Governor Hickenlooper signs the Southwest Chief & Front Range Passenger Rail Commission Bill at a Pueblo Ceremony Monday afternoon. Photo by Debbie Wagner
CO Senators support Amtrak
Colorado’s U.S. Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet have written supporting continued funding for Amtrak’s long distance trains. The April 6 letter went to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development, of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Senators noted that President Trump’s proposed budget would likely eliminate the California Zephyr and the Southwest Chief, “causing harm to the Colorado communities with stops along their routes.” They added that the cuts may affect the new Winter Park Express.
“We believe long distance Amtrak lines have proven to be a vital program for rural communities in Colorado and throughout the nation and therefore warrant continued support from Congress,” the Senators wrote.
The Colorado Senate today passed the Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission bill 24-11. The Bill, SB17-153, will now be taken up by the House.
Senate Bill 17-153, The Southwest Chief & Front Range Passenger Rail Commission Bill passed out of the Senate Finance Committee on a 4 -1 vote and was sent to the Senate Floor.
Prime Sponsors Senators Larry Crowder and Leroy Garcia introduced the bill to the Committee. Jim Souby, Bob Brewster and Jack Wheeler testified in favor. There was no opposition.
Jack Wheeler presented these slides, with excellent commentary, at ColoRail’s December, 2016 meeting. Rail: Beyond Transportation
ColoRail President Jim Souby presented these slides — Colorail Perspectives — at our December, 2016 meeting. His central message: The idea of Front Range passenger rail has become politically viable and it’s time to start planning it at the state level.
The Northwest Rail commuter line between Denver, Boulder, and Longmont — a FasTracks project that may not get built before 2040 — would share the right-of-way of the BNSF Railway, which sends massive freight trains on those tracks several times a day. The close proximity between passenger and freight rail requires more rigid strength standards for obvious safety reasons. The plan calls for use of DMU’s. DMU stands for “Diesel Multiple Unit,” referring to a diesel-powered rail vehicle, with its own motor(s), that can be operated alone or in tandem with other DMUs. The DMU’s counterpart in the electrical world is the EMU, Electric Multiple Unit, which has already arrived in Denver for service on four electric commuter rail lines beginning this year.
DMU’s are expensive, but an alternative exists. The first successful DMU in this country certainly meets the tough safety standards. They were named “Rail Diesel Cars,” or RDCs. Built by the famed Budd Company of Philadelphia, which gained notoriety for its patented stainless steel welding technique, the cars were often called “Budd Cars,” long before the trendy term DMU was coined. Budd built almost 400 of the units between 1949 and 1962. They served railroads from coast to coast and in several foreign countries admirably. Many survive today in rail museums and on tourist railroads, still operating faithfully. Not surprisingly, a number of RDCs still operate in scheduled rail service — quite a testament to their design and the durability of stainless steel.
“Previously owned” RDCs could serve as a low cost entry-level rail vehicles for new rail services in Colorado. How about running a few RDC’s between Denver and Colorado Springs? There are many available for new careers. But the largest single repository of RDCs, in Canada, is getting decimated right now by a metal scrapper due to the owner’s bankruptcy. And that’s a shame. Why did no one snap up these solid cars which could serve for perhaps decades more?