Wednesday, October 3, 2018

California Zepher Day 2 - Grand Junction to Denver

So the best part of the journey was ahead of us that afternoon.

It's a very long blog so just keep scrolling down.

It's amazing what a constant supply of water can do for irrigation purposes and the Colorado certainly can supply water close to the source. Presumably most of it is run off from snow.

A strip of green in the desert.

Finally the river was on the northern side of the train. It's not all that impressive at this stage.

A peaceful stretch of the river.

Coloured rock strata.

Occasionally we would pass by a small town.

We saw very few freight trains. I thought there would be a lot more. By the way, the busiest railway line for freight trains is the Trans Siberian in Russia and they go by every few minutes.

We came to an area of rapids.

The river is also popular with rafters. We were told that there is a tradition of mooning the train as it goes past but we did not get to enjoy that experience.

We were told that these seams contain coal.

Glenwood Springs is primarily a tourist and vacation town and is supposedly a great place to live.

Another group of passengers ready to board for a day trip. The train does have an observation car but we never used it since it was reputed to be full all the time.

More rafters.

Camp sites.

I-70 on the other side of the river.

I suspect the water is chilly. By the way, it flows west or south west.


Eventually the train started to climb well above the river.

Some years ago a car fell off the road and tumbled down the cliff. Fortunately it did not fall all the way but came to a halt close to the top. You can just make it out close to the top of the photo. The passengers survived.

The train passes through three tunnels right next to each other. You can just make out the entrance to the third tunnel at the right of the photo. 

The pine trees you find at higher elevations.

A flat valley near Kremmling.

We past by a shooting range that extended for almost a mile.

A very pleasant landscape. What would Constable or Monet do with this?

Log cabin under construction.

I have no idea what this structure is. There is not much call for lighthouses out here.

Back to the river in a picturesque valley.

Interesting building.

Everybody needs a snow-cat like that orange monster when you live at 8500 feet altitude.

Fraser is the coldest incorporated town in the USA with an average temperature of 32.5 degrees.

We approached one of the longest train tunnels in the USA. The Moffat Tunnel is 6.2 miles long and cuts through the Continental Divide.

That is a weird house.

Coming up to the entrance to the tunnel. On the other side of the train is Winter Park which is a popular ski and recreation area for people in the Denver area. Amtrak now runs a winter train from Denver to Winter Park called the Winter Park Express.

I did not take a photo inside for obvious reasons,

Now on the eastern side of the Continental Divide. 

9170 feet was about as high as we got.

Flowing east instead of west.

Still very rugged. 

The Gross Dam. Although the dam is on the eastern side of the Divide, it is fed by water from the western side of the divide that flows through a tunnel parallel to the Moffat Tunnel.

An then in the distance is the vast flat plain of eastern Colorado.

Curious low ridge that I suppose is the real start to the Rockies.

There is still quite a significant descent before we get to the plain.

Denver in the distance.

The train line uses a large loop to wind its way down the mountain side.  

Suburban Denver.

Industrial Denver.

The South Platte River. Its source is in the mountains near Denver and its presence is probably the reason for Denver's existence.

The station at Denver is a terminus so the train does not enter the station directly. It turns onto a siding and then backs into the station.

It looks like a modern station. I could have walked back to the waiting room at the far end of the platform but did not feel too enthused. It seemed quite warm in the mid 80's.

Downtown Denver. Not that scenic.

Station sign.

As you know I have done a lot of train trips and this day's journey was one of the best I have ever traveled. I suspect that it might even be better right after snow has fallen. Highly recommended.

That evening we had dinner with two men, one of whom was Mennonite I think. As usual we struck up an enjoyable conversation with a lot of fun and laughter. It's fascinating to hear why people are travelling by train.

However, when we asked the Mennonite man why he was on the train he came out with a sad story. His wife had cancer and the rest of his family had taken her down to Mexico for treatment. There was a doctor there who was apparently very good and the cost was much less than what US doctors would charge. For the return trip the wife was in a sleeping bedroom (bigger than our room) and members of the family would take turns to be in the room with her. When not in the room, the members of the family would sit and sleep in the coach cars. We suspected that the treatment had not been successful.

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