Union Pacific Locals - Colorado and Utah

Mundane but essential



Local trains are interesting operations.  They usually handle the online switching chores that the "mainline" freights cannot work into their schedule.  Often the locals work trackage that is little-used, out-of-the-way, with tight curvature and steep grades.  Your typical local is rather low priority, moving out of the way of mainline trains.  Yet they perform the vital task of gathering up and distributing the cars that make up the non-unit-train mainliners.  Without locals, there would be few customers.

Union Pacific continues to operate a number of locals on former Rio Grande tracks, as do BNSF and the San Luis & Rio Grande.  Some merely switch the industrial leads in a metropolitan area such as Denver, Colorado Springs, or Salt Lake City.  Others travel longer distances to serve customers or interchange with short lines.  Some are ad-hoc affairs, but most have fairly predictable schedules.  Predictable within a day, that is...  Locals also don't tend to use the latest road power, relying instead on older "second-string" locomotives (with some exceptions).  The main similarity between the various locals is their variety.

Another charming thing about some locals is that they still use cabooses.  Some 20 years after they ceased being used in normal mainline service, they can still be found in local service, where backup moves are common and flagging isn't always an option.  You will find several examples on this page.

(More information on UP locals can be found at Kevin Morgan's page.

This page is oriented primarily towards operations reminiscent of Rio Grande days, but acknowledges present-day realities.


Grand Junction, Colorado

Grand Junction is the origin of a large number of local trains-- even more than it was during the Rio Grande era.  Union Pacific operates at least four (Minturn local, Montrose local, Landmark local, and Potash turn).  Additionally, BNSF now has a local train to Lacy.  As a result, typically one may find a fairly large number of older locomotives hanging around the yard-- often still in the paint of their previous owners such as Rio Grande, Southern Pacific, SSW (Cotton Belt), BN, even AT&SF.

D&RGW GP40-2 No. 3129 rests just west of the tower in late November 2002, coupled to UP 5338, an ex-SP GP40 (No. 7955).
Rio Grande GP40-2 No. 3109 sits next to SP speed-lettered SD40T-2 No. 8497 on March 7, 2002.  The UP unit behind the 3109 is actually an ex-SP tunnel motor (note the blanked-out headlight mounting).  No. 3109 would lead the Montrose local on the following day.
An opposite-side view of No. 3109 on 3/07/2002.
D&RGW No. 3126 (GP40-2) and SSW No. 7291 (GP40M) are parked by the tower on 8/02/1998.  I have seen, though not managed to photograph, this kind of power arrangement on the Landmark local in Fruita.

Montrose Local

The "Monty" runs once a week, usually returning the same day unless the crew dies on the law, in which case it may be dogcatched the following day, sometimes even as late as the following day.  The job typically switches the elevator at Delta and several smaller customers in Montrose.

On the morning of March 8, 2002, we chased the Montrose local from Grand Junction to Delta.  The weather was overcast and intermittently snowy; the light was terrible.  I managed a few shots, though, one of which made it into my book.  I shot an entire roll of film in Delta, only to have the film ruined in an accident...  We did not follow it to Montrose on this day, since the kids were back in the motel by themselves.
Only thanks to Photoshop can you see anything in this light!  The train is just making its way out of the yard onto the North Fork branch.
The power steps out onto the three-span truss bridge across the Colorado river.  Nos. 3109 and 3097 have the honors today.  Told'ja it was dark...
We beat the train to the crossing at Whitewater with plenty of time to spare.  UP was performing a maintenance blitz on the North Fork at the time; there were a few million dollars worth of MOW equipment parked at Whitewater.
Leaving Whitewater, we succeeded in finding the road into Dominguez canyon, again in plenty of time to meet the train.  Close to a dozen other railfans were out this morning doing the same thing.  Here the short local is rolling along at about 30 mph.
Closer by a few seconds now.
Going away.  Actually, this photo is something of a miracle.  About 2 seconds before, the rock that I'd been standing on gave way, and I was literally sliding down the hill as I shot this.  By the way, the rock rolled into my downhill leg, and I carried around a nice set o' bruises for a while...  Note the evangelistic tagging job on the UP hopper car.
On September 18, 2004, we were passing through Montrose and happened to find the local, tied down at the woodchip plant.  Being late Saturday afternoon, it looked like it wasn't going home until Sunday this weekend.
D&RGW No. 3118 was the eastern unit.  This is definitely the locomotive's good side, as you will see.  There were a number of UP woodchip gondolas on the drawbar.  Sometime later the woodchip plant closed for a while, only to reopen again..
This unit, ex-SP No. 7955, had been hanging around the western slope for at least two years as of the photo.  Giveaways of its Espee heritage are the headlights and the antenna plate.
Another look at UP 5338.  It's been amazing to me how quickly the red lettering and striping on repainted units has been coming off...
See what I mean about good side / bad side?  This unit was tagged during the 1990s in California.  The tagging was starting to come off, but unfortunately so was some of the underlying paint. Now, of course, it's been repainted into full UP colors.

 No. 3118 receives in-depth treatment at my Close-ups page.

July 1, 2006, reveals a cut of cars loaded with building products, spotted at a lumber customer on the north side of Montrose.
On Aug 10, 2007, a pair of repainted four-motor units (Nos. 2395 and 1396) were in Delta, switching the grain elevator, partially visible to the right.  The conductor on the ground is protecting the crossing as the train pulls out of the elevator spur onto the North Fork main.  For train-watching in Delta, the Wendy's restaurant is a good place to base oneself.
On April 16, 2010, we chased the local all the way from Bridgeport to Montrose. The linked essay covers that in detail; I am showing below some of the specific car types on that train. They give a good picture of the types of commodities and merchandise moved on the Monty Local.
Here is a cut of second-hand woodchip gondolas destined for the pulpwood shipper in Montrose. These are now all owned by Greenbrier Leasing and carry GBRX reporting marks.
Tank cars destined for Delta, a boxcar for Olathe, building products for south Delta... just some of the cars on this particularly-long train. The head end had covered hoppers for Delta and the tail end was empty woodchip hoppers and scrap-metal gons.

The Potash Turn

The Potash Turn services the Moab Salt plant on the Cane Creek branch, on a once-per-week schedule. Currently this local runs on Sunday, typically departing Grand Junction just after the arrival of Amtrak No. 6 (eastbound California Zephyr)-- assuming that train is running close to on time. Power varies, everything from 6-axle GE power all the way down to rebuilt GP40-series DC locomotives from EMD.  It's a long day but the crews nearly always manage to get back before dying on the law.
 See my full trip report where I chase this train from Ruby Canyon to Moab and back, and view the accompanying Flickr? album.

Other Grand Junction locals

BNSF serves a few customers in the area now, courtesy of the trackage rights agreement with UP and BNSF's relationship with the Utah Railway.  This shot, from 11/10/2001, shows the local power at the time.  The caboose was still in use as of January 2006.
While not technically a local, this typically-colorful BNSF road freight is doing local chores on July 1, 2006.  Its consist of four GE locomotives is  switching Lacy, CO.  Photo taken while doing 65 MPH while westbound on I-70.  Don't do this in heavy traffic!

The Minturn local, so-called because of the limits of its duties before the closure of Tennessee Pass, operates east in the afternoons.  It performs switching at Lacy, Glenwood Springs, and Gypsum (plus whatever else may come up).  Duties vary from day to day.  On this day in October 2000, a pair of Rio Grande GP40-2's (3118 and 3109) were the power, seen here at Cameo.  More typical is a pair of six-axle units, often of the SD40 series. 

Another look at the same train, a minute later.  The cliffs along the Colorado River in this area are spectacular and forbidding.

I don't have any photos of the Landmark local (which switches customers west towards Fruita and beyond).  The Landmark runs weekdays except Fridays.

 



Helper, Utah

UP runs a couple of local jobs from Helper, Utah.  The most famous is the Dirt Train operation, which shuttles carloads of trash or hazmats out to the landfill near Sunnyside.  For years, this has been the last holdout of Rio Grande locomotives in original paint; as of this writing in September 2006, the only remaining D&RGW locomotive is in this service (No. 5371).   The power is also used to switch local customers in Price and Wellington, and occasionally as helpers to shove a train over Soldier Summit.

Here's No. 5371 in Helper on 11/10/2001.  See my Helper page for much more information and more photos.

Unfortunately, I just don't get to Utah very often, so I have no photos or information to offer about locals around Salt Lake or Provo.  They do exist, however.  I recommend sites such as http://www.utahrails.net/ as a good starting place for information.



East of the Divide

The Denver area hosts a number of local jobs on former Rio Grande tracks, not to mention those using former D&RGW locos on UP tracks.  I'm not knowledgeable enough on current ops to describe all the switching jobs that emanate from North Yard, but there are two jobs that reach somewhat further: the South local and the West local.  The South local works customers along the Joint Line as far as Littleton (occasionally further), and typically runs M-W-F.  Usual power is two or three four-axle units, often Rio Grande alumni.  The West local works the Moffat line as far west as the Rocky Flats spur, inclusive, usually on T-Th, and usually with the same power as the South local.

Colorado Springs has a couple of local jobs,  and UP keeps a locomotive in town for this purpose.  There's even a Rio Grande caboose, No. 01515, that is used on these jobs.  The locomotive has frequently been a Rio Grande unit.

Pueblo has its own local switching on the extensive railroad network, plus a local serving Canon City and Florence, and a turn to interchange with the San Luis & Rio Grande in Walsenburg.

Denver- West Local

Here's the West local, headed back to Denver on March 26, 2002.  See my Rocky Local page for a bunch more photos from this day.

Colorado Springs

On September 15, 1994, the Southern Pacific switcher in the Springs was D&RGW GP30 No. 3006.
September 19, 1999 finds GP40-2 No. 3097 parked by the depot (same location as 3006 above).
On February 12, 2002, this local is working towards Roswell (not the UFO place in New Mexico-- the old Rock Island junction in the Springs).  In this shot, the train is actually pushing, i.e. moving away from us.  This is why the caboose is used on the job.  It was pretty outstanding to find a train with a Rio Grande caboose and locomotive, in 2002.  No. 3118 bounced around Colorado, but seldom left the state after the UP merger.  Photo from my book.

Pueblo

No. 3100 worked around Denver and the front range for many years after the UP merger, but I never managed to get a decent photograph of it before getting patched.  It was the last D&RGW GP40-series unit to be renumbered from its original number, on 1/31/2006.  Here it is at Pueblo, on 6/30/2006, now UP No. 1350.
GP60 No. 3155 was a mainline racehorse for its first dozen years, as well as powering the Ski Train and other such work.  Here it's assigned to local duties in Pueblo, patched to UP No. 1901 (6/30/2006).
No. 3118 and the rest of the power for the Alamosa turn is waiting for their nighttime departure, on 9/19/1999.  Normally at this time, they would have been somewhere in the San Luis Valley during daylight, but this was a Sunday.  The Alamosa job worked M-F.
Prior to July 2003, the Alamosa turn went all the way into Alamosa, where the power was split up to work the pair of local valley jobs.  This shot from March 7, 2003, shows the inbound local, running late, as it reaches the Trinchera Road grade crossing east of Fort Garland. 

Much more on past San Luis Valley local operations can be found here and here.

Alamosa and San Luis Valley

The D&RGW route west of Walsenburg was sold to the San Luis & Rio Grande in June 2003.  The SLRG operates trains from Alamosa to Antonito, Monte Vista, and Walsenburg.  More on the SL&RG can be found here.

Operations in the San Luis valley used cabooses on most trains, up into the current millennium.  The SL&RG sale included Rio Grande caboose 01423, although the last time I saw it was in 2004, and don't know its current whereabouts.


Cedar City, Utah

What?  This wasn't a Rio Grande line!  What's up with that?

I'm the webmaster.  That's what's up with that.  I have some gratuitous photos that couldn't find a home anywhere else, so I'm stickin' them here.  Deal with it.

Cedar City is at the end of a lengthy branch from the old LA&SL line, now UP, in southwestern Utah.  The branch leaves the main and travels southeast to Cedar City, where it makes a small loop around the downtown area.  I happened to come across the local in June 2004, and took these shots.  I'm partial to SD40-2's, no matter whose paint they wear...

Here the local is parked west of Main street, evidently in no hurry to go anywhere.  It's a pair of SD40T-2's for power today.
No. 3311 is the trailing unit, and is slightly more faded than its mate.  I've always loved those distinctive long porches on SD40-2's.
No. 3354 is leading, and is living proof that UP locomotives also get patched, not just those acquired during mergers...

 


One thing about observing locals: I've noticed that certain locomotives turn up again and again.  The Denver service unit has kept a fairly consistent stable of power in Colorado for years, and the same is true of Utah.  Sometimes a unit will spend most of its time in one particular locale, while others seem to move around more frequently.  Here's a brief summary of common "offenders" that I've encountered (not comprehensive; confined mainly to my personal observations). Obviously, all the DRGW and SP/SSW units now have new numbers and possibly new paint as well.

D&RGW 3006 Held down locals in Denver throughout the 1990's, along with 3003, until their retirement.  Also seen in Colorado Springs.  It's currently deadlined under new ownership at Burnham.
D&RGW 3080 Before its sale to the W&LE, this unit was a frequent Colorado resident.  It ran in the last "Malta Turn", and I found it in Grand Junction in 1998.
D&RGW 3097 I've found it in Colorado Springs (1999) and in Grand Junction (2002).
D&RGW 3100 Worked Denver's south and west locals for years.  Spotted in Pueblo in June 2006, patched to UP 1350. Seen in Grand Junction in 2014 in full UP paint.
D&RGW 3105 Worked Denver's south and west locals for years.  Here's a North Yard shot.
D&RGW 3106 Seen in Alamosa in 1994, and later wearing UP paint and number 5245 in Grand Junction (1998).  Reported in state in 2006.
D&RGW 3109 Usually in Grand Junction since at least 1995, though has wandered as far as the San Luis valley.
D&RGW 3118 Found all over the state: Grand Junction, Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo/Alamosa. Patched to UP 1359 in 2006, seen in Denver (9/2008).
D&RGW 3121 In Grand Junction during late 1990's, in Denver in 2002, on the Alamosa Local in 2003.
D&RGW 3126 In Grand Junction during late 1990's.
D&RGW 3128 Around Denver and Pueblo/Alamosa, 2002-2003.
D&RGW 3129 Around Denver, Grand Junction, and Pueblo/Alamosa, 2002-2003.
SP 7124 West out of Pueblo, and to Alamosa, from 1994 through 2002.
SP 7129 Around Denver (1993) and Pueblo/Alamosa (late 1990's - 2002).
SP 7131 Spotted in Alamosa some circa 1999.
SSW 7286 West out of Pueblo 1996.  Around Pueblo/Alamosa, 2000-2003.
SSW 7291 Grand Junction, Pueblo/Alamosa. Later patched then repainted as UP 1526 and seen on the Potash turn in 2014.
SP 7299 Around Pueblo/Alamosa, 2000-2003. Now patched to UP 1534, seen in Denver (9/2008) and Grand Junction (4/2010).
UP 5338 Ex- SP 7955, complete repaint to UP colors; seen around Grand Junction 2002-2004.
UP 1350 See DRGW 3100 above.
UP 1363 Ex- DRGW 3111. Seen working in Grand Junction in 2014.
UP 1373 Ex- SP 7601, a rare GP40P-2, complete repaint to UP colors. Seen in Grand Junction/Delta (4/2010) and reported around Denver in following years.
UP 1396 Ex- SSW 7640. Seen working the Monty in 2007.
UP 1510 Ex-SP 7132.  Seen on Potash turn in 2014.
UP 2395 GP38-2. Seen working the Monty in 2007.

This is the short list.  There are a lot of others that have come and gone at various times, and (believe it or not) I don't photograph everything I see, so I'm sure there are more.


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