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Photo 1
Two BNSF oddballs sitting in Longmont
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Photo 2
The first encounter with NWP/OMLX 4327
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Photo 3
And the second, as he heads towards Loveland
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Photo 4
Power sitting at LaSalle, awaiting local work
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Photo 5
A southbound CSU coal train, near Gilcrest, CO
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Photo 6
Coming out of the siding at Platteville, CO
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  Trip Report: Weekend Railfanning - Chapter 1
  Saturday, Feb 24
Wandering North of Denver
  From: Weekend Railfanning
Dates: February 26, 2001 Author: Nathan Holmes

Saturday the 25th of February wasn't so much a trip as it was random wandering out of sheer boredom. Michelle was gone over the weekend, leaving me free to remember what being a bachelor is like. Unfortunately, without anything to really work on (or that I really wanted to work on would be more accurate), this lead to jumping in my truck around 10am and just heading out for Denver. The trip itself was pretty mundane - up I-25 to Castle Rock, US 85 to Colorado 470 and so on. Other than a stop in Sedalia to photograph a southbound BNSF coal train, it was an uneventful journey north. I eventually wound up at the junction of Colorado 93 and 72, almost as if my brain was on autopilot (for those of you who don't know, this is basically at the base of the Big Ten curves of the Moffat Line). As usual, there was an eastbound coal train sitting in Rocky, and the scanner revealed another eastbound sitting in Leyden. Shortly thereafter, a westbound empty came through, and at this point I carefully considered the fact that I could see sunlight to the north and nothing but haze and clouds to the west. So I decided to forego the Moffat today and head north to Boulder in an effort to cover new ground.

As far as irritating towns to drive through, Boulder ranks right up there on my list. That's all I'm going to say before I get in trouble with some of you who I know live there.

Finally freeing myself of Boulder after almost 45 minutes, I heading northeast on 119. Again, not really sure where I'm going, just that I'm going somewhere north of Denver and west of I-25. So I wound up in Longmont, and as I was coming into town spotted a pair of BNSF units sitting in a small yard just to the east of 287 - one a GP30-ish looking critter (one of the GP39M rebuilds, according to my trusty Altamont Press timetable), and the other apparently an ex-Conrail GP38X (I have no clue on why this one is designated a 38X). (Photo 1) BNSF has so many odd rebuild creatures I have a tough time keeping up on what is what anymore. It may look like a normal GP30 or GP38, but guess what...

I believe it was this point when I decided I'd try to get to Loveland and have a look around the Omnitrax stuff. I'd heard of D&RGW GP30s being stored there and other such wonders, but hadn't made it up that far to have a loook since moving to Colorado. So, the next half hour or so was spent wondering up there on back roads (taking 287 or I-25 would have just been too obvious/easy), and wondering where some of the various rail lines I crossed went. Stupid me, forgetting to bring a decent map along... Thirty some minutes and one Big Mac later (nobody remind me I'm on a diet, I'm trying to enjoy myself here), I wound up in Loveland.

It actually took me a bit to figure out where Omnitrax's storage area was. I'd come in from the south, and was driving north through town on 287. It never crossed my mind that the barely-usable looking branch coming off the BNSF main was actually the lead. I just passed over it without much regard, thinking to myself, "That can't be it - those rails would turn over under the weight of anything with six axles." Shows what kind of track inspector I'd make - the expensive kind. Guess it's from being used to heavy Class 1 mainlines that I don't realize just how little it takes to hold up something like that, going sufficiently slow. Finally I did get it through my thick skull that this probably was something other than just some abandoned rails in the dirt, so I decided to follow it west.

Sure enough, I should have realized it earlier. The rails lead right into what appears to be an abandoned sugar mill, and there were literally dozens of locomotives scattered about. The first thing that caught my eye were the sets of Northwestern Pacific SD7s, with their bright orange, black, and silver paint. It was only a second later that I noticed the D&RGW GP sitting beside them. Too far away for a photo, though, so I proceeded to drive around the place (around as in around the very large block, not around as in trespassing all over the property itself, just for clarity). On the north side, behind a line of box cars, are several (sources say three, I claim more) D&RGW GP30s. Whether they are all Rio Grande or not I don't know, but there sure looked like more than three GP30s to me. Unfortunately, the only way to get a good look at these is from private property, so the only shot I got was a very long one with a 400mm lens from the Wal-Mart parking lot. Of course that's on film (if anyone would care to donate a digital SLR that takes Canon lenses, I'd be happy to use it instead - hint, hint... ;), so I'll post the shot when I finally get it developed and scanned.

Loveland was interesting, but photographically a bust. The lighting was wrong, the units were too far away, and traffic was heavy. The combination of the three made it difficult at best to get a look at the power sitting around, let alone any photos. Some day I may try to contact Omnitrax and see if I can get permission to get closer - for reference, if any of you out there have tried and succeeded/failed in talking to them (or, better yet, work for Omnitrax and are in a position to grant me a little time with a camera nearer the power to get a thorough set of detail/roster shots), I'd love to hear from you. Please email me. That said, let the trip continue east...

Just east of Loveland (beyond I-25, the place doesn't seem to have a name on any of my maps) is a junction between two Great Western lines with a UP branch thrown in the middle for a challenge, I guess. Parked on one section of the wye were two GP10ish rebuilds as well as two more NWP (OMLX) SD7s, along with a handful of cars. Again, out in the middle of an area I couldn't get to, so out came the SLR and 400mm lens for another round. Also nearby were three old boxcars, a GWR tank car, and an old GWR snowplow. I took several photos of all of this, and then got back on US34 east.

No sooner than I was back on the road and over the next hill than I noticed a headlight off in the distance. Giving my numbed mind a second to realize it was a train (and that it had a nice, clean NWP SD up front), I then turned around and headed back to where I'd just come from. Not having a map, as I mentioned earlier, and not thoroughly understanding the track plan, I took the best option - the crossing on what's apparently County Road 1 (though rather it's Larimar or Weld County I'm not really sure - anybody care to fill this one in?). This was east of the junction area, so I was sure he'd at least be passing through this one. (Photo 2) Note the fact he's running backwards - no ditch lights.

At first, I thought he was going to swing onto the line heading out to the southeast, but the locomotive suddenly started veering to the west. Oops - I told you all that I didn't have a clue concerning track layouts or anything else. So I headed over to the County Road 3 crossing to try and get a few photos of him working back towards Loveland. Thankfully, the crew stopped to switch a few cars at the junction, giving me the few minutes I needed to correct for my error in judgement. From the junction to the crossing is a fair grade, and from a dead stop the 567 under the hood was working fairly hard. As it worked up to the crest of the hill, visible exhaust just came spewing out of the exhaust stacks. Finally, working through the grade crossing, it's a long downgrade, so as he actually passed me, it was doing little more than coasting. (Photo 3) The sound of first generation EMD diesels is unique - something I'd forgotten from all my exposure to modern UP and BNSF railroading.

My final goal for the day was to make it over to LaSalle, on the UP's Denver-Cheyenne mainline, and travel back to Denver (and eventually Colorado Springs). Without a map, finding a route around Greeley proved interesting, but I did manage it without too much wasted time/effort/distance. Honestly, it would have just been more efficient to take 34 all the way through (probably), but that would have been much less of a challenge, right?

LaSalle was its usual collection of cars and assorted small UP EMD power (Photo 4). Nothing moving, though, so after about 100 roster shots of various cars and locomotives, I headed off south towards home. Arriving in Platteville, I found a northbound mixed in the siding - telling me I probably missed something behind me. So I headed back up to what I believe was the County Road 29 crossing, and within minutes a loaded southbound Colorado Springs Utilities coal train passed, with four GE ACs on the front and another bringing up the rear. (Photo 5)

At this point, it was nearly 5:20pm and the light was starting to go. Remembering the northbound in the hole at Platteville, I decided to make one more stop and wait for it. Sure enough, within minutes of the CSUX train's passing, the points changed and UP3432 once again took the main for its trip north. (Photo 6)

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Oh yes, one other thing I should probably mention - all the images here are Copyright 2001 Nathan D. Holmes (maverick@drgw.net)
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.