On June 30th, 2003, the newly-formed San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad (SLRG) took ownership of the former Union Pacific trackage in Colorado's San Luis Valley. Built in the 1870's by the Denver & Rio Grande, the tracks were operated by that railroad into the 1990's. Rio Grande's 1988 merger with Southern Pacific brought cosmetic but not operational changes, and the 1996 buyout by Union Pacific was more of the same. However, UP was in the business of shedding light branch lines, so the tracks beyond Walsenburg were sold to the SLRG, a creation of RailAmerica.
The railroad is based in Alamosa, and its tracks radiate from there in three directions: west as far as South Fork, south to Antonito, and east over La Veta Pass to Walsenburg. More details of the operating practices can be found here and here; they haven't changed much from the 1980's. Customers come and go, but the overall patterns remain consistent.
On December 22, 2005, RailAmerica sold the operation to Permian Basin Railways, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iowa Pacific Holdings. However, the railroad's operations remained relatively unchanged-- that is, in terms of freight operations. The new owners decided to reestablish passenger service on the railroad. In May 2006 a new passenger excursion service was inaugurated, which now reaches Antonito, Monte Vista, and La Veta, including intermediate points.
> In 2007, standard-gauge steam was introduced when the railroad acquired Mogul No. 1744, ex-Southern Pacific, and two more steamers later in 2007. See here for more details.
This site is a collection of photographs taken since the inception of the SLRG, and will be updated as opportunity permits. The little railroad in the San Luis Valley has dynamic management, and things are changing all the time.
Photos are grouped topically on the menu at left.
February 2011: Looks like I lost track of this news-update feature! As you no doubt know by now, the SD9043MAC's were indeed acquired, intended for the Ski Train operation, which foundered at launch due to disagreements with Amtrak over liability requirements. Since then they have been working normal freight over La Veta Pass. The three SD's mentioned below were sold to ILSX in May 2010 and sent off-property.
November 12, 2009: Reliable reports indicate the presence of an SLRG-painted SD9043MAC at Paducah. Additionally, there is a gold/maroon four-stripe-painted F unit headed for the railroad. Stand by for updates.
October 2009: The SLRG has acquired three 6-axle diesels. All come lately from Balfour Beatty (a company that does railroad maintenance, among other things), painted solid blue, and numbered 201 through 203. No. 201 is an ex-SP SD40R; 202 is an ex-UP SD40-2; 203 is ex-Rio Grande SD40T-2 ("tunnel motor") No. 5373. All three arrived in September 2009.
This is interesting in that no operator of the line in the diesel era has used 6-axle power. Thus, even through No. 203 is back on home rails in a sense, tunnel motors were never used over La Veta Pass, so it is as much a newcomer as the other two units. Evidently the high attrition rate on the traction motors over the pass has led the SLRG to acquire power with higher tractive effort. SLRG is also getting a couple of road slugs rebuilt from ex-Amtrak F40PH's.
August 2009: Ed Ellis and the SLRG are bidding to offer Ski Train service between Denver and Winter Park, replacing the Ansco operation which terminated after the 2009 winter season. Currently, talks are underway with UP (for trackage rights) and RTD (for terminal service in Denver). Winter Park Ski Resort management has expressed support for the idea.