Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Our Train Got Hit by a Rock!"

That's what Brendan will excitedly tell you if you ask him about his train ride in Colorado last June.

Kirsteen's friend, Jackie, from Scotland, is with us on the Georgetown Loop, a railroad in the Rocky Mountains west of Denver.  For enthusiasts, it's an historic bit of railroad engineering.  For tourists, it's a scenic if not somewhat short down-and-back run of about five miles.  The highlight of the trip is the view while crossing the trestle which begins the loop.

Well, most days anyway.

You can board at either end. We chose the top of the run at Silver Plume, sitting at the back of the train in a covered but open-sided coach; perfect for views and the light rain that is falling. It's a bit of a let down that it only takes 20 minutes to reach the bottom of the run. While passengers switch at Georgetown Station, the engine is moved to the other end of the train. This turns out to be very cool as Brendan gets a close up view of the action when the engine backs up and couples to our coach. Sid the Science Kid--eat your heart out!

Now we're heading back on the forested mountainside.  Suddenly there is a terrible banging sound as our coach lurches and shakes alarmingly, though I had no immediate impression we would be flung downhill.  "Have we derailed?"

The train stops quickly and 3/4's of a second later the engineer leaps from the cab to the uphill side of the train.  Within a few more seconds, murmurs are spreading that a rock has hit opposed to us hitting a rock.  Pretty good-sized one too; a couple of tons or more.  It slid ten or fifteen feet down the slope just as the train started to pass, first hitting the locomotive then bouncing along our coach.  It hasn't derailed the train but it came to rest pushing debris and smaller boulders onto the track between the wheel-bogies of the open coach behind us.

That part of the train isn't going anywhere.

As luck would have it, they decide to load everyone parked at Silver Plume into our coach, decouple it from the rest of the train and take us on up.  They'll have to come back and get the rest of the passengers and arrange for shuttle vans to take them down to their cars.  Glad we're not with them.  In all, we were delayed about 25 minutes...well worth the adventure!

1 comment:

  1. Eric
    I, too, took my family to the Geoprgetown Loop. Back in 1990. Then my daughter was five years old. the boys were 9 and 3. Not certain how much they recall. No rocks. No exccitement. We did go into the mine aways as I recall.

    Jon P