The CSDU Train

The Unit Train of the Colorado Springs Department of Utilities (CSUX)



This long unit train served Colorado Springs' two coal-fired power plants, Drake (downtown) and Nixon (south of Fountain). It loaded on the Moffat branch near Craig, traveling loaded through Steamboat Springs and Bond, thence eastward through the Moffat Tunnel to Denver, and finishing its trip via the Joint Line along the front range. After unloading, it would return empty over the same route, to do it all over again.

 
The train was a fixture along the Front Range and Moffat Route since 1979, beginning as a tenant of the Rio Grande, then the Southern Pacific Lines, and finally Union Pacific.  It used Ortner 5-bay steel rapid-discharge hopper cars, with a load capacity of nearly 110 tons each.  Initially it ran as a 73-car train, but this was increased to 105 cars in the 1980s, through purchase of a number of second-hand cars.  Before the equipment was traded off, there were 115 cars total (down from 125), with 10 being kept as spares.
 The cars carried CSUX reporting marks. Originally, the cars were lettered with a large CSDPU, with a lighning bolt at each end (this is the scheme used by MDC/Roundhouse on their HO scale models).
 Around 1986 the "P" was deemed problematic by the legal department.  Cars were touched up to eliminate it. This caused the lettering to be centered better on the car sides.
 The cars had internal bracing to keep everything straight and true when loaded.
 Six cars had no large lettering at all, carrying only the reporting marks and car data. These are car numbers 79113 and 79120-79124.
Here the CSUX train is waiting for an eastbound load to pass, at Plainview  (we're atop Rainbow Cut in the photo).  A close look at these top views reveals that the slope sheets differed from car to car.  Some had ribbed stiffeners (seems to be mostly the original, lower-numbered cars), others did not (seems to be the cars acquired later, which were actually built about two years earlier).
 Don't try this shot at home! The CSUX train passing through tunnel 1...
This train was so large that it traditionally required helpers. In Rio Grande days, that might have meant a couple of GP40's tacked onto the rear, and in the later 1980's included a swing helper cut in about 70 cars back. Up to 1995 it was common for the train to run east with three or four 6-axle units on the front, two or three in the swing helper, and even a rear helper of a couple more SD's.

After that, with AC locomotives, it usually ran with distributed power both ways (remotely-controlled locomotives)-- two on the head, one or two mid-train, one or two on the end.

 

 


These cars were replaced with a new set of equipment in April 2000. Another long-time feature of the front range has gone the way of the dinosaur... The new cars lack the distinctive CSDU lightning-stripe lettering; they are plain aluminum 5-bay cars with a green end. Photos of them can be seen here.


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