December 2008

Variety in Colorado

page 1

During early December 2008 I made a trip to Denver, which also took me through the San Luis Valley. While in the Denver area I took a couple of excursions out to the Moffat line to see what action there was. It was an interesting and productive couple of days…

First, the San Luis items. A little background here: in the spring of 2006 the San Luis & Rio Grande railroad (new owner of the ex-Rio Grande operation in the valley) had started storing hundreds of obsolete intermodal cars on the track between Monte Vista and South Fork. The cars had stretched for over 30 miles, and were a sore point with local residents, to be sure. On this trip, I decided to divert at South Fork and find the western end of the string of cars. Lo and behold, they were gone! The line was completely open.

Of interest was this locomotive, ex- Southern Pacific B30-7 No. 78xx. Owned by the moribund Wagon Wheel Gap scenic railroad, it had been used periodically in Alamosa. Now, it was parked on an obscure siding on the north side of South Fork.

I checked the flangeways in Del Norte for signs of recent activity. The main track was shinier than the sidings, but the flangeways were pretty full of gravel. (Other’s observations confirmed to me that the cars had been moved sometime after the first of October to the scrapper near Fort Garland)

Driving through the middle of the valley, I diverted again at Center to have a look at the San Luis Central operation. This short line serves agricultural customers at Monte Vista and points north, as far as Center.

For a tiny short line with only one locomotive, there certainly is a lot of rolling stock. Customers are many, including potato and barley shippers, fertilizer distributors, and the like.

A mix of boxcars and mechanical reefers was spotted near the center of Center. Judging by the diesel exhausts, some of the refrigeration systems were active, indicating that the cars were loaded.
An interesting old express refrigerator car (reefer) was on a siding just to the south. Note the passenger-style trucks. These cars were attached to passenger trains in years past to carry expedited produce.  By the way, the setting sun made the color appear more yellow than normal.
North of highway 112 is the Arizona Grain facility, with a SLC covered hopper spotted on the spur.
A closer look at the hopper car.  Most of the SLC's cars are second-hand.
At the very northern end of the SLC is the Co-op fertilizer facility, with several tank cars on the property.


The light was fading fast, so I gassed up (for $1.65, which was the cheapest I'd seen in years at the time), and headed for Denver.

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