It’s been a very busy year, and while I’ve managed to get some time out with the camera, I haven’t had much time to actually process the images and do the write-ups. However, there was one that was close enough I thought I’d get it finished off, so that 2022 didn’t go by without a single railfan trip getting posted.
At the end of January, Trains Magazine ran the first photo charter on US Sugar’s rail system around Clewiston, Florida. These lines primarily serve the sugar industry, bringing cane from the fields to the mill, as well as bringing other supplies in and moving finished product out. Recently, US Sugar completed restoration of former Florida East Coast 4-6-2 #148 as part of a public relations effort. We spent three days out with 148 on the line, seeing parts of the operation that are normally far from the public eye.
Come along and see this very unique operation – the last sugar hauler in North America! Click here for the the full write up and pictures.
As an insulator collector, I was largely born too late to see many of the glass pieces that adorn my house up in the air and doing what they were designed for – carrying the power, telephone, and telegraph signals that built our modern world. There are small pockets, though, where a few have survived on the lines and can still be seen and appreciated in the wild. The former Phelps Dodge power system around Bisbee, AZ, is one of those places. These lines, which powered the mines for some 60 years, still have a few of the largest single-piece glass power insulators ever made – the Pyrex 701s.
On my way back from the annual February Yuma Insulator Swap-meet, I decided to detour down through Bisbee and see what remained. Honestly I was surprised. In the nearly 20 years since I’d last been down here, only a few had disappeared. 20 of these big beauties are still up in the air and visible from public property.
The weekend of Feb 29 – Mar 1, 2020, saw something that hasn’t been seen on Colorado narrow gauge rails in 23 years – a rotary snowplow in action. 150 lucky individuals, including myself, were on hand to witness D&RGW Rotary OY clear snow from the west side of Cumbres Pass for the first time since 1997.
After only 18 months, I’ve finally gotten through my photos and pulled everything together. They’re in a new trip report over here.
Last Sunday (April 18, 2021), I was finally able to catch a move on the old Missouri Pacific Towner Line. The route used to be a significant route linking the Rio Grande (and later SP) at Pueblo with Kansas City and Chicago. As of the UP merger, traffic evaporated overnight around 1997 and most of us here in Colorado had given the line up for dead. Sure, the state bought it and preserved it for a while, but when it was sold to a scrapper masquerading as a short line, we all assumed it was just a matter of time.
Then Stefan Soloviev showed up. A billionaire whose business interests (KCVN, LLC and Crossroads Agriculture) own some 78,000 acres in eastern Colorado along the route, he recognized the value of rail transportation to his ag enterprises and put an offer on the table to purchase and refurbish the line for use. It took several years, but the STB finally pried it away from the scrappers and forced the sale in 2018 to his new railroad, the Colorado Pacific. The last several years have been spent doing millions in repairs and upgrades. Still, while the line is in better shape than it’s been in a while, train traffic has been sparse thus far. When I got word they’d be pulling 134 coal gons out of storage and hauling them east on a beautiful spring Sunday, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get out with the camera. I’ve been waiting to photograph a train on the eastern part of the line for 21 years now, and I finally got it. It’s the most fun you can have at 15-25 mph.
In February 2017, Rio Grande Southern “Galloping Goose” #5 did something it hadn’t done since the end of the RGS in 1952 – run in the wintertime. Brought over to the Durango & Silverton RR in coordination with the railroad’s Winter Photographers’ Special, RGS 5 ran sold out trips Friday-Sunday sporting its brand new (but historically accurate) snow plow.
Thanks to more mind-numbing meetings, I’ve gotten the photos processed and sorted from the SP 18 winter photo train on the Durango & Silverton back in on Feb 16, 2019. This Saturday trip and the following Monday (which I couldn’t attend because my employer needed me in Memphis) wound up being the only public photography trips that ran during the 10 months that SP 18 stayed on the D&S.
Continuing to slowly work through my photographic backlog as life allows, I’ve gone back to March 12-13, 2016, when the Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic ran a snow flanging special west from Antonito. Unfortunately, unlike the 2015 trip, we weren’t blessed with much snow, but there were a few spots to get snow shots. It did, however, yield one of my absolute favorite narrow gauge shots of all time – a sunrise at Hangman’s Trestle, just west of Antonito.
Continuing with my effort to get through a number of my old photos from the past decade and do something useful with them, I’ve gotten the 2014 Sumpter Valley Railway Photographers’ Weekend shots processed and up. This was the end of the big fall trip in October 2014 that started on the Chelatchie Prairie and then the Oregon Coast Scenic. The SVRy’s Photographers’ Weekend that year was October 18-19, which landed perfectly after the other two charters. So many of us took it in as a bonus for the trip.
I have nearly fifteen years of photography to get through that I haven’t edited, sorted, or published. Since 2020 is the official year of never leaving the house, I’ve had some time to devote to picking out and editing some of the good stuff and getting it online. So there’s going to be a small torrent of trip reports as some of this finally makes it to the web. Plus moving from the old www.drgw.net trip report system to WordPress on my personal site makes it a lot easier to work on a little bit at a time.
Today’s addition is from another Pacific Northwest Pete Lerro charter back in October 2014. This is the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, a short tourist line operating the end of a former Northern Pacific branch between Lucia Falls, Yacolt, and Chelatchie, WA. Power for this trip will be Crossett Western Lumber #10, a 1929 Alco 2-8-2T.
I’ve finally gotten around to editing and posting photos from two trips out to the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad (the former SP Tillamook Branch) for Lerro photo charters. The first is from back in October 2014, and the second is from October 2018. You can find the full trip report here.