in 1995

Summer of 1995-- and time for VACATION! That year took us through Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Both cities are along the historic mainline of the Denver and Rio Grande Western, which by this time had been merged into the Southern Pacific. Of course I took the camera, and of course I used it. What resulted was an interesting snapshot (so to speak) of railroad operations in western Colorado. It's particularly interesting since the SP had little more than a year of independent operation left before being merged with the Union Pacific, and it was barely two years until the closure of the Tennessee Pass route. This latter event would have a huge impact on operations in the area.

But for the moment, this segment of SP's Central Corridor was a very busy place. I was fortunate to come away with a nice variety of irreplaceable images and video.

On a Sunday morning, an eastbound coal train sits in Grand Junction's East yard, waiting for who-knows-what. On the point were three brand-new AC4400 locomotives-- only a month or so old. (6/25/95)

While in the Grand Junction area, we videoed a few other trains, including an eastbound manifest that had two Southern Pacific SD9's (one in Kodachrome). Unfortunately I wasn't taking stills that day.

A few days later, after a "detour" to Dinosaur National Monument, we arrived in the Glenwood Springs area. After dropping the camper trailer at the KOA in New Castle, and after picking up a new hitch jack for said trailer (a long and painful story), we went for some food that we didn't have to cook ourselves...

We decided to visit the Glenwood depot, and we arrived as an eastbound coal train was passing by. The long string of CTRN hoppers had three new GE's on the head end, visible up the canyon. The kids were happy just to be out of the truck for a while! By the way, you can see the Hot Springs building and the Hotel Colorado between the two hoppers. (6/29/95)

As the train picked up speed, we noticed a lot of smoke coming from the rear end of the train. A LOT of smoke. (6/29/95)

It turned out to be coming from a four-unit swing helper, specifically from the second unit, Rio Grande SD40T-2 # 5366. A great surprise-- two Rio Grande SD's on the same train. (6/29/95)

The helper was a wonderfully-appealing mix of power: DRGW SD50 #5515, the 5366, an Espee SD40R, and an Espee SD45T-2 in speed lettering. By the time they got on the grade east of the depot, all four were blasting out smoke, but 5366 was by far the worst. I hope that, when UP repainted it, they also gave it a ring job...

After the smoke cleared, I posed the kids by the depot. This is one of my favorite structures; it has so much charm and character.

We decided to cross over the river and see the pool. The pedestrian bridge wasn't there back in '82, but it was nice to not have to dodge traffic on the highway bridge.

About that time, we heard the howl of dynamic brakes up the canyon, so we headed back across-- just in time to see this westbound autorack train. The power is a repainted SP tunnel motor, an ex-Conrail DRGW GP40 (3141), and an SP GP60. As they passed the depot, the dynamics cut out and the throttles notched up. A close-up of 3141 is here .

The following day, we were back by the tracks. The threatening clouds of the day before began to rain. We watched and videoed as a westbound empty coal train crept to a stop on the main. It had two new AC4400's for power. Not wanting to just stand under the bridge any longer, we headed over to the depot to stay dry...

... and shortly a rather late Amtrak #6 showed up. By now it was really raining. (6/30/95)

The train stopped by the depot, and all the smokers jumped off and bolted through the rain for the shelter of the eaves. While the Amtrak was making its station stop, the coal train on the other side pulled away to the west. The rain pounding down on the Superliner cars gave them a misty halo. We can also see the changing of the paint schemes-- the diner is in the newer paint, but the other cars are in the old one. (6/30/95)

Finally the stop came to an end, all the smokers reboarded, and the train pulled away up the canyon in the rain.(6/30/95)

Later that evening, heading back to New Castle, we encountered this eastbound manifest train near Chacra. There was only time for a through-the-windshield shot, but the two SP Dash-9's were a rarity and worth posting. (6/30/95)

The following day as we headed back to town for swimming, I noticed an eastbound train behind us, and I pulled off along i-70 to shoot it.
It turned out to be a long eastbound manifest with TEN locomotives on the front end! Notice the unusual guests: the SP SW1500 and yard slug. (7/01/95)

Here you can see the entire front-end, and what a mix of power it was!  In order: SD45R, SW1500 calf, SW1500 cow, Santa Fe C30-7 in Kodachrome, MK5000, SD40R, AC4400, SD40R, SD45R, SD40R. But the best treat of all was the tail end: A Rio Grande wide-vision caboose! Unfortunately I couldn't get a photograph of it, but at least we got some pacing video. It was #01505. (7/01/95)

We paced the train through the narrows west of Glenwood; it looked like a model train as it raced us on the opposite side of the river.

One thing this trip taught me was to always take stills as well as video. For instance, we videoed a westbound train exiting the Tennessee Pass tunnel from the car, but I didn't get any photos of it-- and now the opportunity is gone...

In 1998 we were back in Glenwood, and the difference in traffic volume was amazing (and depressing). Thankfully, it's picked up a bit since then, but the overall character of it has changed a lot from the days when this was part of SP's Central Corridor. And that was a big change from the days of the Rio Grande. But it's still the Mainline Through the Rockies.

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