Friday, October 21, 2016

The Great Western Trip -- Part Five

Denver Union Station, Denver, Colo.; July 23, 2016
In the first part of the trip we went from New Jersey to Kansas City and on to Crawford Hill in Nebraska. In the second part we went to South Dakota to chase steam and diesel, then headed into the Powder River Basin and Sherman Hill in Wyoming. In the third part we hit a variety of short lines in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona including Deseret Power, Navajo Mine, Apache, and Copper Basin. In the fourth part we hit New Mexico, including the Rail Runner commuter trains into Albuquerque and Amtrak's Southwest Chief. In this fifth and final part, we head into Denver before heading back to New Jersey.

The first day in Denver was Day 17 of the trip -- July 19, 2016. I was in town for the National Railway Historical Society convention, but the convention's first day was spent riding the Royal Gorge Scenic brunch train. With no photo opportunities available on that trip, I opted to do my own thing around Denver. The day was spent getting acquainted with the new commuter rail system between Union Station and the airport on the parts near the convention hotel, but in mid-afternoon I headed into the mountains to catch Amtrak's California Zephyr coming out of Moffat Tunnel. The shot I wanted was from an overlook reachable by driving the former roadbed of a long-abandoned railroad over Rollins Pass. I thought the shot was from the first switchback on the road, but after driving a long way in and encountering a road that was more and more rough, I turned around well short of my goal. As I drove back out, I discovered I had actually passed the overlook (only about a half-mile up the hill) and just didn't see it because I was concentrating on the road. I paused at the overlook and was rewarded with the Zephyr coming out of the tunnel.
Amtrak; Moffat Tunnel, Tolland, Colo.; July 19, 2016
Day 18 of the trip had the convention heading for a light rail tour of Denver's RTD system. Once again, with limited photo opportunities on the convention trip, I headed out onto the new heavy rail system, this time riding it end-to-end. At the airport I found a large platform from which to shoot trains as they emerged from the Westin Hotel and terminals.
Regional Transportation District; Denver International Airport, Denver, Colo.; July 20, 2016
The other end of the line is at Denver Union Station downtown. The airport line is the first heavy rail line to open, but two more were undergoing testing for opening later in 2016. The cars used are Silverliner V cars built by Hyundai Rotem similar to those operating in Philadelphia. Just as these photos were being taken, Philly's Silverliners were being taken out of service for a manufacturing defect; the Denver cars were apparently unaffected.
Regional Transportation District; Denver Union Station, Denver, Colo.; July 20, 2016
Day Three of the NRHS convention (and Day 19 of the trip) had the NRHS heading to the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden for an afternoon of activities and a night photography event. There was time in the morning, however, to get Union Pacific's freshly restored 4-8-4 steam locomotive, No. 844, as it traveled from Cheyenne, Wyo., to Denver to get ready to power an excursion in a couple of days. The big Northern was coming out of Cheyenne as it headed through Speer, Wyo., on its way south.
Union Pacific 844; Speer, Wyo.; July 21, 2016
Once the chase with 844 was done, it was time to head to the Colorado Railroad Museum. Denver & Rio Grande Western 2-8-0 No. 346 was powering a passenger train every half hour on the museum's narrow gauge loop.
Colorado Railroad Museum; Golden, Colo.; July 21, 2016
That evening, No. 346 was the star of the night photo session. Four different scenes using the Consolidation (and three additional scenes using other museum equipment) were shot during the event.
Colorado Railroad Museum; Golden, Colo.; July 21, 2016
Day 20 of the trip was unusual -- no photos were taken! I am on the board of the NRHS and the day was spent with meetings and the banquet that night. It was back to photos for Day 21, however. with the NRHS venturing to Leadville, Colo., to ride the Leadville, Colorado & Southern railroad. But first there was time to catch UP 844 as it powered the Denver Post's Cheyenne Frontier Days train out of Denver.
Union Pacific 844; Commerce City, Colo.; July 23, 2016
Back in Denver, the convention attendees boarded buses for the ride to Leadville. Once there, everyone got on the train for a ride on the former Denver & Rio Grande Western branch from Leadville to Climax, Colo. This line hits an elevation of over 11,000 feet, making it the highest standard gauge railroad in North America. A photo stop was held at French Gulch water tank at an elevation just shy of 11,000 feet.
Leadville, Colorado & Southern; French Gulch Tank, Climax, Colo.; July 23, 2016
An alternate angle at the photo stop location shows the water tank at French Gulch.
Leadville, Colorado & Southern; French Gulch Tank, Climax, Colo.; July 23, 2016
Once the buses had returned everyone to Denver, I headed out with Nick Hovey to photograph around Union Station at night. The train from the hotel to the station was packed -- the line is certainly well-used and the area around Union Station has a vibrant night life. We spent about an hour shooting around the station (including the top photo in this post) before heading back to the hotel near what was Stapleton Airport.
Regional Transportation District; Denver Union Station, Denver, Colo.; July 23, 2016
Day 22 of the trip would feature something unusual -- a chase of UP 844 by bus for the NRHS convention. But that trip didn't leave until noon, so I had one final morning in Denver to get some shots I wanted. First up was heading back to Union Station to get the westbound California Zephyr leaving town.
Amtrak; Denver, Colo.; July 24, 2016
From downtown I headed out towards Golden to get some light rail shots. The highlight was a train crossing the unusual basket-handle arch bridge over U.S. 6 at Lakewood.
Regional Transportation District; Lakewood, Colo.; July 24, 2016
Meanwhile, the Colorado Railroad Museum had its "big" engine operating, 2-8-2 No. 491, so it was back to Golden to get the Mikado making the loop around the museum grounds.
Colorado Railroad Museum; Golden, Colo.; July 24, 2016
Finally it was back into town for the bus chase with 844. I drove my own car as a support vehicle for the chase, while 50 NRHS attendees were on the deluxe motor coach. After shooting the train in the yard prior to departure, our convoy headed north (the bus, me in my car, and two other support cars) where we actually caught the train three times. Our final shot was of the train roaring through Ault, Colo., on its way back to Cheyenne.
Union Pacific 844; Ault, Colo.; July 24, 2016
Once the final shot was done, I broke away from the convention to start the long drive eastward. In some of the last sun of the day I caught a Union Pacific freight heading west out of Limon, Colo. From here it was a run to somewhere in Kansas where I stopped for the night (back to car camping after enjoying six nights in a real bed).
Union Pacific; Limon, Colo.; July 24, 2016
It was not much but driving for Day 23 of the trip, heading across Kansas and Missouri. The interstate goes near Granite City, Ill., and by late afternoon what had been mostly cloudy skies gave way to sunshine. The Port Harbor Railroad (operated by Respondek Rail) serves a port (obviously) near Granite City, and I have a few friends that work for the railroad. Knowing they usually run in the afternoon, I swung by and found friends (and brothers) Mark and Mike Mautner working the ground with Scott Nauert running the locomotive.
Port Harbor; Granite City, Ill.; July 25, 2016
They had a lot of work to do on the maze of track, providing some nice photo angles. But I had miles to knock off still, so after a couple of final shots I bid them farewell and continued east.
Port Harbor; Granite City, Ill.; July 25, 2016
That night I pulled into a rest area on the Indiana/Ohio border for some sleep. Day 24 was strictly a driving day (the third day of the trip where no photos were taken), arriving back in New Jersey in early evening. Finally the trip was done, with 9,827 miles on the odometer. But while I was on the trip, my boss set up a business meeting in Kansas City for two months hence. Head back west again? Sure!

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