Trainpics: USA - Colorado

The Eastern part of the former DRG&W mainline from Denver to Salt Lake City, UT, is - in honour of David H. Moffat, who started the construction of this line - usually referred to as the "Moffat Road". Around countless curves and through more than 40 tunnels the line leads from Denver to Dotsero, where it meets the - now abandoned - Tennessee-Pass line from Pueblo. On September 19th, 2000, UP 6656 and UP 8247 are taking a break at Rollinsville, before they bring the loaded coaltrain down to Denver ...
After the "Desert Wind" has been discontinued, the "Califonia Zephyr" is the only remaining (non seasonal) passenger train on the Moffat Road.
On September 14th, 1997, Amtrak #69 an #7 are right on time, as they pass the photographers near Tolland. Although the locos have completed the major part of the ascent to Moffat Tunnel, they won't get a rest in the near future - only a small part of the Rocky Mountain-crossing lies behind them yet!
Heavy coaltrains make up for the better part of the freight traffic on the Moffat Road. The black gold that is mined in the Colorado Rockies is transported to the Eastern states of the USA. Five or six diesels, each 4.400 hp strong, are needed to get the train over the hill! On September 19th, 2000, SP 309 and UP 6614 push an empty coaltrain near Tolland.
On the morning of September 14th, 1997, SP 334, a GE AC4400 and UP 7077, a GE AC6000, roll down towards Denver near Tolland. Three more locos are in the consist, providing additional power.
At least half a dozen coal trains per direction in any 24 hours can be expected on the Moffat Road. Nevertheless, sometimes the patience of the photographer is tested when there is no train for hours. Not so on September 14th, 1997, when a empty coal train showed up not long after we positioned ourselves next to the East portal of Moffat Tunnel.
Having stopped for a short moment, SP 326 and four of her sisters in the middle and at the end of the train are about to enter the six mile long tunnel.
Taken only a few feet further - but at a different time of the day and with a different lense - this shot looks rather different from the last one. On September 19th, 2000, Amtrak 55, 1 and 41 are on their way near East Portal.
The "California Zephyr" won't reach its final destination Oakland for another 1 1/2 days - plenty of time for the passengers to enjoy the beauty of the Rockies!
A very interesting device can be found at the East portal of Moffat Tunnel: To prevent the locomotives' exhaust from getting stuck in the tunnel, a ventilator-house has been built next to the portal. To make the system work, a iron curtain had to be installed behind the portal. Only when a train approaches, the curtain opens - and as soon SP 206 and SP 222 have passed, the curtain will close again and the noise of the ventilators will cut through the quietness of the Rockies. (14th September 1997)
In the late afternoon of September 14th, 1997, another loaded coal train is on its way East. This train is - like most of these coal trains - powered by five locomotives of General Electric's class AC4400. Whilst a single loco is attached to the Western end of the train, there's pair of them in the middle and at the Eastern end of the train. The train is seen near Hot Sulphur Springs.
West of Hot Sulphur Springs the line runs through the small, but scenic Byers Canyon - the tracks and the road hardly find enough room between the rocks and the stream. Hard to believe, that the little stream will grow to be a big river. Nevertheless: It is the Colorado River, which created the Grand Canyon in ancient years!
Amtrak 57, 2 and 294 carfully navigate through the curves in the narrow canyon on September 20th, 2000.
There are only a few locations, where a coal train can be watched in its entire length - "Inspiration Point"  above the Western end of Gore Canyon is one of them. As usual we arrived just as the train was passing the location, allowing only a few shots of the back end of the train. Well, certainly better than nothing at all, since no other train was going to show up for several hours. (15th September 1997)
Between Kremmling and Dotsero, the Rio Grande-mainline mostly runs through - almost - pure wilderness. There are no big roads anywhere near!
Before the line joins the Interstate again in Glenwood Canyon Amtrak 57, 2 and 294 are gliding through the curves near Dotsero on September 20th, 2000.
West of Glenwood Springs, the line parallels Interstate 70 - or, historically correct, the Interstate follows the railway-line, which was there, before Interstates were invented. Soon after the perfect photo-location was found, Amtrak 57, 2 and 294 pass the photographers, which are especially happy about the third of the locomotives - EMD F40PH are getting rather rare in these days - especially in this part of the country.
Only a few dozen miles further - and the scenery is totally different again! The Rocky Mountains offer an incredible variety of different types and formations of rock. Amtrak 57, 2 and 294 are coasting by - soon they will come to a halt at Grand Junction.
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Just West of Grand Junction, the modern GE "Genesis" diesels can demonstrate, how fast they can go. But not for long - soon the "California Zephyr" will have to slow down again, due to more narrow curves ahead. Still at full speed Amtrak #85 and #55 lean into the curve near Mack an September 15th, 1997.
As soon as the "California Zephyr" has passed the siding at Mack, UP 8002, an EMD SD90MAC, SP 138 and SP 276 (both AC4400) can start again. However, they are going at considerably lower speed, slowly accelerating the heavy coal train again. (15th September, 1997)
Last update: 8th June 2002