As some of you know, I'm sure, I'm an engineer with Federal Express when I'm not out railfanning, but for the last week I'd been really dragging quite a bit - finally, at the slight prodding of Michelle, I decided that it was time to take a day off. After all, it had been a reasonably slow week, and I really didn't have anything pressing to get done. So, I decided to make Friday into a complete part of this nutritious three day weekend. Okay, I'm tired, bad humor like this is going to keep showing up. That's not a threat, it's a promise.
So, Friday morning at about 6:30 I rolled out of bed to go see what my options were if I wanted to go find some Grandes. In case you didn't notice it on the front page, I have this handy little tool that Michael was nice enough to build called the DRGW Locotracer. It not only tells me the latest trace data on all surviving D&RGW locomotives, but is also good enough to query RailARC to find out which ones we have and have not gotten yet. It's become an essential tool for precision railfanning... :)
Originally I had planned on heading towards Denver and the Moffat line, to pursue a wandering DRGW SD50 (5502) that had come in from the north the night before, and then work west to Bond, where 5409 was performing local work. However, a quick look at the trace for Friday morning revealed that a trio of D&RGW GP40s had left Pueblo only a few hours before, and better yet, they were all virtually unknown on RailARC. While this trio travelling to Alamosa is nothing unusual, the fact that it happens when I can catch it is novel. So, I packed up all of the railfanning gear into the truck and headed south towards Walsenburg on I-25.
Of course, considering that the run to Pueblo is entirely along the Joint Line (though until you get south of about Fountain, you really have to know where to look through the trees and buildings for it), I did see my share of trains on the way down. Being it was still semi-dark and intermittantly raining, I decided to forget about photographing any of these. The only thing of note was an empty BNSF coal train headed north with all standard rotary dump aluminum cars except for two of the Trough Train segments stuck on the back. I don't have a good reason for this one - I always thought that the Trough Train travelled together, except for the one spare car that sits wherever...
The rest of the trip to Alamosa was through alternating cycles of wind, rain, and bright sunlight. Upon arriving in town, I found a large chunk of power sitting in the yard, consisting of DRGW3128 & 3111, UP 5310, and SP7959 (see photo #1). I poked around a little more, and after concluding that the missing Grande (DRGW3097) was nowhere to be found, I called Michelle back in the Springs to have her verify 3097's arrival in Alamosa. Sure enough, it posted with the rest of the units at around 8am. That meant it had to have gone out on one of the two lines coming off Alamosa - either towards South Fork or towards Antonito. Not yet wanting to contemplate which line to follow, I continued photographing the equipment in front of me, including an interesting little yellow spreader (photo #4). I also spent a few minutes contemplating one grade crossing that still had dual-gauge track embedded in it, wondering how long that had been there and thinking about the great fun of watching narrow gauge trains working over all these lines I never associate three-footers with, like the Joint Line up to Denver. Those would have been the days - too bad I wasn't even born before D&RGW narrow gauge disappeared from the scene.
At this point, I was a little befuddled. Pick the wrong route, and being as the unit had already had three hours to work at this point, I'd probably miss seeing any action at all. Or, I'd get a different unit, and the Grande would have taken the other line. So, after careful inspection of the turnout alignment in the yard, the looks of the rails on both branches (which were both rather shiny), I concluded I should go west further out on the Alamosa Subdivision. Okay, while I did check all of the above, the real deciding factor was that there was sunlight out west towards South Fork, and it was raining to the south (along the Antonito line). I figured that even if I chose incorrectly, this way I'd be back from the western San Luis Valley about the time the sunlight started to fall on the Antonito line, so I really couldn't lose. Besides, call it a gut feeling, and I've learned not to ignore those.
I drove and drove, and at noon was within ten miles of the end of the line. While the rails still looked a bit shiny, it was getting harder to tell, and the condition of the line was fairly degraded. I actually found myself wondering if trains even made it out this far anymore after noticing some unevenness between the rails and just the general amount of overgrowth in Del Norte. As I crested a hill just a little further down the line, I looked down the line and seeing nothing contemplated turning around. When I pulled off in a driveway to get turned around, however, the scanner crackled to life and it was the voices of a crew switching cars (covered in static, of course...). Well, okay, something's close, so I decided to press on towards the end of the line and South Fork, CO.
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|Oh yes, one other thing
I should probably mention - all the images here are Copyright
2000 Nathan D. Holmes
Note this doesn't mean you can't use them - In fact, I encourage people to use and enjoy them.
I'm placing them under the same license as RailARC images.
All images were taken with an Olympus C-3000 camera, a beautiful piece of machinery.