Personal Projects, Photography, and Pointless Pontifications
A Quick Trip to Helper
Helper is, of course, home to the last of the D&RGW locomotives.
DRGW 5371, an SD40T-2, is the only remaining Grande unit that has not
been patched nor painted for UP. A few days before I made my way out
for the D&S’s second annual Winter Photo Special in Durango, CO, I
got word that I should swing through Helper, UT, on the way – 5371 had
escaped patching, and there might be a work extra up from Helper to the
summit on Friday, 17-Feb-2006. It only narrowly escaped a patch in
early February, and any opportunity to see it still running as 5371 was
worth the extra miles out of the way.
So, I left a day early (which conveniently got me across the
mountains before a snowstorm) and stayed Wednesday night in Grand
Junction. Thursday, I planned to take my time working west and spend a
few hours trying to find the old narrow gauge RGW right of way between
Mack and Whitehouse. While I did do that, I also caught up with a
westbound manifest – presumably MNYRO – at Mack. I figured I have very
poor luck catching trains actually running on the Utah desert section of
the Grande, so I should skip the century-gone roadbed and follow it
instead. I cheated a bit – I did drive 6 from Mack westward and got a
general feel of it from the highway, but I didn’t spend a whole lot of
time poking around on the side roads. Arriving at the other end of the
realignment near Cisco, I found UP 4039 and train just coming up out of
the Ruby Canyon stretch. So I continued chasing and photographing it at
a couple spots, particularly near Sagers and Mounds (because they made
the cut for the report). Once it arrived at Helper, I decided to go
check in to the motel instead, as the sun was rapidly sinking in the
sky, and the canyons on this side of the pass would almost certainly be
Fortunately, the scanner pointed out my stupidity. The manifest was
getting manned helpers to push it over the hill, meaning I was missing
the opportunity to see 5371 (and whatever else was in the set) actually
pushing. I arrived at the north end of Helper just as the train was
leaving. Despite the dark canyons and bright skies, I made a go of it
up the hill and managed a few decent shots of the helpers. The helpers
cut off between Kyune and Colton, returning light. I followed the train
for a few more miles, to just past Colton, and grabbed a few pretty
good frames of the train on its own near the top.
Friday started out with a gaggle of fans who had gotten the same news
I had, and were waiting to see if there would be any work run up the
hill. Turns out, first the crew needed to switch a bunch of cars and
then run over to Price to deliver three tank cars. A few hours later,
back at Helper, they cut 5371 loose and headed up the hill with the work
train. With a gaggle of fans trailing behind on parallel US 6, the
next few hours were spent chasing 5371 up to the top and back. There’s
not much to say about it, but it was a great way to get photos of 5371
on the hill.
Once 5371 was back at Helper, a bit after 1300h, it was time to get
going. I needed to make Montrose yet that night, and then work south
along the old RGS in the morning on the way into Durango, so I took off.
I did get my chance, however, to poke around the old narrow gauge just
beyond Cisco a bit more thoroughly, and I managed to catch a westbound
coal train at Brendel.
What follows is not the most spectacular photography ever, but it very well might be my last look at Rio Grande power in its original paint on home rails.
Thursday, Feb 16, 2006
Friday, Feb 17, 2006
All photographs in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS 20D using either a Canon 28-105mm USM or a Canon 75-300mm f4-5.3 IS/USM.
This work is copyright 2022 by Nathan D. Holmes, but all text and images are licensed and reusable under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. Basically you’re welcome to use any of this as long as it’s not for commercial purposes, you credit me as the source, and you share any derivative works under the same license. I’d encourage others to consider similar licenses for their works.