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UP 2001 Comes To Denver

Cheyenne to Brighton

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Picture 1) UP 2001 sitting at Speer Jct
In late 2001, Union Pacific announced that it would be painting two SD70M's (UP 4690 and UP 4691) into a special scheme for the 2002 Winter Olympics to be held in Salt Lake City, UT. Union Pacific would be pulling a special "Torch Train" through several states before arriving in Salt Lake City. The Olympic Torch would be pulled on the last car of the train.

On October 26, 2001, UP 4690 and UP 4691 rolled out of the Horicon Paint Shops in Wisconsin as UP 2001 and UP 2002. The two units proceeded to pull the torch train throughout the western United States, arriving in Salt Lake City shortly before the start of the games. The units remained on display in Salt Lake for the duration of the Olympics. After the Olypmics, the units were released into general revenue service. For quite sometime, they remained lashed up together on trains. As one would expect, however, they were eventually separated and, for the most part, have run separate from one another for the past four years.

Picture 2) UP 2001 sitting at Speer Jct on the IOADVX-04

Having never seen these units before, I keep a close eye on the location of both UP 2001 and UP 2002. So, last Thursday (January 5), when I saw that UP 2001 has departed Oroville, CA with a destination of Denver, I got pretty excited. After a little asking around, I discovered that the unit was on the point of the IOADVX-04 (Intermodal, Oakland, CA to Denver, CO, Extra, of the 4th).

The original expected arrival into Denver was going to be Sunday morning around 8am. I was somewhat skeptical because trains are typically not known for keeping their expected arrival times. I kept an eye on the train on Friday, checking it one more time Friday night before going to bed. The trace indicated that it had recently departed Altamont, WY. I was very surprised! It seemed that the train would more than likely arrive into Denver early!!

Sunday morning, I made one more check on the train before heading north to try and find it in Cheyenne. The trace indicated that it had departed from Hanna, WY, not too far from Laramie. It was sounding more and more like the train might actually head down the Greeley Subdivision between Cheyenne and Denver in the daylight on Saturday.

Picture 3) Unit Auto Train headed west at Speer

I swung by and picked up my dad (the reason I am a railfan. We headed north on I-25 around 10:30am, knowing that there was a good chance that the train could be in Cheyenne (well, at Speer, WY) as early as 11:00am. However, we also knew that the train would be receiving a crew change at Speer before heading south to Denver. We got to Speer around noon and found the IOADV sitting on the siding at Speer (between mains 3 and 4). The train was waiting on a northbound that coming up the Greeley Sub.

Picture 4) UP 2001 approaching Terry Ranch Road

While waiting, a unit auto train came through heading west (from Cheyenne) for the Borie Cutoff on Main 3. The new crew was not yet aboard UP 2001 when we showed up, so we knew we had a little bit of time. We left Speer and headed for overpass at Terry Ranch Road, where the tracks cross underneath the road on the way south.

It took a little while before the crew change was completed, but right around 1pm, my dad noted a horn in the distance, and a minute later, the purple front of UP 2001 came around the bend under I-25. After shooting the train at Terry Ranch Road (picture 3), we headed back for I-25 to try and beat the train to Nunn, CO. The problem with getting from Speer to Nunn is the route! After Speer (where I-25 crosses over the tracks), the tracks move southeast over to US-85. If you take Terry Ranch Road north (east), it will eventually hit US-85, but you've gone in several miles in the wrong direction. The other alternative is to take I-25 to the Carr, CO exit and then travel east. While the speed limit is much slower that Terry Ranch Road, this was the route we decided on.

Picture 5) UP 2001 approaching Nunn

It turned out to be a good choice as we beat the train to Carr by almost five minutes! However, after the train left Carr, it picked up some speed. We heard a detector go off indicating the train was going 59 MPH. Fortunately, at this point, we were at US-85 heading south. We made it to Nunn with about five minutes to spare before the train showed up.

Picture 6) UP 2001 south along US-85

At 174 axles, the train was not by any means setting any train length records, but it was still an impressive sight (especially through a telephoto lens) as the entire train was loaded with double stacks. There was not even a single well car with only one container on it! After the train blew past us at Nunn, we knew it was going to be a challenge catching back up to him on US-85. While the speed limit is 65 for a good portion of the drive, the limit slows down to as much as 35 MPH through some of the towns (and there are plenty).

We finally caught up to the head end of the train just south of Ault, which is nearly 10 miles south of Nunn! Once we caught up to the headend, we slowed down a little bit to the speed of the train and I slowed the shutter speed on the camera down to 1/80 of a second and shot the train while running parallel to it. I was pleased with the results as I thought there was a good chance that the train might be a bit out of focus too, but it wasn't (see picture 6)!

Picture 7) UP 2001 sitting at La Salle
Picture 8) UP 2001 leaving La Salle on a Clear

The train had clear signals right through Greeley, but the first approach signal of the trip was encountered. At La Salle, the train entered the siding to meet a local that was working its way north. Unfortunately, we didn't realize immediately that this was the case! There was a northbound train holding the main at La Salle, so we thought that UP 2001 was simply going to run through the siding and then proceed south. We made it all the wait to Platteville before realizing that the train was stopped at La Salle.

We pulled a 180 and headed back for La Salle to find a good place to shoot the train. Shortly after arriving, we could see the headlight of the local in the distance on the approach, and one of the crew memebers on the train got off and climbed down (picture 7) to give the local a rollby. Right after the local passed and was in the clear, UP 2001 got a clear signal (well, red-over-green, so diverging clear) to proceed south out of La Salle (picture 8).

Picture 9) SD70ACe 8357 leads the MNYNP-07

Dispatcher 16 was having some issues with the CTC in between the sidings of Brighton and Platteville. There was a track indication, and any train entering that section of track would have to get flagged past a red signal and proceed at restricted speed (read: 10 MPH) for the full 10 mile distance between the two sidings! As it turns out, the MNYNP-07 was the first train to reach that section of track, and so the UP 2001 had to hold the main at Platteville and wait for the northbound train to show up!

Knowing that it was going to be a bit of wait, we headed south to see what the MNYNP looked like on this particular day. As it turns out, the train was led by third generation EMD power! UP 8357, an SD70ACe was on the point (picture 8), followed by two SD9043MAC's. The first of the two SD90MAC's was UP 8000, the class-unit for the 8000-series SD9043MAC's! The SD70ACe had the new yellow frame stripe (instead of red) as mandated by the FRA.

Picture 10) UP 8537 crossing County Road 8

The MNYNP was very long on this day too. The fact that the train was crawling by at 10 MPH certainly didn't help impressions at all, but even after taking that into consideration, the train still seemed to be quite long. The first intermediate that the train came to after leaving Brighton was actually dark! It was even giving a red signal indication. Because it was a permissive (intermediate) signal, the MNYNP had to come to a complete stop, but could then proceed (still at restricted speed) past the signal.

Picture 11) UP 2001 and train wait at Platteville

Needless to say, a train moving along at 10 MPH is not particularly challenging to catch when chasing. There were several spots going north, such as CR-6, CR-8, and CR-10 that were descent places for stopping. Unfortunately, there aren't too many places where you can get a whole of elevation as you proceed north.

At Fort Lupton, we broke away from the train to head back up to Platteville to see UP 2001 one more time before sunset (and the end of the day). The train was patiently holding the main when we arrived. By now, it was 4:30pm and the sun was getting dangerously close to the western horizon, but there was enough time to grab a few more shots of the train.

Picture 10) UP 2001 shines in the setting sun

Before we left Platteville for home, the sun had set and the train was completely in the shadows. On our way back south on US-85, we saw the MNYNP still dragging along about a mile and a half south of Platteville. After the MNYNP got to Platteville, the track indication had cleared up, and UP 2001 was able to get a clear signal heading south.

Upon reaching Denver, the power from the IOADV was taken to UP's 36th street yard to prepare for an early departure back north Sunday morning. Before dawn, UP 2001 left north (not sure where in the consist) on the MDVNP-08. The train had passed Carr, CO just before 8:00am, so it was long gone by the time the sun had come up along the Front Range. Not sure when UP 2001 will return (or if UP 2002 ever will), but it was great seeing the engine at least once before it is inevitably repainted (sooner or later). Hope you enjoyed the pictures and the report from the day!

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