By John Crisanti
Posted January 22, 2012
Railroads over the years have made a big impact on the economy around the country and the Northern Colorado region is no different. This is a modern look at local railroading operations in the Northern Colorado region.
Companies have depended on the railroads to transport their products to market for many years. As a fact, customers who ship by rail claim it is the cheapest and most efficient way of transporting their goods over the road. When shipping by rail it gives the customer the option to ship his or her products in bulk commodities, which results in faster and less expensive means of shipping. Colorado, which is known as the Centennial State, has had a wise variety of railroad history. After many mergers and decades later, railroads continue to assist Colorado and its customers in our modern economic world. The BNSF Railway, which was formed in 1996 with the merger of the Burlington Northern and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, plays an important role in today's railroad scene in Northern Colorado. On the Front Range Subdivision, the BNSF Railway operates three locals out of Longmont to help serve its customers in the vast area of Northern Colorado. The most important local out of the three trains is the Buck Local. Running from Sunday through Thursday, the Buck is the most important to the local operations because the train shuttles cars between Longmont and Denver. This operation helps generate the freight traffic for the other two locals.
Running down the middle of Mason Street in Fort Collins, the Longmont Switch picks up their cut of cars from North Yard and head to Loveland to set out box cars for Quebecor.
Besides the Buck Local, the Longmont Switch also contributes to the everyday cycle. Working five days a week (Monday through Friday) this local operates between Longmont and Fort Collins with pick-ups and set-outs along the way. The local takes a cut of cars from Denver that came in on the Buck and takes them north to be set out for the Great Western Railway in Loveland and Fort Collins. At Fort Collins, the Great Western assembles cars for the Switch to be taken back South to Longmont and eventually Denver. The cars that are brought in from the Switch are taken by either the Great Western or the Union Pacific. They are picked up and will be set-out at numerous industries served by the two railroads. After picking up their cars in Fort Collins, the Switch then returns to Longmont. However, they sometimes make a stop in Loveland to do a pick up and set out at a local business and the Great Western's interchange track. Some of the industries switched by the local include: Coors, Quebecor, and Quad-Graphics.
The last local to operate in the area is known as the Longmont Turn. Operating from Tuesday through Saturday, the Longmont Turn operates out of Longmont and handles cars for the two branch lines that connect with the Front Range Sub. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the local travels over the Lyons Branch from Longmont to the small town northwest of Longmont at a location by the name of Lyons. The local serves the CEMEX Cement Plant outside of town delivering cement cars and coal cars for the plant itself. The cement cars go to the plant empty to be loaded with cement, while the coal cars are delivered to the plant loaded, and return empty. On Wednesday and Friday, the local then goes down the Front Range Sub and switches at the Eco-Cycle facility in Boulder. Eventually, they head down to Broomfield and head up the Lafayette Branch to switch a couple of lumber industries near the town of Lafayette. On Saturdays, the Longmont Turn makes a run from Longmont to Denver and back to keep the flow of traffic in the same cycle.
After the cars have been delivered to the Great Western in Loveland and Fort Collins, the GWR runs a local out east on their lines to serve local industries in small, rural towns that include: Johnstown, Milliken, Windsor, Walker, and Bunyan. During the week, Great Western generally runs a local out of Loveland in the morning hours to deliver a cut of cars to a few select customers. They also do interchange work with the Union Pacific at a place call Kelim, where their line connects with UP's Fort Collins Subdivision. Besides the GWR and BNSF working together, the UP and GWR relationship plays an important role as well. Between the two railroads, they are known for interchanging grain traffic as well as wind energy traffic from the nearby Vestas Plant in Windsor.
OMLX 4327 painted in the Black Widow Scheme leaves the outskirts of Loveland and heads towards Kelim and Johnstown.
Recently, the Union Pacific has brought in a coal train set that consisted of approximately 110 empty coal hoppers. The UP asked the GWR to store the cars on their old Welty Branch that has of course seen better days over the years. In Fort Collins, the GWR generally works six to seven days a week, except for holidays that include Thanksgiving and Christmas. Their jobs in Fort Collins include switching the Budweiser Plant at a location called Busch, just outside of Fort Collins. After the BN and ATSF merger, the BNSF sold off their yard in Fort Collins to Great Western as well as their old CB&Q line to Greeley via Windsor. Since then, it has been owned and operated by the Great Western Railway. Besides switching cars at the beer plant, the Great Western also interchanges with the BNSF and UP at their respective interchange locations.
The railroads of Northern Colorado play an important role in rail service to its customers. If it was not for BNSF, Union Pacific and the local service of the Great Western, the economy in this portion of Colorado would not be where it is today.