Colorado Springs, August 9 through 14
Tuesday, August 9
Susan and I were on the road early, dropping down to Hwy. 34 to follow
the California Zephyr route west into Nebraska. Our first stop was
in Creston at the east end of the yard around 9:30 where I found some parked
coal trains, one with BNSF 9446 and 8221 on the point. 9446 had a comment on the fuel tank - you can fill in the blank...
Adjacent was BNSF 9784. We waited
a couple minutes for a westbound that we'd seen along the way to arrive.
This was a set of OGSX cars behind 8867
It was mid-afternoon before I got another chance to take some train pictures.
Somewhere in the middle of Nebraska we found a long string of new BNSF covered hoppers and a couple of locos. The hoppers and one of the locomotives
had the new "swoosh" logo, apparently an effort
by BNSF management to make the company indistinguishable from someone selling,
say, tennis shoes, or real estate.
We stopped for supper in Holdrege and I once again checked out the Zephyr Cafe. It's again for sale (the third
time in the last few years) and I think unlikely to ever again develop
a sustained clientele. After we returned from our trip I called the
realtor and offered to pay generously for the sign
and to make sure that it was preserved, rather than eventually falling victim
to vandals or thieves. I've not yet heard back from the cafe's current
Our stop for the night was the "Chief" motel in McCook. The motel's
annex actually has a pretty good view of
the railroad. Next time I'll request a room in the back.
Wednesday, August 10
I was up and out pretty early to catch No. 5 making its stop at the McCook depot. The Zephyr made its stop in a
"Crater Free" area at 4:27 A.M. One
passenger, for Grand Junction, CO, boarded and two detrained during the
two-minute stop. Consist today:
AMTK 142 and 72
We made a stop at Max, NE, at 9:30 to get some pictures of a freight
train waiting for a tie gang to get into a siding. Leading the train
were BNSF 6710, 6839,
8612 and NS 9736.
Transition Sleeper 39014
Sleepers 32006 and 32056
Sightseer Lounge 33001
Coaches 34027, 31012 and 34063
One XpressTrak car
We made it to the convention site, the Clarion Hotel (formerly LeBaron)
in Colorado Springs, late in the afternoon. Check-in took almost an
hour, an omen for the next few days of poor service we experienced at the
Clarion. I must credit the convention organizer, Steve Pelles, however.
He did an excellent job and put in a prodigious amount of effort setting
up a great meeting.
In the evening I attended the RITS board
meeting, staying long enough (midnight)
to get a taste of the on-going friction between some officers and the editors
of the Digest (now approximately 5 years behind in issues). Present
at the meeting, Jeff Spangle, Bryon Weesner, Jeff Worones, Lee Bertholf,
Dick Hutchins, Bill and Bob Riebe, John Harper, Ted Sandlin, Ross Dando,
Paul Schuch, Karen Huerter, Jim Welch and Dick Riedquist. Membership
of the organization stood at 815 persons as of this annual meeting.
Among the business decisions: RITS will publish a quarterly
magazine, "The Rocket" through Whitewater Publications. The first of
these has been mailed and was referred to by one board member as "pitiful".
Organization dues will go from $20 to $35. For this money, members
will get quarterly newsletters "The Rock", quarterly magazines "The Rocket",
a calendar and possibly an annual Digest. Next year's national meet
will be in Cedar Falls, IA, August 17-19. Elections for RITS officers
are coming up, and nominations are due by September 10.
Thursday, August 11
Steve Pelles had organized several side trips for the RITS group, a trip
to Pike's Peak on the cog railway on Thursday, a bus tour to Limon on Friday,
and another bus to the Royal Gorge Route train on Saturday. Though
the hotel had given everyone tickets to a complementary breakfast at their
restaurant, they were not prepared to serve the crowd at the advertised
6:30 opening. We were eventually fed in time to board the bus and
head for the Manitou station for an 8:00 departure
of the cog train.
The bus arrived in time for us to get our tickets and look around a bit while a "train" loaded and headed up hill. The cog
railway is very interesting from an engineering and technology standpoint.
The switches are a combination of points
and stub mechanism to move the rack as well as
rails. The RITS group was treated to some venerable
equipment from the 50's rather than the new hydraulic
drive Swiss cars. We had a separate diesel-electric
loco with two diesel engines, and a passenger
car with overhead windows.
Once underway, our very knowledgeable narrator
pointed out the sights, including telephone poles
for reference to the grade we were climbing, at times has steep as 25%. There
were several sidings on the way up, and we were
told that there would be 17 trains operating on the mountain today. We
stopped and detrained at a hydraulic power plant, affording an opportunity to
get some pictures of the equipment we were riding.
The plant has a single turbine wheel and a very interesting one megawatt generator.
Due to repairs to the pipework, they were not in operation today.
We reboarded and were shortly on our way up the hill
again. Before long we could see Colorado Springs,
and (on a clearer day perhaps) Kansas! We entered
the clouds around 10:00 A.M. and made a stop at Windy Point for a meet
with several trains, including a maintenance crew around 10:15. Some of the passengers
dropped off for a "runby" at this point and found that it was pretty chilly
outside our car. We got to the top just after 11:00 and boarded for the trip back down at 11:40. Box
lunches were served on the way, much of the time in clouds and/or rain.
We were put back on the tour bus at the Manitou depot and taken to the "Miramont
Castle". I'm still not sure just what that is/was, because Susan and
I didn't take the (extra cost) tour of the place. However, open for
visitors, right next door to the castle, was one of the more bizarre train
sets I've ever seen. This was an exceptionally complex HO multi-level affair featuring very imaginative
construction. I couldn't tell for certain if all the levels were connected,
or if there were several independent layouts. A short train, under
the supervision of a woman smoking a cigarette, was circulating at scale
mach 1 or so. Though fascinating in some respects, there definitely
were some "fit and finish" issues. Watch your heads!
We were next bussed downtown to what was described as a former police target
practice range to see the "Pike Masters" club layout. This large HO layout had several trains circulating and a few club members
present to show off their work.
Friday, August 12
Friday's official schedule called for the group to get back on the bus and
go to Limon for a tour of the depot there and of the remains of the Rock Island's
line between Limon and Colorado Springs. We'd made reservations for
the trip, but by Friday it seemed like we'd been driving or riding since early
Tuesday morning, and we'd checked out Limon on the way down on Wednesday.
We decided to skip the bus, stretch our legs and do some local shopping
and sight-seeing. We hit the breakfast buffet a little later than we
did Thursday morning and found that it had been cleaned out, even though it
was advertised to be served from 6:30 to 10:30.
I feel sorry for the staff at the Clarion, I'm sure they have to deal with
lots of grumpy customers due to what is apparently a very disorganized working
place. I'll not go into the numerous other problems we ran into like
an advertised but unavailable wireless network, food that was billed but never
delivered, missing security lock on our door, etc. I'll just say that it
sort of reminded me of riding Amtrak.
We did take advantage of our dinner reservation with the RITS group at Giuseppe's Restaurant, which occupies what was
once the Rock Island (and several other roads) depot. The depot is
right next to the "Joint Line" and across the street from a park with a preserved
Rio Grande steamer. Our group was seated by
windows looking out on the rails, and trains were going by (coal trains),
but, even though everyone seated there was a train buff, the restaurant staff
insisted on keeping the shades down.
Saturday, August 13
This was the day when the RITS event was open to the public for the "swap
contest and display layouts. An optional trip to Canon City with
a ride on the Royal Gorge train was available, but we'd not planned to take
this one. We were out early for a walk downtown (one good thing about
the Clarion was its proximity to the Colorado Springs business district).
After crossing the interstate, you're directly
over the Joint Line. This particular morning there was a pair of
UP units and a fairly well-preserved Rio Grande
engine parked near the restaurant.
After our stroll downtown, we walked north through a park area and crossed
the interstate again on a pedestrian bridge. Colorado Springs seemed
to have a fairly large population of street people hanging out in the parks
and tourist areas. On the way back across the bridge I managed to catch
a northbound WFAX load led by BN 9524 and BNSF
8924 at about 9:00. Actually, our room at the Clarion had a view of
the tracks, and every now and then I'd see something go by. Traffic
seemed to be almost entirely coal trains, like this distributed power one,
with BN 9646 and 9413 in front and BNSF 9977 and 9844 in the rear.
After our walk-around, Susan took off to do her own shopping and I went to
the meeting rooms where the vendors and display
layouts were located. An N-trak setup belonging to the "Pike's Peak N-gineers" club featured Rock Island equipment,
of course. In another room there was one of the best-looking portable layouts I've seen, an HOn3 setup done by the "Slim Rail" club. They had a couple of
trains running, with a TV camera in a snowplow and assorted sound effects
On the other side of this room there was a demonstration and display of miniature mechanicals, such as a steam
engine and a working turbine generator, similar
to the utility station we'd seen on the cog railway trip. Naturally,
I made several visits to the vendors and did my part to keep the nation's
economy in good health.
After lunch Susan and I went to the Roswell Yard
area, where the Rock Island once had a roundhouse and yard. This site
has been taken over by some street car enthusiasts, who have a museum and
layout, as well as some restoration projects underway. The museum
has several PCC cars, one of which was being operated
by a woman named Eilene. Eilene took us for
a ride of a few carlengths.
They hope to extend the tracks someday.
Nearby is a retired SP baggage car containing what Steve Pelles refers to
as "my museum". Indeed, the gentleman supervising
this collection said that most of it belonged to Steve. In addition
to many Rock Island items,
there's a small HO layout in the car. We were also
told that the street car restoration project we saw in the roundhouse had
been going on for over seven years.
Saturday evening's entertainment was a banquet with a terribly dry speaker,
but a fun auction. Very few people bid on the items offered, but Susan
and I did our part to keep the economy moving!
Sunday, August 14
We got out of town in the dark Sunday morning, determined to make it all
the way back to the acreage (790 miles) in one day. We drove back up
to Limon and then east into Kansas along what was once the Rock Island route.
Leaving Colby, Kansas, we angled up into Nebraska and made a stop in
the middle of the afternoon at Fairbury where there is a preserved depot and division point office
building. Fortunately, they were open for
visitors on Sunday afternoon and we were able to get a good look at everything.
I'd visited here before, but the second floor has had a great deal
of work since then. It now has a large HO train layout
and several offices and meeting rooms set up.
Outside to the east of the building is what remains
of Rock Island motorcar 9047, hopefully to someday
be restored. RITS has contributed some money from the Sustaining Fund
for this project.