Rotary Operations

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Rotary Operations

Mike Trent
Administrator
17° in Frisco/Dickey this morning, and 17° in North Alabama too. Damn!

Yesterday and Friday we had snow flurries, and I wondered if I might need to break out the Rotary this year. Then I started thinking that back in the 20's and 30's, the C&S must have believed they could open the line over Kenosha to bring engines to Como for the Rotary which was kept there. Since all but one of the West End enginemen lived in Como, the East End guys would have had to layover in Como while their engines were in rotary service.

If the Platte Canyon or Kenosha was blocked, they would have had to bring the second Rotary up from Denver.

It is known that there were occasional times when both of the rotarys were used, this could explain why.

I asked Doug Schnarbush about this, but I never felt that he really understood what I was asking.

He made several rotary trips firing the Rotary or one of the locomotives. He told me on one occasion they had to open Boreas using the large Rotary, which he was firing, and didn't arrive in Breckenridge until about 3:30 or 4:00 the following morning. They were all dog tired. The agent was there, and told Doug that a telegraph message had arrived to inform him that his wife had given birth to a baby daughter that night. So he remembered that trip very well.

I've never really thought before of the logistics of running the Rotary out of Como with no locomotives based there, except the emergency passenger engine.

Running engines up from Denver is the only thing that makes sense to me.
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Re: Rotary Operations

Keith Hayes
Mike, I guess that means that once you know you have a problem, it is 4-6 hours before the locomotives arrive and you can get to work. Also, if they ran into much trouble along the way, would they have to lay over for rest adding another 8 hours to the process. Of course, once the locomotives got to Como, they would have to be turned, coaled and water. The railroad did have the advantage of the telegraph, insofar as they had agents in place to monitor the weather.
Keith Hayes
Leadville in Sn3
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Re: Rotary Operations

Lee Gustafson
Mike & Keith,

Who would make the decision re: the need for the rotary? Thanks in advance.

Lee Gustafson
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Re: Rotary Operations

Mike Trent
Administrator
This post was updated on .
That's a good question, I'd guess the Roadmaster in Denver, but maybe Rick has a better idea about that.

Keith is right, it took hours and even days, unless the closure would have occurred on a "train day" in Como with as many as eight engines fired up and ready to go.

One thing we do know is that the East End guys were not needed on the West End, as almost all of the West End enginemen lived in Como. So no problem on hours.

But that was a consideration on the Run West of Como. That's why the bunkhouse was still in use in Dickey.
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Re: Rotary Operations

ComoDepot
I was stuck on Kenosha for 5 and a 1/2 hours last night for no apparent reason, hopefully the RailRoad operated more efficiently then CDOT does.

They certainly ran both Rotaries at the same time and in the same area so that would have been a major commitment of resources and no doubt why they were so keen to close up operations.

Did they always use 4 locos, could have sworn I have seen them with 3.

Snow does vary, and Platte Canyon in the time I have been here does not get the big snows, so yes it could happen but doubt it would that often
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Re: Rotary Operations

South Park
  It has been my observation that the weather generally comes from
the NE in those parts.  The Front Range seems to provide something
of a shield to the Platte Cañon area for big snows like will occur further
west along the continental divide.  I do not recall ever seeing a photo
of really deep snow along the line until it got to Michigan, where the
South Park winds piled up high drifts.
"Duty above all else except Honor"
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Re: Rotary Operations

ComoDepot
The winter winds in South Park are predominately North West, summer from the south is more normal.

Big snows are usually later in winter when we get  it from the South or North, the divide is a barrier of much from the west.

Certainly by road if you can get out of South Park you are normally OK until you get to Conifer, that area seems to attract a lot of the bad stuff.

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Re: Rotary Operations

South Park
  Maybe I am all spun around on this ...  ?

  If a were train coming from Michigan to Como, and the wind blew
at it from the right side as it traveled toward Como, what direction
would that wind be coming from ?

  It seems to me, that is how the bad drifts look to be oriented in old
photos of stuck trains along the line there.  I have never wintered over
on the South Park to know how it works firsthand, but my non-winter
visits ...  I seem to recall the wind blowing from that same direction (?).
"Duty above all else except Honor"
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Re: Rotary Operations

Mike Trent
Administrator
Sometimes two locomotives were enough. There are even photos of a helper and the regular passenger train pushing a rotary.

Being that the heavy snow has always fallen in March and April, maybe they held two helpers back if they felt it might be warranted. Not as a standard practice, just intuition based on decades of experience. Along with the emergency passenger engine, they would have three available without too much trouble.
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Re: Rotary Operations

ComoDepot
Going from Kenosha to Como the wind is basically coming out of Boreas, NW, NNW or thereabouts.

There are CDOT barriers at the top of Kenosha and in Fairplay, has long been recognised as a tricky stretch, no barriers between Fairplay and Alma and beyond.

Summit county gets a lot more snow but generally not the winds.

Fremont Pass does not seem to have too many issues, but Vail Pass does.
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Re: Rotary Operations

ComoDepot
In reply to this post by Mike Trent
The heavy wet stuff tend to be April/May, still the dry stuff in March.

My guess is that the June blizzards they would not worry too much about as it would melt out before they could mobilize.
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Re: Rotary Operations

Southpark
In reply to this post by Mike Trent
I would guess the rotary power out of Como would be off of the WB freight out of Denver.  It was very very rare that a rotary would run east of Grant.  While there were rotary runs in the Park the big blockades were the slides out of Frisco in  Ten Mile Canyon.  
In talking of number of rotaries, rotary runs, motive power and crews out of Como one needs keep in mind the era we are talking about.  While the Gunnison line was open the rotary, crew and motive power story would be a whole different story.
Brownie Anderson also was greeted with a new arrival at the end of a rotary run, this after a long run to Leadville.  His new born son was quite the fan of Como and the C&S.
Tom Klinger
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Re: Rotary Operations

Mike Trent
Administrator
Thanks Tom, excellent information.
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Re: Rotary Operations

Rick Steele
In reply to this post by Mike Trent
Hi Mike,

On the UP, because of the expense of extra crews, extra locomotives, and the cost of the manpower to operate the rotaries (engineer or operator and fireman), the decision was usually left with the Superintendent. He would have to be the one to justify its use, or explain why trains were stranded in the snow.

Remember, the Rotaries would have to be deadheaded to where they were needed if they couldn't be worked along the way. That is the cost of a train crew. Engineer, Fireman, Brakemen and Conductor. The usual deadhead movement was just a Rotary, Locomotive and Caboose.

Rick
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Re: Rotary Operations

tonyk375
Basically the same on the BNSF.  No cabooses any more.  They called one out last winter when AMTRAK was stuck outside of Minot but recalled it before it left the yard.  pics of  2 of the 3 BNSF rotaries in Glendive and the Bros plow.  Working on the road and don't have a copy of the third Glendive rotary on this computer. They used the green on in North Dakota the year before.  Different for the big railroads and a lot further commute for the plows to get to work.

BNSF rotary GlendiveBNSF Rotary in GlendiveBNSF Bros plow in Glendive
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Re: Rotary Operations

tonyk375
Not C&S, Sn3 or narrow gauge but I was in Glendive yesterday so took a pick of the third rotary the BNSF has there.

BNSF rotary Glendive 01.25.18
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Re: Rotary Operations

Mike Trent
Administrator
Well, not ng, but C&S....

We get BNSF units through here all the time on coal trains. It pleases me to see them, as the BNSF absolutely has C&S DNA.

Thanks for the pic, Tony.