Perlite, Scoria and Scenery in the closing days of the Rio Grande

I am a big fan of the Denver, Rio Grande and Western.  Unfortunately, the DRGW began to disappear in the 1990s as the effects of its 1986 merger with the Southern Pacific influence grew, but it really began to disappear in the early 2000s as the effects of its 1996 merger with the Union Pacific really took hold.  One of many segments of the Rio Grande that was interesting and scenic was the Alamosa Subdivision.  This post is going to focus on operations around Antonito, Colorado.

1984

The first segment will focus on when B. Smith visited the line in July of 1984.  It was pure DRGW then.

Perlite loads near Antonito being switched by local train in July 1984. --©photo by B. Smith

Perlite loads near Antonito being switched by local train in July 1984. –©photo by B. Smith

Local at Antonito.  Engine (GP-40) has run around its train after arriving from Alamosa.--

Local at Antonito. Engine #3086 (GP-40) has run around its train after arriving from Alamosa. –©photo by B. Smith

Covered hopper of perlite in the consist.  What a great paint scheme!

Covered hopper of perlite in the consist. What a great paint scheme! –©photo by B. Smith

Local at Antonito about to return to Alamosa with train of perlite loads.

Local at Antonito about to return to Alamosa with train of perlite loads.  –©photo by B. Smith

2003

In 2003, James Griffin documented the action in the closing days of action that reflected the DRGW heritage of the line.  His website does a great job of capturing that day in 2003 and I encourage you to check it out.

Griffin captured a photo of this DRGW perlite car sitting in Alamosa as he waited for the train coming down from Pueblo, CO. March 7, 2003.--©photo by James Griffin.

Griffin captured a photo of this DRGW perlite car sitting in Alamosa as he waited for the train coming down from Pueblo, CO. March 7, 2003.–©photo by James Griffin.

train makes it way to Alamosa, east of Fort Garland, CO.

Train makes it way to Alamosa, east of Fort Garland, CO. –©photo by James Griffin.

Near Trinchera Ranch Road, CO

Stunning scenery near Trinchera Ranch Road, CO. –©photo by James Griffin.

Scoria loading into open hoppers south of Antonito.--©photo by James Griffin.

Scoria loading into open hoppers south of Antonito.  Locally mined scoria was added to the traffic mix after B. Smith’s visit in 1984.  Scoria is volcanic rock primarily used for landscaping.–©photo by James Griffin.

Leaving the nearby perlite plant--©photo by James Griffin.

Leaving the nearby perlite plant which sits a little south of the scoria loading site.–©photo by James Griffin.

This is only a small sample of the great photos James Griffin offers on his site.

Today

Today the line is now operated by the San Luis & Rio Grande which interchanges with UP at Walsenburg, CO.  The spirit of the Rio grande lives on in the paint scheme of the SL&RG and the occasional DRGW car that makes an appearance.

San Luis and Rio Grande unit #116  in Walsenburg, CO April 4, 2014

San Luis and Rio Grande unit #116 in Walsenburg, CO April 4, 2014 — photo by Paul Leach

Modeler’s note:  The DRGW offers interesting modelling possibilities during almost any of its eras.  The 1996 to early-2000s window particularly intrigues me because of the potential to run mostly DRGW and SP motive power with the cars of the DRGW, SP, SSW (Cotton Belt), UP, Chicago and Northwestern, Missouri Pacific and Western Pacific all home road cars.

The Sanderson Turn, March 23, 1990 (Part I)

The LCN has invited us back to accompany a run down to Sanderson.  It is a brilliant 75 degree day.  The H.W. Green grocer distributor, Budweiser Distributor, scoria loader and Lazy W Ranch Operation all need service.  It promises to be busy but easily manageable run.

(Note: this series is detailed, but an excellent overview of prototypical operations.  All too often, modellers just race around dumping and picking up cars without slowing down and really emulating prototype operations–thinking about dropping off the brakeman, walking to open turnouts, attaching brake lines, opening derails, etc.  If you really think about what is involved in operations, you won’t need a such big, maintenance intensive layout to have rewarding operating sessions.)

Here we go…(The captions will explain what is going on.)

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The Sanderson Turn has arrived in Sanderson with two loads of beer, an insulated box for the grocery distributor, and two empty open top hoppers for scoria loading, being cut off on the main here.

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The beer and grocery cars are pulled further down the main. Two loads of scoria on the right await being picked up on today’s out bound train.

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The beer and grocery cars are cut off.

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The light engine proceeds into the beer siding to pull an unloaded beer car.

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The empty beer car is out of the siding now and the engine shoves just it through the switch.

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With the beer car in tow the engine proceeds down the passing siding…

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…and into the Lazy W Ranch track to couple into a tank car of liquid cattle feed. It’s not empty yet and will have to be re-spotted.

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Two loads of bagged manure and an empty covered hopper are coupled into next.

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Having grabbed everything from the track, the train pulls out of the Lazy W track and puts the cars on the passing track.

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The tank car is re-spotted.

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The empty covered hopper and two loads of manure are shoved down the passing track. The conductor flags the road crossing.

Well there are some additional movements to perform here in Sanderson on this beautiful afternoon (scoria, beer and groceries), but they’ll come after lunch.

Hope you brought some lunch. If not, Jiménez Cafe just across the tracks serves some pretty good enchiladas.  See you after lunch…(Part II)