As in most of the previous years, this train is a money-making enterprise. (Once the Rio Grande came out of bankruptcy there was little evidence that it was a charitable organization.) The Winter Park resort operator paid for the heated platform demanded by the UP. It goes through a tunnel that is publicly owned but paid for by the users. The resort real estate is owned by the City and County of Denver.
Track 5 in renovated Denver Union Station was only built to handle intercity trains because of the Winter Park train. It is a critical element of ever having another long-distance service in this region but access to it was eagerly lobbied for by the commuter rail interests. The ballast was laid with the idea that "when Amtrak no longer needs them" (Tracks 4 and 5) they can be scraped out and these tracks would provide space for additional emu layovers or peak extra trains. The Pioneer
saved Denver Union Station the first time and then was withdrawn in 1997. The Anschutz third generation ski train saved the second intercity track in DUS the second time and then was withdrawn during the development process. Another suspension for a couple of years risks re-opening that fight.
2nd generation Winter Park train:
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3rd generation Winter Park train:
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4th generation Winter Park train on Track 5:
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It seems to me that it would be a better use of advocates' time to look for niche markets with shared facilities and operating expenses elsewhere than to risk losing both a current benefit and a statement for the future of rail passenger service.
The service depends on trained volunteer car hosts. In the interim between the 3rd and 4th generation services it took months to re-assemble the volunteer force that had dispersed.
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