December 2008

Variety in Colorado

page 3: Amtrak and UP at Rocky


Day 3

On my way out of town, I hit 93 South in hopes of seeing something coming through the Big 10 area. As I got to Rocky, I heard dispatch talking about Amtrak leaving Denver, and I decided to pull off and wait for it. Taking a chance, I drove on the access road all the way around the base of Big 10, and parked well off the right-of-way. Just as I got positioned, I heard “Amtrak Five, highball Rocky”. I climbed up the hillside and took photos as the train rounded the “arena” , i.e. the bowl between Rocky siding and the Big 10 curves.

The train was a typical 9-car consist for late 2008. Here the train is partway around the lower curve (“Little 10”).
Here the train is passing the signals at the west switch of Rocky siding. Back in the Rio Grande days, this switch was moved from its former location east of Little 10, when the siding was lengthened.
Now the train is starting across the fill to the Big 10 curves. Momentarily it will be heading essentially east, before curving around about 270 degrees to the right to resume its northward progress.
Amtrak P42DC No. 59 is in the lead today, with No. 197 assisting.
The train is crossing the short tangent connecting the reverse curves as it briefly heads east-northeast. That’s milepost 19 - ½ to the right of the trailing coach.
Here, the train has looped completely around my location and is now headed northwest as it approaches the east switch of Clay siding. The two 4,200 – horsepower locomotives didn’t sound like they were working very hard to maintain track speed, even up the 2% grades.
No. 5 is now passing through Clay on the main, on its way to the tunnel district, Salt Lake City, and eventually the west coast.


After the California Zephyr was gone, I headed back down the access road. Near Little 10 curve’s east end I encountered a maintenance truck, and asked the driver if anything else was coming. He said that a manifest freight was coming out, and he was going to follow it up the hill. I parked west of the Rocky spur and waited for it. In a moment I heard the crew highball Leyden, so I knew it would be a short wait.

Today’s DVROM train was powered by a trio of AC4400’s. Here it’s just past the Rocky spur. The house track is also visible, rails reflecting the morning light.
Here’s a little better look at the head end.
Freight included a couple of covered hoppers, gondolas and a bulkhead flat carrying pipe, and a flatcar carrying panel track.  Further back was the usual mix of tanks, centerbeam flats, and a number of coal hoppers (some in Rio Grande lettering).
Here the power has rounded Little 10 and is nearing the west switch.
A wide-angle view of the “arena” (which was Rocky’s name back in the D&SL days). The train is climbing the tangent up to Big 10. Incidentally, my previous vantage point where I watched Amtrak was the cut in the center of this photo, about nine cars back from the power.
And now the train has reversed its course and is heading north-northwest past the signals at east Clay. The train is dwarfed by the hogback. The flatirons above are the Ralston Buttes.

That was it for the day. I headed out, after a brief panicky stop when I realized I had left my scanner back on the hill.  I was sure glad I remembered that before I got out on the highway!

I did think it interesting, in retrospect, that of the four trains I saw on these three mornings, there were three manifests and not a single coal train.  Considering the actual traffic mix on the line, the odds of that happening seem pretty remote.



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