DRGW History and Information  

Photo 51
After some brake issues, UP 6816 threads its way towards Kyune
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Photo 52
6816 pops out of one of the Kyune Tunnels
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Photo 53
One last look at 5349 in the evening light
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Photo 54
What I believe was MROGJ heads down the Price River Canyon near Nolan
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Photo 55
Putting cars away in the Wash yards, the four motors are out on the CV local job
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Photo 56
Amtrak #5 at Dotsero, preparing to head through the wye and meet #6.
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Photo 57
And its counterpart, #6, pulling out of Dotsero and starting into the Cutoff
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Photo 58
Amtrak #6 winds along the Colorado River at Yarmony.
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Photo 59
Leaving East Azure (in Gore Canyon) after meeting a coal empty.
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Photo 60
A view of Gore Canyon from Inspiration Point
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Photo 61
The Eastbound Zephyr calls at Fraser, and I call it a day.
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  Trip Report: Helper, Utah - Chapter 5
  Helper and Homeward
  From: Helper, Utah
Dates: Labor Day Weekend Author: Nathan Holmes

Picking up from the radio that nothing else, east or west, was expected for some time, I continued my drive back to Helper. The first train, UP 6816 east, was having problems near Colton, and 5830 had been run around him. Thinking I might finally get a shot I'd wanted at Kyune for some time, I parked the truck at the little roadside park near the road down to Kyune and hiked back into the trees. After again what seemed like an eternity (including half of that eternity with the train in sight, but stopped just a little too far back with more problems), I did finally get the shot I've been eyeing. (Photo #51) Continuing back to Helper, I picked him up yet again near the east/south portal of the Kyune Tunnels (Photo #52). For anyone wondering how to get that far down, there's a narrow, rutted shelf road running out of the parking area above the tunnels down to the grade level. A car can make it (as I met three fishermen down there with a sedan), but I certainly wouldn't try it in one. With a truck? No problem.

I went back to Helper, shot 5349 basking in the last rays of the sun (Photo #53), and called it a day. Somehow seems fitting for these last five - it's not quite twilight for the tunnel motors yet, but it's definitely their last good hours. Old warriors that ten years ago ruled the Colorado Rockies, five or six at a time, but now were demoted to hauling trash through the Utah desert. Only seven intact ones left as I write this. I suppose it's better than the scrap pile, or even being parked for preservation, but somehow it doesn't seem a fitting end. What I wouldn't give to see all seven on one last big manifest over the old Rio Grande.

Despite grabbing a chicken sandwich and heading back to the room for dinner and some brain-numbing TV, I wasn't quite satisfied yet. It seemed like I was wasting time that could be better used doing, umm... something. So I headed back up into the Price River canyon after dark to give some night photography a shot. I'd planned to use Amtrak's westbound California Zephyr as a subject, but due to problems perfecting the exposure with a digital camera, combined with the wind blowing the tripod around, it just didn't work out. Oh yes - the other problem was that I kept trying to walk over the edge of the cliff. I eventually got a couple of emergency chemical light sticks out of the truck and marked off the edge, just so I'd stop doing that... As luck would have it, though, what I believe was MROGJ (the Roper-Grande Junction manifest) came down the canyon, providing a very interesting shot with Photo #54, shot from high above the Nolan tunnels. It's definitely not the world's greatest night shot - not even close - but I thought it was interesting enough to include.

Sunday morning brought an overslept alarm. Initially I thought that would be okay, since the CV local usually wasn't out that early. However, once I'd gotten dressed, checked out, and everything back in the truck, I heard 5390 call in from Wash for permission to switch. AIEEE! From there it was busting my rear out to Wash, just to see what was going on. As it turned out, they were going to be a while switching some empty coal gons back into the yard at Wash for storage. However, I did catch one runaround move at the Ridge Road overpass. (Photo #55) From there, based on the fact it looked like it was going to be a long, slow job, I decided to head out for home.

The trip home was really unexciting and uneventful. Between Wash, UT, and Glenwood Springs, CO, I saw exactly and precisely nothing. For that matter, I heard nothing but track maintainers on the radio. Even a quick stop in Grand Junction revealed little to nothing moving. However, east of GJ, near DeBeque, I started picking up radio traffic about a train having DPU trouble in Glenwood Canyon - to the point that it was blocking the main and Amtrak was being held at Glenwood. Again, bad for Amtrak, bad for UP, bad for the passengers, but it might make it a good day for the otherwise road-weary railfan. As I was passing through Silt, they'd gotten the DPUs back online with a computer reboot, and were moving it into the hole so both Amtraks could get around. Six (the eastbound Zephyr) was still holding at Glenwood, and Five (the westbound) was well into the Dotsero Cutoff. The scheduled meet point for the day was going to be Dotsero due to all the delays. Needless to say, I wasted no time getting through the canyon to Dotsero and got everything set up on the old highway bridge.

One interesting thing about the old highway bridge in Dotsero - it has plates at both ends marking it as the D&SLW railroad, with a construction date of 1934. I'm guessing that the D&SLW was the company that actually built the cutoff, but I'm not exactly sure. Still, it's just another old, odd feature along the Rio Grande. After pacing on the bridge for half an hour, five did finally show up, with Amtrak 181 in the lead (Photo #56). Also of note was that Rail Ventures' private varnish Bella Vista was riding at the end of the train, just ahead of the freight cars. (I've included a photo of it in Chapter 6.) A quick drive up and around the corner found me a great place to sit and wait on #5's counterpart, #6. The wait wasn't long, for within minutes Amtrak 80 and two other GEs came around the corner pulling for all they were worth (probably trying to make up time - Photo #57)

Between Dotsero and Bond, quite a bit of the Dotsero Cutoff is receiving ATCS signal communications links (as evidenced by the new antenna masts), and there are a great many new intermediate signals being installed as well. The new signals are two three-light hooded signal heads, similar to the old Grande units, except that they're both mounted on the same mast, which is attached to a signal box. They're also not being installed at the same locations as the old signals, but rather it looks like UP is trying to create new, longer blocks. There are photos of these guys in the next chapter as well. While I was able to pace Amtrak for a mile or two near the Bond end of the Cutoff, there really weren't any photo opportunities due to speeds and times through the area. Amtrak is too darn fast, basically.

The next op was at Yarmony, where going through Bond had slowed him down ever so slightly. Yarmony was the site of a derailment two years ago that wiped out the west switch. Ever since then, it's been a stub siding, and recently work has been approved to extend it and make it a useful length (previously it wouldn't hold anything, except a light power move or a very small manifest). Evidence of this work can be seen in the earthwork off to the right of #6 as it winds along the mighty Colorado at West Yarmony (Photo #58). East of there, I didn't catch up with it again until there was a slight delay for a meet with a coal empty at Azure.

Between Bond and Kremmling lies Inspiration Point, a particularly high outcropping along the road where it's possible to see the east end of Azure (Photo #59) and the steepest, most rugged part of Gore Canyon (Photo #60) - and the railway, hundreds of feet below. I consider it one of the must see locations for railfans visiting Colorado. You don't necessarily need to stay long, but it needs to be experienced in person to be appreciated. The D&SL almost didn't build the line through the canyon. They had considered building over the divide to the north instead, due to the engineering problems of constructing the line and keeping it open from rockslides. However, they wisely chose the canyon route, and nearly 100 years later 20-30 trains per day are running over the segment.

After stopping in Kremmling for gas and nearly getting nailed by the town cop for speeding, I made the last stop of the trip at Fraser, CO, to catch 6 on its approach to the platform (Photo #61). Fraser is the last stop for the Zephyr before Denver, and it's also close to the west portal of the Moffat Tunnel. To follow the line any further east takes an extensive amount of back-tracking, and it takes nearly 2-3 hours to get from one portal to the other by road. So, I hope you've enjoyed my babbling, or at the very least the photos. Thanks!

But wait, there's more! I've included another page of photos from this trip, and I've also included a page of photos from my trip to Breckenridge last weekend, to see my parents while they were visiting Colorado. Included is a ride on the Georgetown Loop between Georgetown and Silver Plume, CO, and a few Denver, South Park, & Pacific relic photos taken from Breck over Boreas down to Como. Enjoy, and thanks for visiting.

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All the images here are Copyright 2002 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. Please feel free to copy, use, and distribute anything you find here, as long as I'm given credit for its creation.
All shots in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS D30 with a Sigma 28-80mm f3.5-5.6 lens or a Canon 75-300mm f4-5.3 IS/USM.