A Retrospective, by the Decades

The year 2016 marked the twentieth anniversary of the merger of Southern Pacific Lines into the Union Pacific Railroad. Given that fact, I thought it a good time to have a look at how things have changed in Colorado over the past three decades.

First up: 1986. Rio Grande train No. 101 is trailing around the loops at Coal Creek Canyon on a July evening with eight cars of Coors beer and a long string of piggyback flatcars behind. The train is powered by four tunnel motors, led by No. 5348. The mergers have not occurred yet, but this is definitely the twilight of the Rio Grande. In that "light", this dusk image is appropriate.

Second: 1996. On August 17, 1996, a westbound Southern Pacific freight train rolls west along the Arkansas River at Cotopaxi. It's led by a one-year-old AC4400 and a pair of grungy Espee tunnel motors. At this time you could still spot an occasional Rio Grande unit in SP consists, but not often. This photo is less than a month before the merger with UP. The following year the Royal Gorge line would be mothballed.

2006: Guess who owns the railroad now? That's right, folks, Union pacific now holds title to the former SP, former D&RGW properties in Colorado. New Years Eve (morning) 2006 at North Yard, and the whole railroad is shut down due to a massive blizzard on the plains. Ironically, the mountain lines (e.g. the Moffat) were open, but so many crews were stranded out east that all trains in the region were annulled. This included the Ski Train, which I would have found ironic, had we not just driven 14 hours on icy roads to come to Denver and ride it!

-Jim Griffin

(c) 2016, James Griffin 


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