing single track and add a second track between Denver and Boulder. The second track would permit RTD to continue commuter service throughout the day while BNSF serves its freight customers.

But the existing single track between Boulder and Longmont would be closed to passenger service for four hours during the day for freight trains and maintenance.
The issue, of course, is capacity. Can RTD pay an estimate $45 Million for a second set of tracks to keep trains moving between Boulder and Longmont or are they going to need to shift passengers to the bus route? Negotiations continue between RTD and BNSF.

Friday, March 7, 2008

C&TS Unveils New Website

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic has unveiled its new web site with its new logo. The old site was nice, but this is taking it up a notch. Take a look!

2008 Friends of C&TS Work Sessions

The non-profit, volunteer organization Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad has recently posted their forms to be completed by volunteers to assist on one of the six scheduled work sessions in 2008. These sessions are the primary way the Friends complete their primary mission to restore and maintain the historic property of the C&TS. Whether you can simply paint a wall or machine new bearings, please consider supporting Colorado's unique and storied past by signing on for one of the sessions listed below.
  • Work Session A - May 12-16
  • Work Session B - May 19-23
  • Work Session C - June 16-20
  • Work Session D - June 23-27
  • Work Session E - August 4-8
  • Work Session F - August 11-15

R. H. Kindig Day

March 1st was R.H. Kindig Day, as proclaimed by Governor Ritter. Mr. Kindig is a legendary photographer of western railroads and is known especially for his work during the twilight of the narrow gauge. Now that Mr. Kindig is himself in his twilight years, the Colorado Railroad Museum hosted him aboard restored 19th century passenger car 284 as it was pulled around the loop by the museum's engine D&RGW #346.

As one Fred T in Wichita put it, "It's great to see [the museum] honor one of the greats while still alive. Too many fail to get the deserved accolades until they are gone."

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Last Unpatched Rio Grande Unit Is Retiring

What a time to come up lame with carpal tunnel syndrome! Let's start with the most recent news.

The Union Pacific's last un-patched tunnel motor from the Rio Grande, #5371, is retiring. It headed east this morning from Utah presumably to be retired. Kevin Morgan of got pictures of the train as she came the east. As you can see, someone has already grabbed her number boards.

Her future is in doubt, but this Grande fan hopes and prays she is donated to a good museum.

More posts will follow.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

2008 State Fair Express Canceled

Union Pacific has canceled the Colorado State Fair Express for 2008. This was supposed to be the second year of the special run from Denver to Pueblo. However, organizers have found too many conflicts arising between equipment used for the two political conventions in Denver and St. Paul and the special. Something had to give and the State Fair special took lower priority.

Last year's event drew hundreds of railfans and even casual observers to the tracks to watch a steam engine show it's heels as it swept over the rare mileage. Our chase ended at the Pueblo depot, surrounded by hundreds of other railfans and interested visitors. It was a beautiful sight. Main line steam is truly exciting. One can only hope 2009 sees it's return.

Follow up, 1:20 PM: Pueblo isn't exactly happy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Commerce City Quiets Crossings With BNSF

Commerce City is the first city in Colorado to implement the Quiet Zone. At designated grade crossings, BNSF engineers are to refrain from using their horns in the area. This means that the "two longs, a short and a long" will be no more as they approach the crossing. Instead, the crossings are guarded by 2 quadrant gates and reinforced medians that block the car from pulling around the lowered arm. These obstacles meet the Federal Railroad Administration's requirements for a Quiet Zone crossing.

The Denver Post has more of the story. Here are the intersections referenced.

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

Are these new quiet zones safer? Will the code for strong safety measures be uniformly enforced? Time will tell, but this is one rule from the FRA that I'm keeping my eye on. It may sound good, but so did low-flow toilets.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

BNSF Train Runs Over Man Sitting On Tracks

A BNSF train crew got a nasty scare early this morning when their train ran over a man sitting on the tracks in Longmont. reports,
LONGMONT – A 34-year-old man was expected to survive after being run over by a train early Saturday morning.

Longmont Police say Todd Hirsh was sitting in the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks in the 400 block of Atwood Street at about 3:11 a.m. when the incident occurred.

According to police, a southbound train pulling 76 freight cars had to make an emergency stop, attempting to avoid running over Hirsh.

Authorities say the train didn't stop until it had gone 75 feet south of where Hirsh was sitting.

Longmont Firefighters and Paramedics were able to remove Hirsh out from under the second engine of the three engine train. He was then transported to Longmont United Hospital where his injuries were said to be non-life-threatening.

Police charged Hirsh with trespassing. They say, according to preliminary reports, Hirsh smelled like alcohol.
Alcohol or some other form of substance abuse is the only reason I can think of that would make someone consider sitting down between the rails. Hirsh is lucky, very lucky to have survived such stupidity. I hope he understands he survived for a reason, if only to warn others about the dangers of railroads.

The route itself is the original Colorado Central line between Longmont and the Union Pacific in Wyoming built in 1877. The town was built around the tracks and Atwood Street runs at grade on both sides with car traffic medians at intersections to divert traffic around the rails. Only 0.2 miles south of the accident, the tracks wye off for Lyons and Boulder to the west and Idaho Creek to the east, both lines eventually reaching Denver. The Colorado Central line from Ft. Collins to Boulder became C&S in 1899 and the Denver Utah & Pacific route between Idaho Creek and Lyons came under Chicago, Burlington & Quincy control. Both railroads were consolidated into the Burlington Northern.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Reminder - Train Show

Those in the Denver area, don't forget about the train show this weekend.

A Bad Case of Locomotivation

If you head down to Greeley at the right time of the month from now until June, you might just be able to see this amazing, ultra-realistic model railroad layout. Watch the video for more details. The museum opens Memorial Day 2009.

HT: Stourbridge Lion

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Southeast Stations Suffer Shutdown

RTD keeps making news. The Southeastern Corridor suffered a snafu that shut down the two most southern stations on the line, likely for the rest of today. has more.

From the RTD web site:

RTD will continue to run shuttle buses between the Lincoln, County Line and Dry Creek stations to connect with the operating portion of Southeast Line. The Southeast Line is in normal operation from the Dry Creek station heading north..

Denver – This morning at about 2:30 a.m., the Regional Transportation District (RTD) experienced a break in an overhead power line that provides the electrical power directly to the light rail trains. This was likely caused when an insulator on the power line broke, which resulted in the power line snapping. The emergency shut-off system instantly cuts the power in milliseconds

RTD crews began repairs to the power line early this morning, and those repairs are expected to continue throughout the day and into the evening. This will affect only the two southernmost stations on the Southeast line during this evening’s rush hour. The rest of the light rail system remains in normal operation.

Overhead power line break cut power to two southernmost stations on Southeast Line, shuttle buses running between Lincoln, County Line and Dry Creek stations to connect with the operating portion of Southeast Line; rest of light rail system running normally

It is unknown at this time when the repairs will be completed, and this may affect those two southernmost stations on the Southeast Line for the Friday morning commute. RTD will provide an update later this afternoon.

For route and schedule information, please call RTD’s Telephone Information Center at 303.299.6000. Call 303.299.6089 for the speech and hearing impaired. Visit RTD’s web site at

FasTracks Follow Up

I want to amend something I left out in my first post. It can hardly be said that the Union Pacific has ever been favorable toward Colorado or Denver. In 1870, Coloradoans had to fund the Denver Pacific, their own connection with the Union Pacific, when UP placed their route through Cheyenne in 1868. For over a century afterward, UP connected with Denver through their acquisition of the Kansas Pacific and sent all standard gauge traffic north to Cheyenne or Julesburg. It had little apparent interest in Denver except as a backwater, and this attitude seems to remain so to this day.

The Denver Post just followed my train of thought on FasTracks Slowing Down with their own special on RTDs right-of-way woes with the Union Pacific. The closing line of the Denver Post article was most ominous for RTD:
...RTD may have to consider acquiring much more private property for the FasTracks lines at a time some in the Colorado General Assembly are proposing to curb RTD's power of eminent domain.
I had hoped that Coloradoans, especially Denverites, had the sense to keep the public transit ball rolling to improve the quality of life in the Mile High City with rail-based rapid transit. Those hopes are fading. Let's hope that legislators keep the big picture and give RTD what it needs to complete FasTracks. Denver doesn't need another I-470 debacle.

More importantly, I hope that Union Pacific can see reason in allowing Denver to use the right of way for a more reasonable figure than $700 million. Doing so would increase goodwill and possibly give them the public support to build a new route further to the east to increase efficiency over the Palmer Divide, ease rail congestion and improve grade crossings. With all the coal headed south from the Powder River Basin and the Craig coal fields, you'd think they'd want some improvements.