All trains on the Rio Grande’s Utah Division between Salt Lake City, Utah and Grand Junction, Colorado share a common goal…to reach Soldier Summit. Rio Grande trains flash across the eastern Utah desert then climb to the summit through rugged arid canyons. From the west it’s a different world as trains weave through the aspen and pine covered Wasatch Mountains.
We open with Amtrak’s California Zephyr racing across the desert toward the setting sun in an unforgettable sequence. Then we get down to business with Rio Grande freight and coal trains. Lashed up for high speed and brute climbing power, you’ll see varying combinations of the GP40, GP40-2, SD40T-2, SD45 and the SD50 at locations such as Thompson, Floy, Desert, Grassy, Price, Helper, Castle Gate, Nolan, Kyune, Gilluly, Thistle and more. Many scenes are ablaze with aspen in glorious Fall colors.
We’ll look at the Utah Railway with trains powered by ex-SP, UP and BN units. Documented also is the unique Pleasant Valley Branch with Union Pacific power and Rio Grande crews. And, we are fortunate to see a colorful Circus train speeding through the desert. The year is 1988 and this is a last look at the premerger Rio Grande.