The morning of August 14 found us on highway 93 south of Boulder. A glance toward the mountain revealed a train stopped at Plainview. And not a minute later, another one appeared eastbound out of tunnel 8, heading for a meet. It looked like a little side-trip was in order.
The westbound train at Plain turned out to be a BNSF coal train (empty). It was already moving forward to clear the switch for the eastbound, so we didn't get a chance to close in for a photo. Instead, we headed for the overpass at highway 72, in the mouth of Coal Creek Canyon. As we turned onto 72, we saw yet another train, westbound, climbing the Big 10 loops above Rocky, and heading into the siding at Clay. It looked like a long string of flatcars of some kind, with two EMD units on the point.
We parked at the pulloff by the bridge and hiked up to the tracks. We didn't have long to wait for the eastbound. It came snaking out of tunnel 1, dynamic brakes howling on the 2% grade.
It turned out to be a PSCX unit coal train (Public Service Co. of Colorado)
...with a Southern Pacific AC4400 on the point...
-(notice the "spots" on the nose, where someone wiped grime from her face)-
... and UP SD90MAC trailing.
It turned out that there were three pairs of locomotives on the train like this: one SP AC4400 and one UP SD90MAC.
This car and one-hundred-four mates were carrying the payload. PSC has three types of rotary gondolas in its trains.
Here the tail end recedes around the curve, headed for Blue Mountain road and points east. The opposite side of the 90MAC has a large area below the exhaust stack where the paint is completely burned off. I wish I'd gotten a photo of it.
Waiting for the next train, the kids found ways to keep themselves occupied.
After waiting for what seemed a long time, we gave it up and went back to the car to resume our journey. Which, of course, meant that the next train would come along just after we left! But somehow I managed to squeeze a van and camper trailer onto the shoulder in time for the next sequence.
The westbound turned out to be a Union Pacific welded-rail train. It consisted of a long string of D&RGW flatcars with posts, with lengths of continuous rail laid on them. On each end of the string of flatcars was a high gondola for buffer, and trailing were two cars for the rail-welding equipment, painted green. Unfortunately I didn't get them in any of the photos.
The power turned out to be a UP SD60 #5999, standard-cab, and an ex-Rio Grande tunnel motor #8626. (See my main DRGW page for more info.) It was great to hear that all-EMD power laboring up the hill.
Here the train has crossed the bridge and is on the opposite side of the horse-shoe curve, headed compass east towards the portal of tunnel 1.
A closer look at the welded rail flatcars. Unfortunately the weeds make the numbers hard to read.
Here the train is high on the hillside above the road, about to curve into tunnel 1 and out of Coal Creek canyon.
It was a half-hour well spent. I love this location; it's easily accessible, and the steep grades and sharp curvature make for dramatic railroading. I just wish the Rio Grande sign still hung on the overpass...
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