In early 1984, I frequently went out to photograph the Ski Train along the Front Range west of Denver. One happy day, just prior to acquiring my first decent camera, I caught the train coming down the mountain with the three F9s for power– and two stainless-steel dome cars from the erstwhile Rio Grande Zephyr! All I had with me was my basic little 110 camera, but I burned nearly a whole roll of film anyway.
Over twenty years later I acquired a negative scanner, and was able to greatly improve the quality of these images. Yes, I know, it’s still 110 film. But the resolution is better than formerly possible, and the colors aren’t skewed with time. See this page for more of my early 110 outings. Thankfully, only a few weeks after these were taken, I received a nice 35mm Minolta as a gift, and never had to contend with this issue again…
But, back to the subject at hand. The date was probably March 24 (if this was the same run mentioned in the Ski Train book by Patterson & Forrest). I had decided to drive down from Boulder to Coal Creek to photograph the Ski Train on its return trip. I was running a little behind, so I could see it threading the Flatiron tunnels as I drove south on Colorado 93. Even at that distance I could see that there was an awful lot of reflection on the rear of the train. It had to be domes! Mind you, I was unaware that the Rio Grande had kept any cars after cancelling the RGZ, so this was a complete surprise. I burned it up 72 and turned off on Blue Mountain road just as the train popped out of Tunnel One.
Well, this was too good to pass up, so I jumped into my not-so-trusty 1971 Renault R10 and smoked on down to the overpass at Rocky. (That car had the worst habit of quitting at inopportune moments… We called it Kato; as Inspector Clouseau would say, “Not now, Kato!”). Fortunately, this was not one of those days.
I was fortunate to have two more opportunities to chase this train in the 1984 season, both times with a better camera. But I have always been thankful that I went out on that chilly afternoon to capture this last-of-a-kind operation on the Rio Grande: F9s leading and streamlined domes trailing.