Saturday, July 21, 2007

Summer Grillin'

'Tis the season for that Wisconsin tradition of grilling brats and burgers (or whatever) on the BBQ grill. On the Tomahawk Southern Railroad, sidings are few and far between, so here we see a crew taking advantage of their time "in the hole" to grill a few hamburgers on the back porch of their SD40-2. Hopefully, their meet will arrive by the time dinner is done !

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Colorado Springs/Monument/Palmer Lake, CO July 11-12, 2007

A standards organization whose meetings I attend for work has held their July meeting in Colorado Springs, CO for the past three years. For some images from last year's trip, see the following link.

2006 Album link

This year, the weather was more tolerable than last (high 80s instead of high 90s), and I decided to look around some more.
First, the view looking across the central square, past my hotel to the west, at Pike's Peak.

The statue in the foreground is Col. Palmer, who founded the city, and oversaw the development of much of the area.

There were a number of historic photo prints in my hotel, the Antlers. The caption on this one detailed the events of one fateful day, when the hotel and much of downtown were leveled by a boxcarload of dynamite which exploded by the passenger depot.

Down the hill from the hotel, the former DRGW depot is now a fine Italian restaurant, brewpub, and some shops.

The DRGW and ATSF (which had the Colorado & Southern operating over trackage rights) consolidated their traffic onto what had been the DRGW in 1971. Today, by my observation, much of the traffic over the line is BNSF-hauled coal bound from Wyoming for generating plants in Texas and elsewhere in the south, with UP contributing a few more coal trains, and the balance provided by 6-8 manifests split between the railroads.

Across the street from the DRGW depot is a token of the railroads' history in town.

On my morning of free time, I decided to make a point of railfanning Palmer Lake, where the Joint Line has its northern end. The grade profile for the railroad from Denver to Pueblo is simple, with the two ends at roughly 5200 and 5500 feet above sea level, respectively, and a 1.5% grade going from each to the summit at Palmer Lake, above 7200 feet. Needless to say, trains approach on their figurative hands and knees, especially the southbound loads about to crest the top and begin their descent.

On the way, I passed a bridge in Monument showing the history of the line.

On the south side of Palmer Lake, I passed what likely had been the ATSF depot, before extensive remodeling and relocation.

The city sign on the north side of town was impressive.

Taking up my post about 11:00, I surveyed the area. Here, we look north, with the separate UP (left) and BNSF (right) rights-of-way extending away.

Looking south across Palmer Lake, along which the right-of-way passes on its west side.

The historic ATSF right-of-way is now a trail from Palmer Lake Jct south.

Some remnants of the original owner's presence remain, though masked by the present.

As I remembered it from 'Trains,' the junction.

I documented the city limit sign, as much for the indicated altitude as anything.
The BNSF policeman for the area rolled through, patrolling his beat.

After waiting about an hour, the first train approached. Empties, headed back.
As all the coal trains, and some manifests, had, this had DPU engines.

After giving the railroads another 90 minutes, I headed back to Colorado Springs for my afternoon meeting. After another three hours in a hotel conference room, I headed back to Palmer Lake for dinner and some more photography, having been reminded of the work windows which the maintenance-of-way were taking advantage of in midday.
Around 18:30, the first of the evening parade came through.

While scouting out a dinner location, I found this peculiar establishment.
Before returning to my post, another northbound came through. Owing to the spacing of sidings, it was 15-20 minutes between trains.

As dusk fell, I broke off for the day, about 19:45 local time.

I found an excellent Italian restaurant in Palmer Lake, about 150 feet from the tracks, separated from direct view by a grove of trees. However, while I dined I could hear well the two trains that passed in each direction. Part 2 to follow....

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BNSF/UP Joint Line Palmer Lake, CO July 12, 2007

After my final day of meetings in Colorado Springs, and with an early next-day departure for home, I headed back to Palmer Lake for some evening observations. On the way north, I passed the Air Force Academy, which is just west of I-25.
Another patch-painted DRGW sign awaited me, as I set up in the midst of the curve just south of the junction.
Another look at the eclectic 'depot,' which was doing good business that night.
As the rains approached, the first loads of the evening did, as well. Loads slowed to walking speed as they passed, allowing gravity to handle the acceleration, with dynamic brake fans screaming.

They stopped just past me, and cut off one of the DPU helpers. A crew in a 4x4 was waiting to pilot it into the BNSF house track.
That having been accomplished, the loads went on their way south.

About 20 minutes later, another loaded train was next.

A bit of oxymoronic freight car art was in the manifest.

As the DPU engines rolled past at walking speed, the train came to a stop, and the trailing unit which they'd cut off approached.

After what must have been an interesting radio conversation, the loose unit backed north, coupling onto the engine the previous load had dropped, and both proceeded north, with the loads going south.

With dinner plans at another brewpub in the 'Springs, I left with the freshening rain about 20 minutes later. As I got to the south side of town, a northbound manifest surprised me.
I doubled back to the Junction one last time.

A good experience railfanning both days, and some good progress in the meetings that week, as well.

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