Hot Eastbound Freight- Ken Bailey

HOT EASTBOUND FREIGHT -- BLASTING THROUGH GRAND JUNCTION (March, 1972). My parents thought the 1966 Dodge wagon we had driven out to Rangely with six years earlier was getting tired, so we had driven down to Junction a week earlier to pick out a new(er) car -- a used Oldsmobille that was not a wagon. (Little did we know then, within six months we would wish we had kept our station wagon, for it would be moving time again!)

Photo by Ken Bailey

Photo by Ken Bailey

As a treat, when Dad and I drove down to pick up the car a week later, Dad took me to the Grand Junction Railroad Station to see some trains go by before we returned to Rangely.

There was a pedestrian walk bridge extending out over the tracks, with wide stairs and no sign that said it wasn't allowed -- so we climbed up.

During the short time we were up there, two freight trains came blasting through beneath us -- an eastbound first, and then a westbound.

This is the eastbound -- headed up (for you rail geeks) by an EMD SD45 and a GP30, the latter the only model of its kind to have the "contoured" cab roof (to make room for the electric panel inside).

In those days, Rio Grande was a busy "bridge route" -- it picked up freight from Southern Pacific in Ogden and blasted it through the Rockies on a fast schedule -- right up over the Continental Divide and through the Moffat Tunnel -- thus their famous slogan, "Through the Rockies, Not Around Them!"

In the early 1990's, Union Pacific purchased the Rio Grande and merged them into the larger system. Almost immediately, they grabbed all the "bridge freight" and moved it to their own trains and lines over the gentler grades of Sherman Hill in Wyoming.

This greatly reduced traffic on the Rio Grande. The former route of the famed California Zephyr today survives as a coal-hauling route. SD45's and GP30's are all but extinct. And Oil Geek lives three days journey from the nearest Rangely oil well.