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Colorado Front Range passenger rail... baby steps


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#1 Karl1459

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 03:42 PM

http://www.denverpos...outhwest-chief/



#2 bretton88

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 04:23 PM

Pueblo is dreaming if they expect a Denver Union Station style renaissance, but this is still good news because Colorado has been a rail ambivalent state, so it is good to see them actually start providing some support.


If I won the lottery, I'd probably build a passenger from nowhere to nowhere.


#3 dlagrua

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 07:41 PM

The old Missouri Pacific RR served Pueblo and Southern Colorado where it connected to the Rio Grand mainline that took the train through the Royal Gorge over the continental divide at Tennessee pass and then headed West.  I can see the Tennessee pass line being reactivated  (currently O.O.S.) but can't imagine a brand new line following the I-25 corridor North. . 



#4 chakk

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 02:02 AM

It would take a very major increase in freight traffic for Union Pacific to spend the money to restore the out-of-service Tennessee Pass route, as most all of the signalling has been torn out. Also, trees are growing between the rails at many spots south of Leadville

#5 railiner

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 03:36 PM

I don't think any increase in freight traffic would ever motivate the UP to restore the 'Royal Gorge Route'.....they would more likely build a fourth main track over Sherman Hill before that would happen... ;)


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#6 keelhauled

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 07:35 PM

There has been some pie in the sky dreaming by a local(s) to rebuild Tennessee Pass for excursion/"commuter" service. I very much doubt it will ever happen though.

Go on, raise the flag, I got stars in my eyes...I'm in love with her and I won't apologize.


#7 bretton88

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 08:25 PM

I don't think any increase in freight traffic would ever motivate the UP to restore the 'Royal Gorge Route'.....they would more likely build a fourth main track over Sherman Hill before that would happen... ;)

The only way that it would ever happen is if they have to overload the Moffet tunnel with it's 26 trains/day limit and can't reroute more trains to Wyoming. So basically never. As far as opening up a Scenic Railway, this is possible if an organization can step up, they wouldn't need signals, just passable track. But Leadville and Southern doesn't have the funds, and Iowa Pacific isn't in good shape, so I don't see who couldn't get such a service off the ground.

Edited by bretton88, 22 April 2017 - 08:26 PM.

If I won the lottery, I'd probably build a passenger from nowhere to nowhere.


#8 RSG

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 09:04 PM

Pueblo is dreaming if they expect a Denver Union Station style renaissance, but this is still good news because Colorado has been a rail ambivalent state, so it is good to see them actually start providing some support.

Well, actually I hope they don't have a Denver Union Station-style renaissance---considering the fact that the post-renovation DUS is little more than an entertainment complex with some intermodal transport built in as almost an afterthought (particularly true in the case of Amtrak).
 
But they might not be far off from having a true multi-function enterprise, should the Southwest Chief be extended to PUB. I attended the Amtrak Exhibit Train when it was in Pueblo last August, and interest was pretty high (and from more than just railfans). There's space to expand in the existing station, and unlike other former stations, it isn't completely converted into another use. The most important aspect, to me, is the availability of parking, and that appears to be a non-issue. The building itself is owned by two attorney-brothers and they are interested in having a passenger rail usage, so it looks like the infrastructure is on its way to being in place, at least above-and-behind the rails.

#9 CCC1007

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 09:31 PM

My experience with Denver Union Station is that the Amtrak tracks are raised to allow near level boarding on not only their train but also the commuter trains that go in and out all day every day, along with dozens of buses going to many destinations every single hour serving the underground bus terminal that is designed for very high throughput of people and buses. I respectfully disagree that transportation was a secondary design factor in the redevelopment.

#10 RSG

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 10:46 PM

My experience with Denver Union Station is that the Amtrak tracks are raised to allow near level boarding on not only their train but also the commuter trains that go in and out all day every day, along with dozens of buses going to many destinations every single hour serving the underground bus terminal that is designed for very high throughput of people and buses. I respectfully disagree that transportation was a secondary design factor in the redevelopment.

I will clarify and concede that outside of the station and underground, it is very much designed for transportation. If you are in the RTD bus concourse, it doesn't look much different than a ground transportation setup at a major US airport.

However, I will reiterate that the original Union Station has been redefined into an entertainment complex, as a primary use; and a transportation hub as a secondary use.

Here's an experiment: when in Denver next as a non-rail passenger, walk into the historic front of the station from Wewatta Street on an average evening. Pretend you know nothing about the place or what it's used for. What are your first impressions? What would you say the primary objective of the building is? Now try to imagine it from the point of view of someone who, say, is departing Denver on a rail journey and has never done so from Denver before. Where are the Amtrak facilities? If there's a crowd there (and there usually is in the evenings), can you immediately find them without asking someone or wandering aimlessly? Now go into the wing of the station where the ticket/service counter is. Busy, right? But outside of the time period immediately up to or after the arrival/departure of the California Zephyr, why is it busy? Mostly because intoxicated yuppies (or their 21st Century equivalent) are trying to get to or from the restrooms and/or another watering hole in the station. Now imagine trying to navigate that area in the evening with luggage in tow.

If I were an industrial designer tasked to do an evaluation of the DUS complex and were asked what the message that the historic original building is sending out post-redevelopment, I wouldn't hesitate to say "They are trying to keep transit passengers, intra- and intercity, out of the building as much as possible." Virtually everything about the building says as much. From the limited seating for non-food & beverage patrons to a very nice boutique hotel that the average rail passenger can't afford to stay in, the entire place says to your average rail traveler (light or heavy): hurry up, do what you need to do, and then leave the premises.

Finally, the trackside layout is impressive. It may be the only part of the complex associated with the original station which can be said to work mostly efficiently. However even then, they messed up, if what a TASC/SCA on the CZ told me is true, which is that they failed to make the platform stops wide enough for the wheelchair ramps on the Superliners. (Perhaps this has been corrected, but even if it has tells me that actual heavy rail transportation was an afterthought in the redevelopment planning.)

Now I realize that you can't have an effective intermodal complex which is only busy for parts of the day or one which doesn't have amenities that will assist both travelers and help to pay the bills. But it's obvious to me that wasn't the first consideration when it came to the final planning stages. Having seen the redevelopment of Lower Downtown Denver over the past 25 years or so, this is yet another destination spot designed to draw people who are already downtown for whatever reason and keep them downtown long enough so they can drop a few bucks and make it seem like a truly bustling place (and, in the current environment, perhaps distract from making the 16th Street Mall seem less sketchy than it actually is). That's all well and good, but it's not the best spot for transit users to utilize what they came there to do.

 

 

 

[Edited for grammar.]


Edited by RSG, Yesterday, 12:32 AM.


#11 DesertDude

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 11:24 PM

I heartily second everything RSG says. I'm glad Union Station was preserved, but I tell people it's more night club than transit hub. And as a rail advocate, it's really irritating in many ways.

I don't want to know how many thousands were spent on all that period furniture, yet they can't even put up a sign saying "Seating for Passengers Needing Assistance." Also, it'd be nice if they had a basic convenience store, instead of a boutique pastry shop and fancy restaurants.

Like RSG said, DUS is mainly for upper class folks to have a fun night out, not for the traveling public. Also, since the ticket window closes an hour before departure, they could really use a ticket kiosk. If Amtrak can't afford it, surely Denver could chip in for one.

#12 PVD

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Posted Yesterday, 07:43 AM

Other than one Amtrak train a day in each direction, it is a commuter/regional station. When it was primarily a train station, it was a sparse and somewhat unpleasant place The station is not controlled by Amtrak, the "traveling public" primarily served is mostly commuters.

The transition of the station, and much of Lo-Do in general makes it a much nicer place to spend time waiting. Agree on the Kiosk.


Edited by PVD, Yesterday, 07:45 AM.


#13 railiner

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Posted Yesterday, 08:56 AM

I can't believe they have cut the station staff to that level, where they close 'an hour before departure'....but I suppose that since the advent of online ticketing, anything is possible.  When I worked there, ('79 to '89), we usually had two ticket clerks on duty at all times, and the Agent would pitch in as well, when not loading passengers on trains...

During train time, besides originating passengers, we would get a flurry of en-route passenger's, seeking various adjustments or upgrades to sleepers, etc.

 

I would not call the station exactly 'sparse and unpleasant' back then...We did have the daily SFZ, the tri-weekly RGZ, and the Ski Train in season.  And three times each year, the UP steam train excursions.  We did host a AAPRCO national convention, a few movie shoots, a display of Princess Cruises 'Midnight Sun Express' Ultra-Domes, and for a long time, cars from the historic Nebraska Zephyr, as well as frequent visits of railroad business cars, and private cars. We also had several different steam locomotives pass thru on national tours.   And of course plenty of freight and coal trains as well.  Lots to keep railfans happy.

And the station did have a full service restaurant, a lunch counter, and a gift shop.  It also had a barber shop, and later a rail memorabilia shop. And on the upper levels, various railroad offices and other business tenants. Down in the basement, there was a huge 'O' guage model railroad layout, open to the public one night a month. And last, but not least the Intermountain Chapter of the NRHS had an office there.

 

The station was kept clean, and was in fairly nice repair..homeless loitering was not tolerated.   So I don't see how it could be considered unpleasant...


Edited by railiner, Yesterday, 09:27 AM.

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#14 Eric S

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Posted Yesterday, 11:15 AM

When I was in Denver in October, the one thing that struck me as missing but being an easy addition was a large departure monitor. If one could walk into the station building and see a screen indicating that Amtrak Train 6 is now boarding on Track 5 and the next RTD train to the Airport will be leaving from Track 2 in 10 minutes that would, in my opinion, go a long way to helping passengers wade through the non-transportation-related business (and busy-ness) of the station. I recall there are small Amtrak status monitors near the platform-side doors but I do not recall any sort of signage for RTD train departures.



#15 railiner

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Posted Yesterday, 11:25 AM

I guess it's about time for me to 'slip over to Denver' to get a first-hand impression of what has become of my former home-away-from-home.... :)


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#16 PVD

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Posted Yesterday, 01:34 PM

I see the station hours for ticketing as 5:30 AM to 915 PM with a half hour closing from 1:15 to 1:45 unless something has changed and the website is wrong. I started using the station from 2000 on, I found it unpleasant because it was mostly empty, not many services (at that point in time) and uncomfortably hot, with only wooden benches to sit on. I felt safe, and yes I felt it was sparse, but not in bad shape or unsafe.



#17 Palmland

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Posted Yesterday, 06:22 PM

Unfortunately Denver made it much harder for a front range service to get into their station. The through track from the station to the south was cut and the Pepsi center built in the late 90's. It would have been so easy to retain that. Now Denver is a stub terminal and trains from the south no longer have an easy access. It can still be done, just requires a much more convoluted routing. The city planners didn't do themselves any favors for the long term to solve a short term problem.

One of my best short train rides was the Royal Gorge with a RGW dome observation. Such is progress.

Edited by Palmland, Yesterday, 06:26 PM.


#18 ABQFloridian

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Posted Yesterday, 06:27 PM

Unfortunately Denver made it much harder for a front range service to get into their station. The through track from the station to the south was cut and the Pepsi center built in the late 90's. It would have been so easy to retain that. Now Denver is a stub terminal and trains from the south no longer have an easy access. It can still be done, just requires a much more convoluted routing. The city planners didn't do themselves any favors for the long term to solve a short term problem.

One of my best short train rides was the Royal Gorge with a RGW dome observation. Such is progress.



Wouldn't they just have to back into the station like they do in Tampa? Annoying, but I don't see it as an insurmountable obstacle.

#19 PVD

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Posted Yesterday, 06:44 PM

The CZ already backs into Denver, certainly not ideal, but definitely not  insurmountable.



#20 RSG

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Posted Yesterday, 06:53 PM

I guess it's about time for me to 'slip over to Denver' to get a first-hand impression of what has become of my former home-away-from-home.... :)

I would be very interested to hear of your impressions once you do that, especially as a former employee. It truly sounds like you were there during the glory days of post-consolidation rail travel.

The issue, as it relates to perception, depends on whether one is largely passing through or utilizing it from an end-user point of view. If you're a pax on the California Zephyr and you step off the train during the layover and wander into DUS, you're going to think it's pretty cool, particularly if you were there during the days before its pre-renovation closure. Why, there's even a small bookstore where one can pick up something to read for the rest of the journey (even though the owners of the store have their largest location across the street from DUS). Heck, I would be impressed if that were my only experience.

But much as there are now airport terminals which are becoming "destination points of interest" due to their fine dining locations and/or art displays, the perception is skewed if you are using the facility for the only available purpose for which you need it to be. Amtrak would have better served its Denver customers--at least those who board and deboard the train at Denver--if they had kept the old electrical supply building and turned the Temporary Station into a permanent station.

For a truly useful repurposing, I would invite anyone to wander through the Renaissance Denver Downtown Hotel a ways up the street from DUS. Housed in the historic Colorado National Bank building, they've taken a equally grand, but stuffy building and turned it into a destination hotel so that most of the historic elements are utilized, from the still-intact bank vault (now a meeting room) to the basement. While it serves only one purpose (unlike DUS), it does it quite well, having added an expansion to the side of the building for guest rooms. There's even valet parking (and don't get me started on the parking situation--or lack thereof--at DUS). There's the old line about better to do one thing well than to do many things poorly. That can be pretty accurately applied to the new Denver Union Station.




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