Every now and then, UP runs these Engineering Specials around the system to inspect it, typically pulled by the latest and cleanest UP power to be found. The last time I ran into one of these was in college, when UP6936 was supposed to pull one up the Fort Dodge line from Granct Junction, IA, north to Eagle Grove and then back through my college home town (Gilbert, IA). That day, we did indeed get skunked and got an SD40-2 instead.
With recent events, UP has kept their passenger movements very much a secret, including modifying the UP Public Trace to not divulge the position of these cars. You simply can’t avoid every railfan everywhere, though, and on 3-Oct-2001 (Wednesday) a fellow DRGW fan here in the Colorado Springs area reported a southbound passenger train with two Rio Grandes on the front. At first, I dismissed it, until I noticed two Rio Grande units, 3097 and 3128, had very strange trace information. With the help of various other people, we were able to pin it down to being a Denver-to-Alamosa Engineering Special, set to return on Thursday, 4-Oct-2001. Once again, a quick call to work managed to get the morning off to pursue this one, and I was off for Pueblo.
In hindsight from the future, this probably wasn’t an engineering special but instead an inspection train, showing off the La Veta Pass line to a prospective buyer as the route was sold off in 2003 to the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad.
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