Personal Projects, Photography, and Pointless Pontifications
Three Grande Locals
The Cañon City Local – Feb 20, 2003
2003 will almost undoubtably be the last year for seeing pure Rio
Grande power operating Union Pacific trains. We, as fans, are lucky
it’s even lasted until now. Only thanks to the fine condition of DRGW
power and the Southern Pacific’s aversion to painting anything has it
lasted this long – nearly 15 years after the Rio Grande disappeared as
an operating entity. While we’ve certainly seen the end of large,
mainline Rio Grande trains, several locals around the system are still
reliable bets for drawing some, if not all Grande power.
Most recently, the Cañon City Local (UP symbol LDS53), running from
Pueblo, CO, to its namesake town, has been drawing at least one, if not
more Rio Grande GP40-2s. Normally, the run only goes as far as the
Holcim cement plant at Portland, but on Mondays and Thursdays it travels
clear to Cañon City, where it delivers coal to the local generating
station. Last month, Paul Birkholz went out after it and posted a few
photos on his website, Mountain West Rail.
I’ve been putting it off, with work or poor weather often getting in
the way of taking a Monday or Thursday off. Finally, following Paul’s
advice of, “Get ye butt down to Pueblo. You’re less than an hour away!
Don’t delay!”, I managed to cancel or pawn off several meetings and I
got Thursday, 20-Feb-2003, to go chase. As luck would turn out, I
managed to get three Grandes, for a perfect solid set, on Thursday’s
train. The weather wasn’t the greatest, going from foggy to hazy to
sunny to overcast (and repeating parts of the cycle), but even so it was
well worth the time.
The Colorado Springs Local – Jan 24, 2003
Next is my morning out with the Colorado Springs local job (UP symbol YCO65). This train serves industries in and around Colorado Springs, especially those north of Fillmore. While Rio Grande power used to be common on the job, lately it’s usually been held by a UP or SSW geep. So, when the job got a Rio Grande again (DRGW 3109), I took a morning to go follow it around. It’s not an overly challenging piece of railfanning, but it’s some interesting industrial trackage, as well as a piece of the old Rock Island main through town. With only a short run of a few miles, there are limited photo opportunities, but it was a beautiful morning to railfan. The entire job for the day was to switch about three industries north of the former Rock main, and then head back to the yard, but this took a few hours and provided a number of interesting shots.
The Dirt Train – Nov 23, 2002
Finally, Helper, UT’s Dirt Train (UP symbol LJP45) is probably the best known example of a local that still draws Rio Grande power. Thanks to the dedication of several people, Helper has been the last bastion of large Rio Grande power. Four of the five remaining tunnel motors are based out of there (5377 is on the loose as I write this, wandering about Texas), and they have a very good record of keeping them around and keeping them running. It would appear that, for the moment, it’s a safe haven from the Armour Yellow paint gun and the endless onslaught of SD70Ms. On my way to California in late November to visit family, I routed us through Helper so that I’d have yet another morning watching the four motors work.
All shots in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS D30 with a Sigma 28-80mm f3.5-5.6 lens or a Canon 75-300mm f4-5.3 IS/USM.
This work is copyright 2021 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.