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  • DRGW 493 RETURNS
    Posted Friday, January 24 2020 at 2203 h MST
    Having last run in 1968, most of us assumed we would never see K-37 #493 ever under her own power again. 493 was pulled from Silverton in May 2016 in preparation for a potential lease to the Colorado Railroad Museum, where she would have been restored and operated on the museum's small loop. However, that deal fell through and 493 languished in the D&S Durango yard.

    After the 416 Fire in 2018, the D&S considered a new option for 493 - convert the engine to an experimental oil burner to lessen the fire danger posed by ejected cinders. The railroad borrowed SP narrow gauge #18 in 2018-2019 to experiment with oil burners and train crews. Today, 493 took her first steps after the overhaul. Video can be found over [in this thread at NGDF].

    I've also heard that 473 is in for an overhaul, and will be the next oil burner conversion. There's no word yet on the two new diesels and when they'll arrive. -
    NDHolmes

  • USFS BLAMES D&S FOR 416 FIRE, FILES SUIT
    Posted Tuesday, July 2 2019 at 1451 h MDT
    The US Forest Service has officially found that the 416 Fire last summer was caused by cinders off the D&S's locomotives. As a result, the US Attorney's Office has filed suit against the railroad, seeking $25 million for direct costs for fighting the fire and for land remediation afterwards.

    There is a separate lawsuit filed in September 2018 by nearby landowners affected by the fire (largely from mud flows, since no structures were lost from fire) and from a few businesses, alleging negligence on the part of the railroad by running in such dry conditions. It's unknown how this announcement will affect that suit, but I can't see how it would be good for the railroad.

    The Denver Post has a more detailed article [here]. -
    NDHolmes

  • D&S ACQUIRES TWO NEW DIESELS
    Posted Wednesday, August 22 2018 at 2343 h MDT
    The Durango & Silverton, faced with future shutdowns due to the hightened fire danger brought on by persistent drought here in the southwest, has signed a $3.2M contract to have two new 2000hp narrow gauge diesels built. The two new motors will be built by Motive Power Equipment & Solutions of Greenville, SC, and will be designated MP2000NG. Internally, they will be Caterpillar 2000hp diesels powering GE 764 traction motors. Delivery is expected next spring. The full press release is available [here].

    On the other hand, the D&S is also working to put D&RGW K-37 #493 back on the rails, but converted to an oil burner. This, too, should allow them to operate through excessively dry weather without the fire danger of coal cinders. -
    NDHolmes

  • ROCKY CLUB MEETING TOMORROW - JAN 14
    Posted Monday, January 13 2014 at 1014 h MST
    Just a reminder, the monthly Rocky Mountain Railroad Club meeting is Tuesday evening at 1930h. This month's show is "From Durango to Darjeeling: Steam from Colorado to the East Coast to India" by Dan Edwards.

    Everybody is welcome, member or not. The monthly meeting is held, as always, in the southeast wing of Christ Episcopal Church, 2950 South University, Denver, CO. Come, enjoy a great show, and be part of a 76 year Colorado railfan tradition!
    -
    NDHolmes

  • THE TVA AND NORTH FORK COAL
    Posted Wednesday, December 11 2013 at 1455 h MST
    KVNF, the public radio station for Colorado's western slope, has an interesting news article on their website. They report that Arch Coal's West Elk Mine may be losing their contract to provide the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) with coal. The TVA started sourcing Colorado coal in the early 1990s to comply with lower sulfur emissions standards, and that contract expires at the end of 2013.

    Back in 2011, there was a Clean Air Act lawsuit against the TVA and emissions from their coal-fired generating stations, and the TVA wound up settling out of court. Part of that settlement was the closure of 18 older coal-fired units and investing $3-5 billion in pollution control equipment for the remaining facilities. Then, just a month ago at their November board meeting, the TVA board voted to close eight additional coal units. When you consider these closures with the fact that Arch Coal has not yet announced that it's contract has been renewed, this may indicate that no deal is forthcoming, and lower-cost low sulfur coal from the Powder River Basin may be adequate to meet the TVA's needs until the plants go offline.

    To give you some scope of the impact, I've run some analysis using the EIA-923 Fuel Receipts and Costs monthly data from Jan-Sep 2013, which shows fuel purchases by power companies. For Jan-Sep 2013, the North Fork mines (Bowie, Elk Creek, and West Elk) sourced 3,268,399 tons of coal. Of that, 2,688,031 tons (82%) went to various Tennessee Valley Authority plants. (This is up from 2012, where the TVA consumed 73.3% of the 6,915,792 tons of coal sold from North Fork mines. Some of the difference is from the closure of the Elk Creek Mine, some is due to lower demand, and some is due to the difference plants reporting on a monthly or annual basis.)

    Here's a list of TVA plants that either purchase North Fork coal or have been announced in the most recent round of closures, along with their location, tons purchased from all North Fork mines from Jan through Sep 2013, and any projected closures:

    • Shawnee (Metropolis, IL - 922,246 tons NF coal) - retiring 1 of 10 175MW units by end of 2017 as part of 2011 settlement
    • Colbert Fossil Plant (Tuscumbia, AL - 404,373 tons NF coal, 46% West Elk, 54% Bowie #2) - retire all five coal-fired units by mid-2016.
    • Cumberland (Nashville, TN - 505,763 tons NF coal) - no planned retirements
    • Bull Run (Oak Ridge, TN - 107,039 tons NF coal) - no planned retirements
    • Johnsonville (Waverly, TN - 291,838 tons NF coal) - all ten units planned to retire by end of 2017 as part of 2011 settlement
    • Paradise (Central City, KY - no NF coal) - retire 2 of 3 coal-fired units as part of 2013 closures, replace with new 1GWe combined cycle natural gas turbine unit
    • Gallatin (Gallatin, TN - 22,360 tons NF coal) - no planned retirements
    • Kingston (Kingston, TN - 91,923 tons NF coal) - no planned retirements
    • Allen Steam Plant (Memphis, TN - no NF coal) - has burned NF coal in past years, but none in 2013. No planned closures, highly modernized emissions systems
    • Widow's Creek Fossil Plant (Stevenson, AL - no NF coal) - retire 7 of 8 coal-fired units, 6 as part of 2011 settlement, 1 as part of 2013 closures.


    There's a double whammy here to coal flowing off the former Rio Grande North Fork Branch. There's plants being retired outright and there's a heavy investment into new emissions controls that may allow switching to cheaper coal sources. The lack of a new Arch Coal contract announcement strongly hints at the second being a real concern. If new customers aren't found, traffic on the North Fork and the Rio Grande system may be headed for a substantial downturn in the near future. If you want to go photograph coal traffic south of Grand Junction, it might be a good idea to get out sooner rather than later. It looks like rough economic times ahead for the North Fork communities, which are largely supported by the mines.

    As a note, this is only considering North Fork coal mining. In 2012, the TVA also purchased approximately 189000 tons of coil from Peabody's Foidel Creek mine on the Craig Branch, but none has been reported for 2013. However, that amount is only about 1.7% of the 11,035,677 tons of coal sold by Craig Branch mines in 2012, so the change is significantly less. -
    NDHolmes

  • RAIN SHUTS DOWN MOFFAT & MORE
    Posted Thursday, September 12 2013 at 1434 h MDT
    Apparently today's westbound Amtrak 5 is sitting in Denver because rains, flooding, and slides have knocked the Moffat out as well as something on the usual UP detour route through Wyoming. I haven't heard anything concrete, but there are unconfirmed reports on T/O about slides, a washout, and a derailed or stuck train somewhere between Cliff and Denver.

    Amtrak 6 apparently is headed east on the UP from Ogden this morning, so it's coming across Wyoming. Hopefully whatever the problem is on this end (my guess would be something between Greeley and Denver) can be repaired before it gets here.

    BNSF's Front Range Sub is also out of commission, with tracks underwater in Longmont and a washout somewhere.

    Fires, then floods. I'm leaving town before the plague of locusts shows up. (No seriously, I'm headed up to northern Minnesota tomorrow morning, assuming the DIA runways don't float away...) -
    NDHolmes

  • DRGW 0584 LOST TO ROYAL GORGE FIRE
    Posted Thursday, June 13 2013 at 2333 h MDT
    As many of you are already aware, the hot, windy, dry weather that's settled over Colorado this week has allowed a spate of wildfires to pop up and spread with amazing ferocity.

    I don't mean to in any way diminish the huge impact of these fires to people's homes and lives. It's certainly top on my mind personally, as I have a number of friends who have either already lost their homes or are evacuated and just don't know. However, every other news organization is already covering that. So I'll stick to what this site does best - covering the fires as they relate to the D&RGW and Colorado railroading.

    One of the first to start, the Royal Gorge Fire, began to the southwest of the Royal Gorge Bridge and spread to the northeast. In the process, it jumped the canyon roughly at the bridge site, and burned most of the park structures. DRGW K-37 499 and caboose 0584 were on the northeast end of the park, and most of us feared the worst for the old wooden caboose.

    Sadly, it's true. D&RGW 0584, one of five narrow gauge 26' "long cabooses" built by the Grande in 1900, is a complete loss. You can see it [here] as it appeared the last time I photographed it in 2010. Fox 21 News (KXRM) out of Colorado Springs posted [a number of photos] from the Royal Gorge Park that show the damage. The pertinent one here is [this one (#4)], showing only a pile of metal and ashes behind 499 where 0584 used to be.

    Hopefully we can get word to the right people in Canon City and the Royal Gorge Park that the metal remains need to be saved and hauled off to the dump. Even if they're not used to build a replica 0584, they could still go into other historic D&RGW cabooses in need of restoration.

    FYI, for those wondering, my house is miles away from the flames and in almost no danger no matter which way this thing goes. My office, on the other hand, is right up there in the thick of it. Our management decided to kick us out yesterday when we were put on voluntary evacuation, and then this afternoon, officials converted that to a mandatory evacuation. So I'm working from my couch for at least the next few days. -
    NDHolmes

  • UP CHANGES CLAY TO EISELE
    Posted Tuesday, April 2 2013 at 1002 h MDT
    I waited until this morning to post this, as if I hadn't, nobody would believe that it wasn't a joke.

    Effective yesterday evening, Union Pacific renamed Clay siding on the Moffat Tunnel Sub to "Eisele" with General Order 22. (Clay is the one at MP 21 on the upper west side of the Big Tens, visible up on the hillside to the west. It was also known as Fireclay in distant D&SL history, after the small town and local clay deposits suitable for fire bricks.) The siding is presumed to be named after Charley Eisele, a UP Senior VP of Strategic Planning & Administration who retired in February 2013. -
    NDHolmes

  • D&RGW 463 LIVES
    Posted Tuesday, March 19 2013 at 0927 h MDT
    Don't know how I missed this, but at long last D&RGW K-27 463 has been brought back up to pressure and has moved under her own power. A report from John Bush [here] says that a fire was first built last Thursday (14 Mar 2013), and the engine moved on the 15th. That means, for the first time in over a decade and a year behind the original plan, we'll have a K-27 operating on home rails.

    Of course the class has not been absent - the Huckleberry up in Michigan keeps sister unit 464 in top condition and Rio Grande paint.

    Sadly, I have to admit I never made it to Chama or Durango last year for the first time since I've lived out here (14 years now). This should add some variety for the season and motivate me to get off my lazy butt and get down there again. -
    NDHolmes

  • UP AC4400 UP IN FLAMES AT STEAMBOAT
    Posted Thursday, November 10 2011 at 1125 h MST
    Early yesterday morning, the second unit on a westbound manifest suffered a generator fire near Steamboat Springs. The fire was spotted by a passer-by, and the Steamboat Fire Dept was called out to extinguish the blaze. Steamboat Today has the article and a couple pictures online [here]. - NDHolmes

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