Greetings from Salt Lake City, home to TRAX and FrontRunner that have undergone major extensions since I was last here almost two years ago in March.
I arrived here on Sunday night, flying in on JetBlue with my Dad during the Super Bowl, slightly ironically on their green plane painted for the New York Jets. JetBlue was trying to create some excitement with an area of their marketplace in the main terminal roped off, offering a free beer (El Presidente or Fosters, a slightly unusual selection), blue chips and buffalo wing flavored pretzels to every traveler (boarding passes were stamped and IDs verified to make sure each passenger just got one). When we finally boarded our plane I noticed that we were on the Airbus painted for the New York Jets. Everything went smoothly, while we were still at the gate the captain came out to do his (unique to JetBlue I think) introduction; he began by asking how many Giants fans and how many Patriots fans (Giants overwhelmingly) and joked to have us notify him in the cockpit of the score by our cheering. Takeoff at JFK was surprisingly quick for being rush hour for the International Flights (just 3rd in line) and I enjoyed watching the end of quite an exciting football game with surprisingly little cheering in the plane. The Capitan did come on again at the end of the game to say that he had just been notified by ATC. The only other notable special fact about the flight were more spicy buffalo flavored pretzels were served en-route.
There was tons of extra-time built into the schedule and we arrived in Salt Lake City an hour early at 10:30 Mountain Time, next was bag check and then calling our hotel in downtown Salt Lake City for their Shuttle. This shuttle ride (in a 15 passenger van) was notable because we shared it with a pilot/first officer team and two flight attendants from one of the regional airlines. All seemed absolutely exhausted and totally checked out from work. It re-enforced the fact flying people around the country is not at all an easy job.
Monday was my day to go on my own and photograph the two new TRAX extensions that have opened since my last visit. These were both built without the high-level ramps for ADA boarding. This means the Red and Green Lines only use the new low floor S70 LRVs. The previous fleet of SD-100, SD-160s, and second hand UTDC cars are now constrained to running only on the blue line which uses SD-160s it seems exclusively (the older cars seem to be retired and were seen in one of the train yards). On weekends when headways drop from every 15 minutes to 20 (and trains are shorter) the Blue Line also uses the new low-floor S70s. I started off by riding down the Red Line to Daybreak a line that goes through mostly construction zones and areas corded off for construction (including a few open parking garages in the middle of vacant land at one station). The red line is high-speed with every grade crossing priority gated. Next I did the 4 stop extension of the green line that serves existing development (with some new) mostly via the medians of Salt Lake City’s Boulevards.
I ended the day on Front Runner first up to Roy for a photo stop and then up to Ogden where I had probably my highlight of the day at Ogden Union Station, now a museum center. The main museum I went in for (there was also galleries of guns and vintage automobiles) was the railroad museum with interesting displays on the different types of railroad ties and track weights and a large model train layout with lots of info on the transcontinental railroad. On my way back I did a sunset (in more daylight than before) stop at Clearfield. FrontRunner now feels like (other than its intense hourly or half-hourly service) every other new modern Commuter Rail in the country. The Ex-New Jersey Transit Comet I coaches are not running in regular service right now, there all coupled together in a line in FrontRunner’s yard, all the train-sets now consist of 3 Bombardier BiLevels with a MPXpress MP36PH-3C locomotive on the northern end.
Today, Tuesday was not all that railroad related. We rented a car and headed north to Brigman City, where I did have a chance to run out of the car and photograph its historic depot, to go to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge which was really interesting. In the late afternoon I did full photo essays of the now in other uses historic Rio Grande and Union Pacific Depots in downtown Salt Lake City plus some FrontRunner action at the grade crossings as it leaves downtown. Uniquely, the two historic depots were both home to Amtrak service at different times. Since the railyards in downtown Salt Lake City were reconfigured beginning in 1999 Amtrak has served a temporary modular station (not quite a shack) every since.