UP Sights and Sites

Spectacular scenery has always been the claim to fame of the Western mountain states. The railroads that served these areas capitalized on the scenic aspects (especially the D&RGW). Now, Union Pacific muscles freight over and through these same scenic areas. The trains look different, but the drama is much the same.Of course, not all railroading
in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico is in the mountains; for one thing, customers and railroad facilities alike are usually located in more level places such as cities! The photos shown here depict the UP in action, in a variety of places– mountain grades, flat high-speed lines, in-town switching, and railyards.



Denver North Yard 2006 12 31 Here’s a few shots of North Yard in Denver, on the morning of New Year’s Eve (12/31/2006). This facility was originally part of the D&SL, merged into the D&RGW, was briefly shared with the CRI&P (Rock Island), merged into
the Southern Pacific Lines, and finally serves UP. Here we’re looking north-northwest from the 48th Street overpass towards the engine service tracks.

Denver North Yard 2006 12 31
Long’s Peak is catching the first rays of dawn in this photo.
Blizzards had shut down most rail service in Colorado at this time, and the yard was full of UP power.

Denver North Yard 2006 12 31
Long after the merger, these facilities would show a strong SP presence, and even a number of ex-D&RGW units. On this morning, however, it looks like UP
color has finally won out. I only counted two SPL-system locomotives among the dozens of units present today. In the center, two UP switchers are relocating a bulkhead flatcar, the only activity in the yard this morning.

NorthYard Tower SE
Here’s a portrait of the tower and offices at North Yard. It hasn’t changed much since Rio Grande days, except for the signage.

FURX 3052
Seven months later, a BNSF yard transfer movement is leading a cut of freight cars out of the bowl, headed for the BNSF yard to the southeast. The move is powered by FURX lease SD40-2 No. 3052 and brand-new BNSF ES44AC
No 6209, both running tail-first (hence the two employees on the porch). Note the mix of UP, ex-SP, and GMTX power in the background.

Denver North Yard 2008
In this view from the 1st of September 2008, the yard job is switching a cut of gondolas at the south end of the yard. Here, the switch job has just slammed to a halt, and the last car in line is rolling off to its appointed place in the yard. Note the worker on the ground at right center.
Grand Junction, Colorado, was the major division point in the center of the Rio Grande system. Though it no longer has a hump since the UP merger, the yard is still an important location for classification, coal train assembly, and a hub for local trains.


August 3, 1998– a pair of locomotives are switching near the location of the old hump. The MP15DC (possibly No. 1333) is a Missouri Pacific alum, and the GP40-2 No. 5260 is the repainted D&RGW No. 3106. We’re looking southwest towards the Uncompaghre Uplift and Colorado National Monument.
Glenwood Springs, Colorado, has a small yard– not much more than some passing tracks and a few places to park cars. Recently it has taken on more importance, however, as UP has started using it as a place to add swing helpers to eastbound coal trains. (Historically, Glenwood was used to add helpers to Pueblo-bound trains at times.) Starting circa 2007, UP has been staging large numbers of AC locomotives here instead of at Grand Junction, saving perhaps 100 miles of unnecessary, expensive operations.

Glenwood Springs
In this view of the middle of the yard, a group of locomotives waits for duty as a coal train waits to move east (the SP unit is rear helper). Out of frame to the left is another bunch of units. I saw UP and ex-SP AC4400’s, plus several SD9043MAC’s, close to 20 units waiting in the yard.
Here’s a few locals from around the UP. I love local trains. Since they usually don’t rate the latest power, you frequently find older units with a lot of character.

Cedar City, Utah, has a branch that connects to the former LA&SL line to the northwest. In June 2004 a local train was in town, powered by a pair of SD40-2’s.

This is the Montrose Local, photographed in Montrose, CO on 9/18/2004. No. 5338 is an SP repaint, originally GP40-2 No. 7955. That’s Rio Grande GP40-2 No. 3118 on the drawbar.
UP5521 San Luis 2001-07-20 UP 5521, an ex-C&NW GP50, is leading a local between Alamosa and Monte Vista, CO, on July 20, 2001. UP units made occasional appearances in this service, although it was dominated by SP, SSW, and sometimes D&RGW
units. This former D&RGW line has since been sold, and is now the San Luis & Rio Grande.
drgw3118 colorado springs 2002 It may be a UP train, but it sure doesn’t look like it.  D&RGW GP40-2 No. 3118 is shoving a short local onto the Joint Line in Colorado Springs on February 12, 2002.  At the other end is D&RGW caboose No. 01513.  The track was also built and owned by the Rio Grande until mergers made that fact irrelevant.
Tucson, Arizona is a major division point on the railroad, with a long history as such for UP’s predecessor Southern Pacific. We were in town in March 2000, and I had a look around. The transformation was amazing– there was hardly any trace of SP heritage visible, at least so far as the power on the rails was concerned.

Tucson Service 2000-3
The lone exception was this unit in an SD45 carbody, spotted in the locomotive service area next to a heavily-tagged UP GP38-2 No. 2586. The SD45’s number can’t be made out due to the silhouetted nature of the shot, but it’s quite possibly an SD40-2 rebuild. The GP38-2 turns out
to be ex-D&RGW GP40 No. 3153 (briefly D&RGW 3169), exx- Conrail 3169, exxx-Penn Central 3169. Considering I also found the former Rio Grande No. 5369 in the yard the previous day, the SPL heritage was not quite gone, just well camouflaged.



UP’s Central Corridor consists essentially of the old D&RGW main line between Denver and Salt Lake City (via the Moffat line), thence to Weso, NV on the old Western Pacific. (The Southern Pacific Lines’ Central Corridor routed between Kansas City and Oakland, via Pueblo, Tennessee Pass, and SLC). It’s a secondary route these days, serving mainly as a feeder system for coal traffic and some limited local freight. Amtrak uses this route instead of UP’s main line (the Overland Route)
through Wyoming. Basically, it’s cheaper to run trains on the Overland, but the coal traffic in Colorado and Utah makes too much money for UP to abandon the lines.Most of the rail traffic on the Moffat line west of Denver is coal. On 9/04/1999, we photographed some of the action in the area where the tracks begin the climb up the front range (or finish their descent, depending on which direction you’re going!).
UP6814-1999-09-04 We arrived at the Colo 93 overpass just as the head end of an eastbound coal load approached (I shot that on video). Here the swing helper (mid DPU remote set) is passing– a pair of C44AC locomotives from GE, Nos. 6814 and 6879. Visible over the top of the train is the head end of a westbound coal empty that had met this train at Rocky siding. We’re just east of the east switch of the siding.
Sept 4 1999 The rear remotes are now rolling past, with SD9043MAC No. 8257 and C44AC No. 7086. The westbound train in the background is already moving.

Clay BNSF 1999-09-04
Now we see the reason for the hurry. The westbound was to meet an eastbound BNSF trackage-rights train at the next siding, Clay (visible on the shelf above the train in the previous photo). Here the BNSF train is taking the siding while the westbound empty stays on the main. It’s
powered by five ex-Southern Pacific AC4400’s in a 2+1+2 arrangement. A person who wasn’t informed about current railroad news would be confused at this point. A UP train, an SP train, and a train with BNSF and
Santa Fe power… Whose railroad is this, anyway?
UP Swing 1999-09-04 A few miles to the north (railroad west), the westbound train is again in the hole, this time in Plainview siding. An eastbound coal train is passing on the main; here the eastbound’s mid-train remotes are rolling through Rainbow Cut (named for the colorful strata bisected by the railroad). It was unusually verdant for September on the Front Range that year. Four trains in one hour– not a bad morning for railfanning.
How about a little variety? For about five years after the merger, UP operated a priority intermodal train (“Z” train) between Denver and Salt Lake over the former Rio Grande route, mainly to serve UPS. Now the train takes the Overland route through Wyoming on most days.
ZRODV-2000-10-10 UP4029 On October 10th, 2000, I caught the eastbound Z train in Glenwood Canyon. It’s passing through Grizzly siding, which happens to be opposite an I-70 rest stop, one of the few places in the canyon you can get out of your car.
The fall colors were at their peak!
ZRODV-2000-10-10 UP4029 It’s powered by a pair of new SD70M’s. These units had recently displaced the older locomotives in this service.
They’re sporting the new “lightning stripe” paint scheme, including the revived winged UP herald on the nose. The bright flash at upper left is not a flaw in the photo; it’s a falling leaf.
There was until circa 2017, a daily (more-or-less) manifest freight train scheduled each way between Denver North Yard and Salt Lake City Roper Yard via the Moffat. At times this operation has been a hop between Grand Junction and the two terminals; sometimes it hasn’t run every weekday. From late 2006 through 2007 the eastbound leg originated in Provo yard, then reverted back to Roper.
MRODV Rocky 5385 5371 On 11/25/2000, the eastbound MRODV train had two Rio Grande SD40T-2’s and a single UP C44AC for power, and I photographed it at Rocky. The train has a block of flats loaded with wallboard, from the drywall plant located at Gypsum, CO, near Eagle. For several months, UP was using older power such as these tunnel motors on manifests around Colorado, evidently intending to use up their lease mileage so they could be retired. Rio Grande units were quite common in this service up through mid-2001.
Rocky-2000-11-25 DRGW5385 5371 A close look at the power. The Rio Grande units (Nos. 5385 and 5371) had been modified somewhat during the period since the SP merger, but retained their distinctive look at this time. No. 6876 is a typical UP C44AC. As it turned out, No. 5371 would be saved from patching by order of UP upper management in 2006– the last and only Rio Grande unit to be spared. Now it’s at the Ogden rail museum.
MDVRO-2008 Rocky On 12/06/2008, the westbound DVROM train was powered by a trio of AC4400 variants. Here it is at Rocky siding, just passing the junction of the spur which serves the former AEC plant at Rocky Flats. An aggregates company located up the spur still ships a lot of tonnage. We’re looking east, about a half-mile west of the location in the previous photos.
DSC_0583 April 27, 2014: an MROGJ is approaching Cisco, Utah. This train was running 2+1, with an ES44/SD70M pair up front (UP 7729, UP 3838).
DSC_0851 April 28, 2014: An MGJNY is rumbling out of Palisade eastbound, with an SD70M/SD60M pair for power. This train surprised me so I wasn’t set up in a good vantage…
Back to coal trains. Here are a few photos from the day after Christmas, 1998. At this time, UP had not gotten far in its program of renumbering units acquired in mergers; the Southern Pacific AC4400’s were untouched.

A westbound coal empty with a typical blend of UP and SP power is blasting up the grade through Pinecliffe. The temperature is also typical: well below freezing, and windy. Yeah, it’s cold…

The swings are also a mix. UP No. 7124 is coupled with SP no. 365. The only real difference between SP and UP models of the AC4400 or C44AC is that the UP versions have an acoustically-isolated cab. The SP units are quite noisy inside (I know from experience).

Another look at the swing help, on its way west. In more recent times, UP usually doesn’t run remotes on empties, after a couple of derailments made them question the wisdom of pushing against light cars.
Rollins A few miles to the west at Rollinsville, an eastbound autorack train is tied down. This was a rather unusual
movement, given that UP was routing nearly all manifest traffic through Wyoming by this time. Also unusual is the presence of the SP C449-W on the point. Second in line is an SD40T-2, possibly No. 8560 (the number is fuzzy
even at maximum magnification). UP SD60M No. 6335 rounds out the power suite.
UP6598W-CC-1998-12-26 Back down at the Colo 72 overpass in Coal Creek Canyon, we have a westbound empty that’s also a power move. Most tonnage moves east on this line, leaving the west end of the system power-short. UP typically moves units back west on empty trains, dead-heading them. In this case, the train has eight units up front, but only three are powered up and pulling.
UP6598W-CC-1998-12-26 One of my favorite photos– No. 6598 is about to split the intermediate signals at the bridge over Highway 72.
Here are some other shots along the Moffat, mostly in better weather!
UP7222-Crescent-2000-10 In October 2000, this eastbound load of steel hoppers was passing Crescent siding, west of Denver. Here the rear helper rounds the curve (coming towards us), with the Continental Divide visible in the background. C44AC Nos. 7222 and 6583 are applying dynamic braking to the heavy train. The grades in this area average about 2%.

In July 2005, a westbound empty heads through Plainview with C44AC-CTE No. 5864 on the point. I do like the “wings” scheme.

Same train, at the grade crossing. Sure hope they don’t stop here, or we’re trapped on the wrong side of the track!

The usual block of locomotives on the head of the empty train. We see a sampling of UP’s more recent paint schemes, including lightning and flags (along with plain Jane No. 6580).
Arvada Pecos Westbound Departure July 30, 2007 and the westbounders are queuing up near
C&S Junction. An empty coal train on the right and a manifest train with covered hoppers at the head end are both poised to leave Denver and head up the Moffat line.

OK, so the weather isn’t so good in this shot. At dusk on 12/30/2006, No. 6819 is on the point of an eastbound load in the siding at Pinecliffe. It’s crewed, but not moving anywhere. The snow is about three feet deep, and the railroad has been paralyzed by a blizzard (worse on the plains than in the mountains).
Further west in central Colorado, here are some shots of an eastbound coal train at Tabernash on New Years Day 2004. This area is famous not only for its heavy snowfalls, but for its frigid temperatures– the weather stations around Middle Park regularly record the lowest temps in the nation. The Denver, Northwest & Pacific (later reorganized as the Denver & Salt Lake) built the line through here in 1904.

We were riding the westbound Amtrak train No. 5. When we arrived at Tabernash, the dispatcher routed us through the yard and out the west yard lead, since this coal train had the main blocked. Here is the mid-train remote set, consisting of a UP – SP C44AC tandem.

Another look at the swings, as our train has moved around to the northwest.

The rear remotes were another UP – SP pair, facing the wrong way (in my esthetic analysis)…

One last look at the train, from the rear end. When one considers that the original D&SL line crossed the mountain range in the background, just to the right of the photo, one can certainly appreciate the need for the 6.2-mile Moffat Tunnel (located a few miles up the valley from here).
UP6455 Same area, different day: On December 29, 2004 a westbound coal empty led by AC4400 No. 6455 and several friends is howling down the grade from West Portal at Vasquez Road.


UP Swing Glenwood 2003
And here’s something different: a black-and-white shot of a mid-train remote pair, eastbound in Glenwood Canyon at No Name in June 2003. That’s SD9043MAC No. 8065 and C44AC No. 7186. The train consists of loaded aluminum  UP gondolas.
UP 6416 This view depicts an eastbound coal train exiting Byers Canyon at West Sulphur. This train is led by UP 6416. The six units powering this train were arranged 2 + 3 + 1. The cars themselves were an interesting mix of steel and aluminum, bathtub gondolas and conventional hoppers.  (8/09/2007)
Incidentally, the 6416 is a repainted unit, originally SP No. 370.
Bond 2002-11-30

Bond 2002-11-30

Two views of a coal train descending the Craig branch to the junction at Bond, CO on 11/30/2002. The train, led by C44AC No. 6362, consists of the new aluminum CSUX hoppers with green ends, for the Colorado Springs powerplants.

BOTTOM: The two-unit mid remotes include No. 7364.

Photos taken from aboard Amtrak No. 5



I was in Helper, Utah on November 10, 2001, doing research for my book. While there, I photographed a few Union Pacific units.
UP6642 WB Nolan


Three UP C44AC’s, led by No. 6642, are on the point of a westbound Utah Railway train in the Price River canyon. The grade through here is about 2.4%.  Seven Utah units are cut in mid-train as helper, and they were working for all they were worth. Utah routinely leases UP locomotives
to power its trains. The light was depressingly dim these days, but you get a feel for the forward motion of the train against the still landscape.
Helper UT 2001-11-10 Here’s downtown Helper, seen from a bluff to the west. In addition to the four Rio Grande tunnel motors in the yard, we also see this brace of four UP units. The power had come in on a westbound manifest freight train, then was cut off the train. The leading SD70 and C44AC were then cut off, turned on the wye to the south, and reattached to the other end of the two Dash 8-40C’s.

Here is the rearranged consist, parked near the depot. I never did see what the purpose of this rearranging act was. Obviously the power can’t lead to the west, not without the addition of a west-facing unit.
I spent a couple days in April 2014 haunting the area around the Colorado-Utah state line. Here are a few shots from that trip.
Potash Local - Thompson UP runs a weekly local to the Intrepid Mining operation near Moab. On 4/27/2014 the train made the Grand Junction to Brendel leg with a single hopper car, and four 6-axle motors for the superfund cleanup tacked onto the front. Here the odd-looking train is approaching Thompson Hill from the east.
Cane Creek Local Here the more sensible-looking train is returning back up the branch, north of Moab a few miles. A pair of repainted GP40M’s was on the point.
Cane Creek Local - Westwater Here the same train is descending the grade into Westwater, where it will take the siding to let Amtrak No. 5 go by.
Three years later I was back in the area and shot these photos from The Overlook in Ruby Canyon.
MDVRO Utaline This shot is looking down at the head end of an MDVRO freight at the east switch of Utaline siding.  The train is sitting still– in fact, the crew was suddenly having a very bad day. Right below my position the train had broken in two, due to a coupler pulling completely out of a centerbeam flatcar.

Much more on that story, here.

MDVRO Ruby Canyon Here is the rear of the above train, literally seconds before disaster struck. We’re looking eastward through Ruby Canyon and at the mighty Colorado River.

(May 6, 2017)

Tucumcari is a division point on the former Southern Pacific’s Golden State Route, which was SP’s main path between Chicago and southern California. It was cobbled together from various remnants of other roads, including a major segment of the Rock Island that had connected with the SP system here at Tucumcari. The line crosses the eastern New Mexico uplands, reaching its summit at Corona (elev. 6,726′), about 130 miles to the southwest.Large changes had happened to this line since the merger. Always a single-track secondary line, UP has invested heavily in rebuilding track and lengthening sidings. Now it’s a major cross-country link, and in just five years the power mix had gone from nearly solid SP/SSW units to nearly solid UP Armour Yellow.

The following three photos were taken in Tucumcari, NM in March 2001. These photos were taken downtown, near the old depot and where the Highway 104 bridge crosses the tracks.

This eastbound doublestack train has just rolled to a stop at the east switch of the siding. It has a wealth of power up front– four SD40-2’s and an SD60M.

We don’t have long to wait for the reason for the red signal. This westbound stack train made its appearance within minutes.

Tucumcari-2001-03 UP4741
It’s powered by an SD40-2 (originally D&RGW SD45 No. 5328, rebuilt to SD40-2 No. 4741, which was renumbered later that year to No. 2791); SD60M No. 6196 (renumbered to No. 2342 in March 2005); and SSW (Cotton Belt) GP60 No. 9657.
The following year (2002) I was further west on the line, and photographed more UP action.
Ancho-2002 An inauspicious start to the trip, the first train I finally saw was a surprise, and at a distance, and very dark; the slide was nearly black.  Here is my most recent attempt at resurrecting it (thank you, Photoshop).  This is south of Ancho, NM, from highway 54.  The train has two SD70M’s bracketing what looks like a C44AC. (7/25/2002)

Carrizozo Doublestack UP6353 UP4340
At the south edge of Carrizozo, I spotted this westbound stack train, behind an SD60M and new SD70M, as it came flying out of town.

Carrizozo Doublestack UP4340 UP6353
A going-away shot, backlit of course… No. 6353 is on the point, No. 4340 in Wings is trailing.
February 18, 2008 — Presidents’ Day — and we were looping through Alamogordo. While in Walgreens I heard a train passing, and ran out in time to see a northbound autorack movement. We caught up with it north of Tularosa, and got these images.

Autoracks Golden State
Here’s a thru-the-windshield shot as we neared the head end of the train, just about at the Lincoln / Otero county line. The train was making about 60 mph, and the highway speed limit was 55, which means… that I altered the space/time continuum to make this catch! Yeah, that’s it….

Autoracks Golden State
The train was made up of a wide variety of autoracks (see the Rolling Stock page for some examples).

UP 9718
The train was led by a C44-9W, No. 9718, followed by brand-new C45ACCTE No. 7763, and a far-from-brand-new SD40R of SP heritage but now owned by Helm Leasing, No. 6335.

Autoracks Golden State
The tracks parallel U.S highway 54 here, following the lower contours of the Sacramento Mountains. This view is looking towards the Ruidoso area, as we approach Carrizozo.

UP8496 WB Cuervo NM
May 30th 2015 finds a meeting of two doublestack trains at Cuervo Siding between Tucumcari and Santa Rosa, New Mexico. Here, the westbound train has cleared the waiting eastbound and is flying down the main behind SD70ACe No. 8496. The Golden State Route has been seriously improved under Union Pacific ownership, with CTC throughout and with sidings lengthened to the 9,000-foot
UP 5331 Alamogordo Here, a westbound doublestack train flies through Alamogordo. UP No. 5331 is the trailing remote unit.

No. 5331 is an ES44AC, or in UP nomenclature an AC45CCTE.


Deming Deming, NM is a significant point on the Sunset Route. It is the interchange point with the Southwestern Railroad and UP operates an interchange yard. Amtrak also stops here. In this view, a pair of AC units are tied down by the yard office. (10/14/2013)
UP 7604 7950 Gage AZ Just west of Deming, a pair of C45AC-CTE’s are serving as DPU on a westbound freight. The rails parallel I-10 (with a few minor diversions) all the way to Casa Grande, Arizona.
Casa Grande Doublestack Here, an eastbound doublestack train is a few miles east of Casa Grande with Nos. 7495 and 4344 for power. On our trip through in October 2013, the original SD70M’s were well-represented along the Sunset.
UP4023 Eastbound train between Deming and Las Cruces on the Sunset. Led by a new GEVO, it has a pair of original SD70M’s trailing behind (4414, 4023).

(photo, Sydni Griffin, 3/15/2014)

Mobile AZ EB doublestack Eastbound double stack train is whipping past Mobile, Arizona (just west of Casa Grande) on the Sunset Route. Leading is GEVO No. 8067. The second unit is a visitor from south of the border, Ferromex SD70ACe No. 4059
UP Freight Shawmut The next three photos were taken from atop a lava mound near the west switch of Shawmut siding on the former SP Sunset Route.  This is east of Gila Bend, AZ.  The date was September 13, 2019.

Here, a westbound freight is dropping down from the summit a few miles east.  The train is in 3+1 configuration.

UP Doublestack Shawmut A westbound doublestack is nearing the west switch of Shawmut Siding.

It was about 110 degrees and I was rapidly consuming my supply of fluids…

UP Doublestack Shawmut A different doublestack train has looped around my vantage and is approaching the final curve before the tangent to Gila Bend.

The Sonoran desert offers vistas unlike anything else, and I never get tired of it.  The only concern I had was the ample evidence of movement of illegal immigrants in the area.