With the surviving fleet of Rio Grande SD40T-2 Tunnel Motors now numbering somewhere around 20, and having lost two in the last two weeks, it seems odd that 9 of the remaining units are in and about Colorado right now, and eight of those are regulars, running the Denver-Pueblo and Pueblo-Denver manifests each day in two consists of four each. The first consists of 5401, 5361, 5356, and 5347, and the second consists of 5407, 5413, 5385, and 5377. Additionally, 5376 and 3105 have also seen trips along the Joint Line lately. On Saturday, 2-June-2001, Rio Grande fans were given a special treat when DRGW 5342 was sent east with a four car work train, mainly consisting of a pile driver from western Colorado. Because there isn’t much to say about any of these, I’ll cut the conversation and get straight to a photo-and-caption-only trip report.
DRGW 5342 and a MoW Special – Jun 2, 2001
The first train of the day, an eastbound coal train just east of Tolland, lead by SP 252. It’s amazing how much 52 sounds like 42 on the radio when you’re expecting 5342 to show at any minute.
First sighting at the East East Portal grade crossing (no, that’s not a mistype). With Amtrak only 30 minutes down the line, he’s headed into Tolland.
After going in the hole, the train proceeds across the grade crossing at Tolland, CO.
The load in question – DRGW 21501, something that’s alternately been described as a crane and a pile driver. I could see it as both…
The westbound California Zephyr crosses South Boulder Creek, just east of Tolland.
With Amtrak out of the way, the dispatcher wastes no time getting the fleet of eastbounds moving again, with DRGW 5342 and four car train bringing up the rear.
Being nearly 1400h at this point, lighting on eastbounds is tough, at best. Seen here just west of Pinecliff, CO, DRGW 5342 is still heading east very quickly.
After just missing him at Crescent, I decided to go for Plainview. That didn’t work so well, so I retreated to the Blue Mountain Road crossing.
Rounding the bend and heading for Clay to meet a westbound empty coal train. After this, they put 5342 and train in Leyden to await entry to North Yard. I decided to go after MDVPU rather than wait.
MDVPU on Jun 2, 2001
While I’d been following 5413 since South Denver, the first shot I decided to take was at Louviers, CO, due to congestion in Denver. Just as the train showed up, the lighting went bad…
Taken just off of Yucca Hills Road, DRGW 5413 and consist speed south past Castle Rock and towards Larkspur along I-25.
Not to leave out the T-2s in the middle, I’ve decided to include photos of them as well. Here is the second unit, DRGW 5385.
Finally and fouth, DRGW 5377, followed by a Rio Grande ACF 2-bay hopper.
The next shot at decent light turned out to be north of Palmer Lake, where the four are seen following ten minutes behind a BNSF manifest. They’re about to head down into the “sag”, a small downgrade created when the crossover bridge was removed.
DRGW 5413 crawls along through some beautiful evening sun while waiting on the signal to clear at Palmer.
Finally getting the green, all four throttle up for the final bit of climbing to the summit.
The power heads downhill through the curve around the lake, while most of the train is still working upgrade into Palmer.
Well on its way down into Colorado Springs, DRGW 5413 descends towards the Baptist Road grade crossing, just south of Monument, only seconds before clouds remove any and all useful light for the evening.
MDVPU-12 and MDVPU-14
The first three weeks of June 2001 were particularly good for Rio Grandes on MDVPU – larger concentrations than we’d seen in some time.
SP 9721 leads DRGW 5407 and 5413 up the grade out of Castle Rock, CO. Note the interesting number board on the engineer’s side of 9721.
Just a shot of 5407 passing my shooting location above. Nothing special, just good light on a beautiful machine.
Well, if I put in a good shot of 5407, I can’t leave out 5413, can I? The light on Tuesday evening was just perfect for these two rather dirty Grandes.
The units will get a bit of relief shortly after crossing Tomah Road – there’s a slight dip in the line before the big climb into Larkspur and eventually Palmer Lake.
Skipping ahead in time to Thursday (Wednesday’s pursuit of 5515 was cancelled due to extreme cloud and rain), I found MDVPU just north of the so-called “sag” above Palmer. 5413 is seen here trailing as the power descends into the sag.
Almost into Palmer now, we see the lead unit is UP 4819, an ex-SP SD45T-2 that’s been rebuilt and is now officially noted as an SD40-T2 on the side of the cab.
Finishing the climb to Palmer… The consist includes UP 4819, DRGW 5385, 5407, and 5413.
Haven’t seen one of these in a while…
MDVPU-14 arrives under the Cimarron overpass and prepares to start switching loads for Colorado Springs.
Just another view of 5385 sitting around in the warm evening sun.
Now this is how a Grande should look – nose lights and all. Too bad they don’t work on 5413.
One of the new coil cars having their hoods assembled at the Colorado Springs yard. This one just got picked up and is headed for Pueblo on MDVPU-14.
MDVPU-15 with DRGW 5515
DRGW 5515 leads 5401 and 5361 on the Joint Line just off Florida Street in South Denver. Anybody know the other railfan?
Up close and personal with an SD50 – making the best time I’ve ever seen an MDVPU train make, 5515 and consist cruise through Louviers, CO.
It’s really hard to shoot southbounds along the Joint Line this time of year – the sun’s entirely too far north. Seen here passing “The Meadows” north of Castle Rock, I’ll soon look over to see 5377, 5342, and 5347 pulling a northbound rock train.
5515 is about to pass over the Tomah Road grade crossing, approximately halfway between Castle Rock and Larkspur.
Just as the train arrived in Larkspur, lighting went from excessively bright to extreme shadow.
A little different perspective than one usually sees on the famous Santa Fe bridge at Larkspur, CO.
It just wouldn’t be a trip following an MDVPU if I didn’t get at least one shot at the “sag”.
And for that matter I’m starting to think the parting shot after the sag shot is mandatory, too. Okay, so I’m not doing too well on creativity today.
My last shot of the day, just as a cloud shows up to steal my light again. Here, 5515 is about to head across Baptist Road south of Monument and shortly enter US Air Force Academy grounds.
Six Grandes for Fathers Day – MDVPU-17
In what would be the last, biggest consist of Rio Grande power anywhere, the MDVPU-17 on Fathers Day 2001 (Jun 17) had six Rio Grandes – 5 SD40T-2s and 1 SD50.
As usual, I’m just a minute too late to North Yard. The train was actually pulling out just as I arrived, and by the time I ran back to the top of the bridge he was well on his way out. For reference, the consist is (front to back) DRGW 5356, 5407, 5413, 5515, 5361, and 5401.
Actually, as I soon figured out, it wasn’t actually on its way out. Rather, today’s MDVPU-17 was so long that it had to be pulled from at least two track at North Yard (I heard 110 cars kicked around as a length). Either way, shooting through the chain-link along the departure tracks sometimes does interesting things – especially when one doesn’t line up his lens correctly…
After a significant delay while a BNSF mixed put on helpers at Big Lift, 5356 finally got rolling. Seen here passing Sedalia, the first fifteen miles or so out of Littleton were nothing but very difficult lighting.
Ah! Finally, good light and long open stretches. Fortunately that BNSF manifest still seems to be slowing things down just south of Castle Rock.
Just one of those shots I happened to like, from the same place as #25.
I know, the parting shots from Castle Rock are getting rather old around here, but I couldn’t think of a better way to show you the other end of this beautiful consist.
Over the Tomah Road crossing and headed downhill briefly, 5356 and the other five prepare for the sharp southbound climb to Larkspur. This is cropped from a larger (worthless) photo, that’s why it’s only available at 800×600.
The aforementioned climb into Larkspur.
Another one of my far over-used shooting locations, north of Palmer Lake.
Somehow this shot just seemed appropriate – good light, Rio Grandes (though definitely showing their age), otherwise beautiful country.
Just as the train passed through Palmer Lake, the only cloud that could possibly be a threat decided to maximize its potential – and disappoint what seemed like two dozen railfans. It sure does make those nose lights stand out though – a big thanks to the crew for turning those on.
So it’s not exactly a Rio Grande. 5356 and MDVPU went in the hole at Monument to await the passage of two northbounds. This one I caught at Baptist Road, working its way north. The second I never actually saw, but MDVPU never pulled out after 6758 and train had long passed.
Other DRGW T-2s on MDVPUs
The consist that started a great week – DRGW 5407 leads four motors on Sunday, May 27th, sitting in North Yard and awaiting their assignment to that day’s MDVPU-27
Memorial Day’s MDVPU was lead by a rare GP40-2, DRGW 3105, which Frank K. and I agreed that we hadn’t seen leading down the Joint Line in at least a year.
One of only a handful of remaining examples with their noselights intact, DRGW 5356 sits under the Cimarron St. Bridge in Colorado Springs.
Switching work completed, Monday’s MDVPU-28 heads south with 3105 in the lead, followed by 5361, 5356, and 5407.
Due to pressures from work, the next opportunity to go find MDVPU I had was Friday, 1-June-2001. Here, Friday’s MDVPU is seen at Greenland, powered by DRGW 5347, 5356, 5361, and 5401.
After passing over Greenland Road, the four curve southwest to continue their climb to the summit at Palmer Lake.
After waiting on a southbound rail train to clear the block, DRGW 5347 heads through the sag north of Palmer on Friday, 1-June-2001.
Another shot of DRGW 5356, just behind 5347 in the previous shot, showing its all-original configuration of horn on the cab and nose lights intact. We’ll pretend we don’t see the ditch lights.
Finally getting a green, all four smoke uphill through Palmer Lake and over the summit, just a few hundred feet further down the line from this shot.
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