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  Trip Report: North Fork Operation Livesaver Specials - Chapter 1
  OLS - GJ to Westwater
Friday, 13-Jun-2009
  From: North Fork Operation Livesaver Specials Dates: June 14, 2009 Author: Nathan Holmes


Photo 1
As I arrived in Grand Junction, the third of the Friday Operation Lifesaver runs between GJ and Westwater was already headed out of town, as seen here out at the west end of town.
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Photo 2
I've always wanted the shot at Utaline, and given that the train made Mack ahead of me, I decided to give it a shot. The road out to Utaline from the freeway is rough, narrow, and a generally bad idea in wet weather, but nothing a small SUV can't handle in dry conditions.
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   2 - OLS - North Fork Trip 1
   3 - OLS - North Fork Trip 2
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Photo 3
Obviously I wasn't going to make the canyon edge before the special's westward trip, but I did make it just in time for the eastbound return. Since I was basically sprinting from the car down to the canyon edge (a couple hundred yards over rough ground), I didn't have a great deal of time to set up the shot.
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Photo 4
The scenery through Ruby Canyon is - in a word - enormous. Unimaginably, indescribably enormous. It makes hundreds of tons of train look like tiny models, and humbles most who experience it first-hand. (And a difficult shot for those of us terrified of heights.)
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Photo 5
Amtrak 5, lead by AMTK 25, left Grand Junction at 1610h, and was set to meet the Operation Lifesaver special at Shale. So, I figured with another westbound coming, I might as well just hold my ground and wait. In the meantime, I sat and watched these two lizards for a while.
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Photo 6
About 30 minutes after the passage of the OLS train, Amtrak 25 and 119 popped out from around the corner with the westbound California Zephyr in tow.
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Photo 7
Rounding the bend just east of the Utaline siding, Amtrak 5 is just about to cross over McDonald Creek and then hug the sheer cliff for the next quarter mile or so. It's about three hundred feet or so to river level from my vantage point.
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Photo 8
On the back of the Zephyr are two private cars, both formerly part of the real California Zephyr (the CB&Q / D&RGW / WP one). The two cars - Silver Solarium and Silver Rapids - are both now operated by California Zephyr Railcar Charters. The original neon sign on the end is particularly appropriate today, reminding us this was an original end car for the "California Zephyr".
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Photo 9
Amtrak 5, highball Utaline!
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Photo 10
I started scouting for spots south of Grand Junction, to shoot the afternoon deadhead run from Junction to Delta. Along the way, I found this grinder sitting at Whitewater. Alas, the 1989 and OLS train didn't leave until 1900h under cloud cover, and didn't make Delta until after sunset.
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Creative Commons License This work is copyright 2009 by Nathan D. Holmes (maverick@drgw.net), but licensed under a Creative Commons License. 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 40D using either a Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS/USM, Sigma 18-50mm, or a Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS/USM.