UP Wimmer Engineering Special 2008

On 4-Apr-2008, a Union Pacific engineering inspection special left Council Bluffs for a whirlwind tour of the UP system. The specials, run every other year or so, have often been nicknamed the “Wimmer Engineering Special” after UP Vice President of Engineering and passenger Bill Wimmer. As is tradition, his specials are almost always powered by Union Pacific’s sole remaining DDA40X “Centennial”, number 6936. This year’s trip would again bring the train across the former Rio Grande lines. Considering Mr. Wimmer’s impending retirement (and thus the uncertain future use of 6936 on these trips or even the running of these specials at all), I decided that chasing was on my list of “must do” trips this year. The schedule, as planned, would bring the special over the Utah half of the Grande on Sunday, 13-Apr-2008, and continue out of Grand Junction to Denver (and on to Sharon Springs, KS) on Monday, 14-Apr-2008.

Sunday, April 13, 2008 – Pocatello to Grand Junction

I decided to start at the train’s planned origin on Sunday – Pocatello, ID. The only problem was that at the crew call time of 0500h on Sunday, 6936 and train were nowhere to be found. As it turns out, they’d encountered significant delays the previous day, and were still working their way over from Hinkle, OR. So, my chase actually began about 25 miles west of Pocatello, at the Snake River bridge in American Falls, ID. The disruption in schedule apparently through off a good number of fans, as I only saw one other photographer out between American Falls and Ogden, UT. It was a beautiful day, and it made for a great chase over the Ogden Sub. The train took forever getting out of Salt Lake, though, and thus it was nearly 1900h by the time it reached Provo. There was little to no light in the canyons of Soldier Summit, and what few spots were lit typically put the sun immediately behind the train. Just after Detour, the line was completely in the dark, aside from a small spot near the summit. So, while I had quite a few shots from the day, only a couple were from former Rio Grande lines.

Monday, April 14, 2008 – Grand Junction to Denver

Monday, however, ran on schedule or even a bit early. Despite having arrived in Grand Junction around 0020h, the special was out promptly at 0535h. Obviously this was well before sunrise – first light didn’t hit until around Rifle, and I stopped for the first shot at Silt. (Honestly, thanks to Nathan Z for letting me know when they left Grand Junction. I’m not really a morning person, and after only about five hours of sleep, I wasn’t exactly awake or in any mood to chase anything.) The chase across the Moffat was quick, arriving in Denver just before 1400h. All across the route, there were only a few minor delays to meet a couple of coal empties and Amtrak’s westbound Zephyr, and overall the chase was relatively calm and pleasant – a refreshing change for chasing a UP special move! Enjoy the photos, as there’s no telling when the world’s largest locomotive will go “Through the Rockies – Not Around!”

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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