A Grand Junction Photo Essay

In early August of 1988, we made a quick trip through Grand Junction, heart of the former Rio Grande. I wanted to see what still remained of the D&RGW in the land of the D&RGW, and check out the contemporary action. I found that it's still an active place, though the complexion has changed quite a bit.

Amtrak's California Zephyr A mandatory stop, of course, is the Grand Junction depot. The westbound California Zephyr had flashed past us over at East Yard before we could even get cameras out, but we got to the station in plenty of time to catch it on the ground. The engineers accomodated us with a display of the lights and horn (those Genesis horns are LOUD!).

Looking for something moving, we came across an old Southern Pacific crud SP SW1500 Switching Hoppers (OK, it was an SW1500) shoving a long string of hoppers around on the west side. It was using the yard lead from the Montrose line, right up to the Colorado River bridge.

And this is where we found the first trace of latent Rio Grande pride. Unique Cab Inscription Note the "new" reporting marks on this UP, ex-SP, unit. Also notice the alternate spelling of "Grand Junction". I laughed for days!

A visit to East Yard the following day turned up the first Rio Grande power we had seen, on the ready line by the tower.
GP40-2 # 3126 GP40-2 number 3126 was there, mated with a Cotton Belt GP40M. And peeking through the gaps in the UP AC units were GP40-2 #3121 and GP40 #3080. Going around to the other side didn't yield a much better view, but it was nice to see them anyway.

A short distance to the west, the sand tracks were busy. At the Sand Tower Union Pacific and Southern Pacific units were everywhere, mostly AC units but a few in the SD family. One of the SP tunnel motors was wearing a yellow plow; quite an insult to die-hard SP fans, no doubt.

Recently, Union Pacific closed the hump yard at Grand Junction. That is, they closed the hump. The yard itself is still very much in use. Flat-switching East Yard A UP MP15 and GP40-2 pair were flat-switching next to the hump. We got up the nerve and crossed the ditch to stand by the tracks; the yard crew saw us but paid us no mind, since we were staying out of trouble. Honestly, it looked like it would be easier to use the hump, and not as hard on the poor switcher's brakes, either. They'd lift the coupler on the end car, throttle up (ba-rum-rumrumrum), jam on the brakes (scre-e-e-eech), and watch it roll down through the switches to bang onto a cut of cars. To the crew's credit, they seemed highly efficient at it.

As it turns out, the GP40-2 was none other than the ex-D&RGW #3106, in Union Pacific camouflage!

I love Grand(e) Junction. The scenery is spectacular in any direction you look; the railroading is busy; the climate is temperate. Even though the Grande no longer rules there, the marks are still evident. Changes are everywhere, though-- the solid set of BNSF tank cars that hustled through, for example, even the BN cabooses down by the station, were new phenomena. Armour Yellow was everywhere; traffic was down; very little Rio Grande power. But, there was still lots of D&RGW MOW equipment, not to mention the hundreds of coal hoppers in the yard. It's still a railroad town, still a Rio Grande Junction.

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