DRGW History and Information  

  Trip Report: The Potash Local - Chapter 1
  Grand Junction to Potash
Friday, 27 Apr 2007
  From: The Potash Local Dates: 27 Apr 2007 Author: Nathan Holmes


Photo 1
Just as I arrived at Westwater to wait on the local, UP 8056 showed up eastbound dragging an empty coal train across the desert. Yes, empty, based on the springs on the cars.
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Photo 2
The dispatch promptly announced that 8056 would go in the hole for two - BNSF's M-DENSTO using its trackage rights over the Rio Grande, followed shortly by the Potash Local. Here's M-DENSTO.
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Photo 3
And following only a short few minutes behind is the Potash Local, lead by UP 3364 and 3751, both SD40-2s that have actually spent their entire careers on the UP.
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Photo 4
These guys wasted no time across the desert. I thought I might catch them at Cisco, but found only red over red on the east end signal, indicating they'd already passed the control point. Here they are just east of Thompson, UT.
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Photo 5
Both the M-DENSTO and Potash Local met Amtrak 6 (running a bit over two hours late) at Thompson. The DS couldn't get the East Thompson switch to lock up in reverse, though, so Amtrak wound up backing out of the siding before heading east again. Here it is just east of town.
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Photo 6
And a parting shot showing it headed out across the desert towards Cisco... The cut behind the train and barely visible grade beyond is one of the Grande's earlier alignment through here, possibly even dating back to the narrow gauge.
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Photo 7
With the time it took me to wait for Amtrak to get going and then climb down off the hill east of Thompson, the local had already completed switching out the fuel tankers at Brendel by the time I got there. I found them on the branch, waiting for the brakeman to walk back to the head end after returning the mainline switch to normal.
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Photo 8
And we're off to Potash, down the Cane Creek Branch. The mainline can be seen in the background. As I understand it, the storage cell for waste material coming up from Moab is supposed to be built between the mainline and the Bookcliffs in the background right about here.
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Photo 9
And the real reason I decided to go chase that Friday - one of two ex-Army Whitcomb RS4TC units headed for Potash. These are OHFX 1250 and 1258, and will be used in switching cars that will carry contaminated tailings from Moab up to the Brendel (Crescent Junction) containment cell. 1258 was still stuck in Grand Junction with inoperative brakes, but 1250 - the Cap'n Jack - went that day.
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Photo 10
A look at the other side of OHFX 1250, the conductor's side of Cap'n Jack.
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Photo 11
The northernmost 20 miles of the 38 mile branch are relatively dull. They're basically a mild grade over a hill, basically running through high desert terrain. Here's one of several old steel trestles on that section of the route.
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Photo 12
Near the Moab airport, the line starts the descent towards the Colorado River canyon and Moab on this broad S-curve, sweeping under US Highway 191.
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Photo 13
If you ask me, the real scenery starts at Seven Mile, located near milepost 21 and the line's only siding. It used to have both an LP gas terminal and an ore dock, but neither is used today. As you can see by the heat waves, it's already nearly 80 degrees and only a bit after 1300h.
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Photo 14
Seven Mile does still receive loads of one kind - tank cars full of brine for the highway department. Today's local will stop and pick up a couple empty tank cars. They haul in brine for the highway department to shoot on the roads. I imagine it's more for dust control than de-icing in these parts, though 191 does indeed see snow from time to time.
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Photo 15
Past Seven Mile, the line starts into a deep vertical cut through the rock to continue the drop down the canyon. At the south end, it bursts forth near some spectacular rock formations. Trains creep through this cut due to the danger of rocks on the track.
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Photo 16
With the high midday light, I decided to skip ahead to the other side of Bootlegger Tunnel. This is near milepost 30.7, on the south/west side of the tunnel, just before the track enters the huge cut near milepost 31.
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Photo 17
Standing at the south/west end of the mile 31 cut, watching the local in the distance as the track drops down towards the Colorado River.
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Creative Commons License This work is copyright 2007 by Nathan D. Holmes (maverick@drgw.net), but licensed under a Creative Commons License. This allows and encourages others to copy, modify, use, and distribute my work for non-commercial purposes (only), without the hassle of asking me for explicit permission or fear of copyright violation. I encourage others to consider CC or other Open Content-style licensing of their original works.

All photographs in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS 20D using either a Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS/USM or a Canon 75-300mm f4-5.6 IS/USM.