North Fork Operation Lifesaver Specials

During the week of June 13-19, 2009, Union Pacific and Operation Lifesaver ran specials all over Colorado to promote grade crossing safety. The first sets of these trips were scheduled for the Western Slope, running over both the old Rio Grande mainline as well as on the North Fork Branch from Delta eastward. The train itself consisted of UP 1989 (the Rio Grande Heritage SD70ACe), UP E9B 963B, several UP passenger cars for the public, and UP AC4400 7250 on the rear.

Grand Junction to Westwater – Saturday, Jun 13, 2009

On Saturday, 13-Jun-2009, the train made three runs from Grand Junction out west to Westwater, UT, leaving the Grand Junction depot at 0900h, 1200h, and 1500h. After the day’s runs were complete, the trainset was moved southward to Delta, CO, for Sunday’s North Fork Branch runs.

North Fork – Delta to Paonia on Sunday, Jun 14, 2009

Sunday’s operations basically mirrored Saturday’s – out and back trips at 0900h, 1200h, and 1500h, but this time running up the North Fork from Delta, CO, where it connects with the Montrose Branch, up to Paonia.

As the line is usually the exclusive domain of coal trains coming out of the mines near Somerset, the chance to shoot a passenger train was too good to pass up. So, I headed on my first real mainline railfan trip of 2009, and what follows are the results. I caught both the final Saturday run out of Grand Junction, as well as the first two trips between Delta and Paonia. I decided to skip the third and final run, given diminishing light, but there are more than enough decent shots from the first two to cover the branch well.


All photographs in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS 40D using either a Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS/USM, Sigma 18-50mm, or a Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS/USM.

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