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New Locomotives on Colorado Pacific Railroad Signals Big Changes

By Betsy Barnett

September 21, 2022

There’s two of them, and they are quite stunning as they sit shimmering in the late summer sun. On Thursday night, after passing the final regulatory hoop, a Federal Railroad Agency (FRA) inspection, on the western end of the rail line the two new locomotives on the Colorado Pacific Railroad came rolling into Eads—where they will be stationed for the time being.

The locomotives are being leased from National Railway Equipment (NRE).

Owner and operator of CWC Rail, Inc., Matt Prince, the company that manages the 122 mile stretch of the Colorado Pacific Railroad for owner Stefan Soloviev, who is chairman of the Soloviev Group, described the two, identical locomotives that are now on the tracks inside the Eads city limits and waiting to move commerce up and down the line.

Prince said of the sky-blue locomotives, both of which prominently display the Colorado Pacific Railroad logo, the Colorado flag, and the Crossroads Agriculture logo, “They are both Electro-Motive Diesel locomotives which is a subsidiary of General Motors. The models are SD-40s. These locomotives have a diesel engine that turns a big generator which provides electricity to electric motors on each axle. There are 8 speed positions above idle on the locomotives that control how fast the locomotives can go. This line, according to the track conditions, can handle a locomotive pulling cars at 25 mph and we have a weight restriction of 286,000 lbs. per railcar which is on the higher end of industry standards.”

There are five classes of track conditions with the Colorado Pacific line rated at a class 2. Prince said, “When we started working on the tracks and the structures connected with them, things were in surprisingly good condition given the 25 years or so that the line sat idle.”

The Colorado Pacific Railroad line that Prince manages begins at NA Junction located between Boone and Fowler, Colorado and travels east basically parallel to Highway 96 ending five miles west of Towner in extreme eastern Colorado. The Kansas & Oklahoma rail line begins on the eastern boundary of the Colorado Pacific and runs through Towner and then into Kansas. The Union Pacific & BNSF rail line is on the Colorado Pacific’s western-most boundary and travels into Pueblo and then towards the West Coast.

According to Prince, the arrival of the two locomotives essentially activates the beginning of much more activity that will occur up and down the 122-mile line.

Prior to the arrival of the two locomotives, Prince has been training his new Colorado Pacific crew on an older model locomotive he leased from the Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad. That locomotive has been on the tracks near Eads for a number of months serving as the training locomotive for the full-time staff Prince has hired including, in addition to Prince, Larry Taylor, Chance Fowler and Tony Jensen.

Prince explains, “All four of us have completed training to become certified conductors on the railroad. That requires each of us to complete 40 hours of classroom instruction and 100 hours of on-the-job training. I have an engineer certification and have been going through the process to certify Chance and Tony, this requires doubling those training requirements.”

Besides the four full time employees, Prince indicates there are also 2 part-time employees as the rail line expands its services.

The first bit of business the Colorado Pacific Railroad is finalizing is bringing in storage cars that will be stored on the 11 miles of sidings capable of holding an estimated 1,000 railroad cars. Currently, the rail line is storing 219 cars, but Prince said he’s negotiating for another 400-500 cars to bring into storage.

These rail sidings are mostly located to the western end of the line closer to NA Junction.

Prince indicates that with the two locomotives his crew can now pick up and drop off storage cars that will be ordered by other rail lines as needed. Each car represents something akin to daily rental revenue for the Colorado Pacific Railroad.

The really big news for the Colorado Pacific Railroad is the imminent completion and opening of the massive Weskan Grain Company elevator located just east of Plainview School on Highway 96 and along the Colorado Pacific Railroad in Kiowa County.

In general terms prior to its grand opening, the Weskan Grain Company consists of four massive grain elevators, or towers, that can hold up to 1 million bushels of varying grain such as wheat, corn, milo, millet or even hemp seed. The new grain elevator is owned by the Soloviev Group, as well, and will be able to utilize the Colorado Pacific Railroad to move not only Crossroads Agriculture products to market, but also provide fair market values for local producers in Kiowa County, neighboring counties and even into Kansas.

Prince indicated they are planning to eventually build a siding that will go around the massive elevators on the north side providing even more train access for the grain company.

“The new elevator can hold a million bushels of grain and a full train can carry a half a million bushels,” according to Prince.

By utilizing this kind of grain storage and access to a working rail line, a more direct access is being provided to markets further away. “It used to be just the Gulf markets that we could access, but now with the development of the rail line and the elevator, access is possible also to the West Coast or even to markets Coast to Coast.”

The Weskan Grain Elevator hopes to be up and operational just in time for milo and corn harvest. It will create competition for Bartlett and Scoular Grain in the area, but that should be good news for the farmer who is looking for the best price possible.

As for the future endeavors of the Colorado Pacific Railroad? Well, Prince is excited about the possibilities the new transmission lines and renewable energy projects present for the county and the rail line. He is considering setting up a distribution center in the Eads area as the rail line meets at the intersection of the extremely busy Highway 287 running north to south across the country, and Highway 96 running east and west.

Prince has set up a distribution center before on a rail line he operated in the southeastern United States. He describes the option of setting up rail yards to accommodate such an operation. In essence, he can bring the train to the distribution center, if it’s close enough, in order to load and unload the contracted inventory. Currently, this idea is in its infancy, but Prince feels the idea is worth looking into.

Now that the beautiful blue locomotives have arrived on the Colorado Pacific Railroad line, it will be no time at all that we will see Prince or one of his newly trained conductors helping to bring revenue and commerce to an area of the state that could sorely use it.