Rio Grande Power on the Rocky Local

DRGW Remnants in the Union Pacific Era

Some 5 - 1/2 years after the merger with Union Pacific (and 13 after the SP merger), one would hardly expect to find a matched set of Rio Grande power at work. Yet that is precisely what we found on March 26th, 2002 at Rocky Flats: a trio of Grande GP40-2s handling the chores of the West Local. This local job operates from Denver's North Yard, typically handling the switching on the Rocky Spur, which serves Rocky Aggregates and the AEC's Rocky Flats facility (mostly closed down now). The spur departs the main line at the siding of Rocky, just west of Colo. 93 between Golden and Boulder.

On this date, we happened to pass by just as the train was returning to the main from the spur, and we observed some rather odd activity. When we arrived, the train was up above where the spur connects to the main with power on the east end. We watched the power heading east, having cut the cars off. But the cars were rolling; the power came down the main, but the cars rolled up onto the spur and came to a stop as gravity equalized the grades. The power came down past the east switch in order to run around the cars.

Here the three locomotives approach the east end of Rocky siding (on the main track).

Now just clear of the east switch. The units are 3128, 3121, and 3129.

The 3129 is one of two unique GP40s on the Grande. It and 3130 were built much later (1983) than the rest of the DRGW GP40-2s as replacements for wrecked units. Note the squared-off blower housing behind the cab, unlike the rounded style on older units.

Here are all three units skylined, viewed from below the grade. Taken as I was trying to stay out of the way (post 9-11 caution); later I got brave enough to get some close shots.

Here's a close-up of the power. I sure wish they hadn't parked in the shadow of that pole...

The crew then headed the power up the siding to run around to the other end of the cars. They hooked on, pulled them off the spur, cut off, and ran past West Rocky and back down the siding to the east end.

Here the power heads west up the siding.

Another look...

... and here they return, after re-spotting the cars uphill from the spur switch.

Each time they changed directions, the crew would have to move into to the lead locomotive.

Here one of my "assistants" is seen as she enjoys the afternoon outdoors.

Another close look at No. 3129. You can see the UP signage to the left, a sure indicator that this is a post-merger shot. Well, that and the ditch lights...

Look closely and you'll see the operator as he opens the door on the front of 3129.

...And there they go again, back up the main to gather in the cars.

After heading up the main, the power was hooked onto the east end of the cars, and the train proceeded back towards Denver. While they were coupling and pumping up air, we walked up to a more westerly vantage point, atop a large pile of ballast near the house track (and spur).

Here the train begins to head east.

The spur is visible above and to the right of the power.

Another look. The eastbound movement had 21 cars on this day.

The head end passes. Note the improvement in lighting when the sun gets BEHIND the photographer!

Another look going away, showing more of the train.

The head end passes the east switch of Rocky siding.

And here's a look at the, um, caboose. Looks like sometimes all you need is a red flag to hang on the back! Just like at Home Depot.

These shots are gratuitously placed on this page merely because I felt like it! The night shots were taken at about 10 PM the following day, down at the west end of Leyden siding.

These shots are my first experiment with night slide photography. It was rather spontaneous, ergo no tripod... This photo is looking east toward Leyden. The camera is resting on the railhead; note the reflection on the shiny steel. There's a high Green due to an approaching eastbound light movement of BNSF pushers.

Here we're looking west as the pusher (helper) set crosses the Indiana Street overpass just west of the switch. It seemed to be a pair of SD40-2s, one in the ATSF yellow-and-blue Warbonnet scheme. They were returning from helping a train up the hill to Moffat. I was resting the camera on top of a fencepost.

These shots,  taken on March 28 just up the hill at Blue Mountain crossing. show a long eastbound BNSF manifest freight coming across Coal Creek canyon. It had several loaded BN coal hoppers up front, and a real mix of other types of general freight cars further back. It had met a WB Union Pacific manifest freight at Plainview a few moments before.  (four photos UPDATED on 9/30/2009)

In this view, the head of the train is descending the hill below Tunnel 1.

You can see the rear of the train snaking down the hill across the valley. It had three Pumpkins on the front...

The train approaches the crossing in this view. Too bad about all the foreground clutter, e.g. wires & such...

It had one unit on the rear. It seemed to be running in Distributed Power mode, i.e. unmanned.


This photo was taken back on February 11th at Rocky. The UP uses a unique train built by Herzog to perform cleanup work along its lines. Here the Herzog unit is ascending the Rocky spur.

Note: These are all-new scans using an Epson slide scanner. Formerly these images had been scanned using a basic mirror-box slide adapter, and were rather dark and blurry. The image quality is MUCH improved. Hope you enjoy the improvement.

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