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.