Facebook Page

The San Luis Central The Potato Line Limited 10/29/2006

Trip sponsored by the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum

by Chris Guenzler

Chris Parker and I arose at 5:45 AM and prepared ourselves for the day ahead. We had the Best Western Alamosa Inn's continental breakfast before we packed up and checked out. We drove west on US 160, following the rails we rode yesterday, out to Sugar Junction just short of Monte Vista. We turned before the Ace Hardware and soon found the shop. We took a quick look before returning to the parking area at a grade crossing and parked the car. A few minutes later, Bart and Sarah Jennings pulled up and I knew we were in the correct place to board the train. A few more cars parked before Bart walked down to the shop. About ten minutes later, I saw freight cars heading our way and set up for my first pictures of the day.

I walked over to the street and photographed them.

At the end was an open window coach that we would be riding.

The San Luis Central SW900 70 was pushing this cut of cars into their yard at Sugar Junction.

San Luis Central SW-9 70.

After it cut off from the freight cars, it pulled back in order to spot the passenger car, that would be our train, for boarding.

Our train consisted of SW900 70 and SLRG coach RPGW 5560. I boarded the coach and found a seat on which to put my bag and then realized that this could be a cold and windy trip. So I decided to go back to the car for a few things and put on my long underwear top and my gloves. I returned to the train to wait for departure time.

A brief history

The company was incorporated February 19, 1913. The first portion of the line opened in September 1913 to haul sugar beets to an on-line processing mill. Beet growing did not prove popular with local farmers and the facility soon closed. Other agricultural crops including potatoes, barley, wheat, peas and lettuce are grown in the fertile San Luis Valley. Passenger service ended in 1937. Pea Vine Corp acquired the entire capital stock from the estate of the railroad’s founder in 1969. San Luis Central operates freight service from a connection with San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad (SLRG) at Monte Vista, Colorado to Center, Colorado (13 miles). SLRG handles the traffic from Monte Vista to a connection with Union Pacific at Walsenburg, Colorado. Traffic includes grain, potatoes and fertilizer.

The Trip 10/29/2006

Views inside our open window Coach 5560.

Our trip started by going south and crossing the scale on the way to the interchange with the San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad.

We continued south to the end of the yard.

Our conductor had to throw the switch at the wye so that we could back down to the US 160 highway crossing.

This is the furthest point south we went on the railroad. Our train activated the crossing gates so we did not stay here too long. We then started the northbound trip to Center at the northern end of the railroad.

We passed through the yard and headed out of Sugar Junction, running by the San Luis Central Railroad shops.

Our train then passed a pond which is here because we were nearing the Rio Grande River.

Another ditch along our route.

Our train took one of the only two curves on this railroad.

The look back as we start into that curve.

Our train then came to a siding with a line of stored cars.

A closer view of some of these unique freight cars.

You never know what you will see on a trip.

Then the train approached the bridge over the Rio Grande River where our first Photo Runby would be held.

After crossing the Rio Grande River, the train stopped and we all unloaded for the Photo Runby.

The back up move across the Rio Grande Bridge and went out of sight.

The Photo Runby was fantastic. After it was done, we all reboarded the train as our next stop would be Center.

The train passed another low-lying area with water in it as we took the second curve on the railroad.

A look back at the curve.

Since the track would be straight for the rest of the journey, I will show you some things about the railroad.

Our train ran by grain silos at North Farm.

The San Luis Valley is a major agricultural area in Colorado.

There are old packing houses which have found new life near Vastine.

The train was closing in on Vastine.

There was a great view to the east of Great Sand Dunes National Park with the mountains behind as we came to Dunul.

Our train ran through Dunul, Colorado.

Our train arrived in Center and we went as far north as we could go.

We ran by the track that our power would run around our train at Center.

The train went as far north as we could go. It was announced that we would be picking up a tank car to take back to Sugar Junction. That meant that our passenger train would be a "mixed train" for the return trip.

Tracks at Center, Colorado.

The train backed up to spot the coach as the photographers scrambled to get pictures.

After the engine coupled onto the tank car, it backed up past the switch.

The engine and tank car then ran by the coach.

They then went down to the switch before backing onto our train.

As I walked around during our layover, I discovered that our coach had been on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. Almost everyone on the train visited a gas station to use the restroom and purchase snacks and drinks.

The train waited in Center for everyone to return before we headed back south to Sugar Junction.

On the way back the look down straight as an arrow track.

There are beautiful mountains that surround the San Luis Valley. I enjoyed talking with the passengers on the return trip and it seemed all too soon that we were back at the Rio Grande River bridge for the final Photo Runby of these trips.

After we all unloaded and crossed an electrified fence to get to the river, I walked out onto an island to set up for the backup move.

Photo Runby 2 at the Rio Grande River Bridge.

This Photo Runby was excellent. However, during the back up move, I ran out of film so decided just to watch the last Photo Runby without having to look through a camera. That San Luis Central Railroad SW900 sure put on a good show!

After reboarding our train and moving a few yards down the rails, I photographed the Rio Grande bridge from the rear of the train.

We returned to Sugar Junction and I took pictures of our train as the passengers unloaded as well as one last shot of the locomotive.

These were two great days of rare mileage trips sponsored by the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum on the San Luis and Rio Grande and San Luis Central Railroads. A special thank you to both railroads, plus Bart and Sarah Jennings, for putting on these unique trips. We said our goodbyes before Chris Parker and I drove off for our next adventure but that is another story.