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RGZ in 1981

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For many years my favorite passenger train-- possibly still is, for that matter-- was the Rio Grande Zephyr. Nearly all my early modeling efforts were directed at recreating it in HO, with mixed but ever-improving success. Now, with the arrival of the excellent cars from BLI (and the addition of a NKP combine kit), and with some detailed F9's from Stewart, I finally have a respectable version of the famous streamliner.

The real train, protected with only a single set of cars and locomotives, operated on an every-other-day cycle.  Each Monday, Thursday, and Saturday morning, one could catch it westbound out of Denver.  The following days it would depart Salt Lake in the morning and arrive on the Front Range at or after dark.

Below we have a short railfan essay of the westbound version (Train No. 17) as it might have appeared one day in early 1981. I've thrown in a couple of freight trains for flavor.

Nearing the west switch at Rocky, the venerable F9 trio pass a modernized caboose on the tail end of a coal train.
After rounding the Big 10 curves, here the train is rolling geographically north through Clay siding (but on the main track).
A little further north, we catch the dome/obs as it ducks into Tunnel 2.
Further west, the Martin Drake CSDPU coal train is heading into the upper tunnel district. It will meet the RGZ at Crescent (in our imagination, of course).
A half hour later, the RGZ traverses the 12-degree curves below Pinecliffe and approaches ultra-short Tunnel 29.
A bit later, the train has completed its climb and transited the Moffat Tunnel. Here it pops out into the brilliant sunshine at West Portal.
Winter Park siding held a freight waiting for the Zephyr. Here the F9's pass the black caboose on the tail end. Cabooses only have about four more years of service before being retired in lieu of the 2-man-crew agreement.
An hour behind the Zephyr, a westbound freight behind tunnel motor 5348 descend the 2% through Hideaway Park.  The 5348 would be wrecked on Tennessee Pass in 1994.

Within two years the Rio Grande Zephyr operation would be forever annulled, replaced by Amtrak. Its short 12-year life was a thing to remember, though. It's satisfying to finally have it modeled in HO.

(For reference, here is the track plan.)


(c)  2017, James R. Griffin.  All rights reserved.