Locomotives and Head-End Power
Over the years the Ski Train ran behind a variety of locomotives. During the Rio Grande era (pre-1992), black-and-gold GP40s were the norm, although the F9 trio was the power
on occasion prior to 1983 (and for the 1984 season they were the sole power). After the re-equipping of the train in 1987/8, three GP40s were commonplace. Rio Grande tunnel motors (SD40T-2) made frequent appearances circa 1989-91, and even an occasional SD50.
Once the Southern Pacific identity was selected to replace the Rio Grande name, locomotives were more commonly in SP’s red-and-gray. In the 1992/3 season a GP60 was paired with a DRGW tunnel motor for a while, but later a pair of SP GP40Ms was typical. The following season it ran with whatever was available, including SP tunnel motors. By the 1994/95 season, however, it was usual practice to use a pair of GP60s in SP or SSW paint. This remained the norm up until the UP-SP merger in 1996.
The 1996/97 season saw a return to almost-exclusively Rio Grande power for the first time in years, as the train was usually powered by a pair of D&RGW GP60s. They even did the honors for some of the summer runs later that year.
During the 1998 and 1999 seasons, leased Amtrak F40PH locomotives were the usual power on the train. Since they have head-end power (HEP) capability, the power car was not necessary when they were on the train. There were performance problems with these units at times, however– the train stalled or went very slow on several occasions during the 1998 season, so additional units had to be tacked on for more horsepower. Subsequently the train used a third unit for additional power, and performance improved dramatically.
For the summer runs in 2000, the train ran with a pair of the D&RGW GP60s, but that was their last hurrah. Ski Train management acquired three F40PH locomotives on a lease-to-buy arrangement. These were repainted to match the train, and went into service in December. Thereafter, except for temporary substitutions, the power consisted of the matched set of F40PHs.
Prior to the use of F40PH locomotives, Head-end Power (electricity to heat and light the passenger cars) was supplied by a power car, the “Joseph G. Harris” (originally named “Moffat Tunnel”). This car was originally built by Alco as a PB-1 locomotive and used in California Zephyr service. Later it was rebuilt by the Rio Grande as steam generator car No. 253, and served on the Rio Grande Zephyr until that train’s demise in 1983. It received 2-axle trucks sometime around 1980. When the Ski Train was re-equipped, this car was rebuilt with two Caterpillar diesel generators to supply the 480 volts needed for train power. Joe Harris was the architect of this rebuild, and the car was renamed for him in 1994.
Once the Ski Train acquired the three F40PH’s of its own, the power car was no longer needed, and was effectively retired. It was sold in 2006 to the CN Railroad, leaving Denver in September.