|Another Empty Coal Train in the Loops|
They told me that their parents had purchased the property
in 1964 – before two of the brothers were born.
The fields around the tracks are irrigated with water flowing down the
Kayser-Mutual Ditch (see the very top of the first aerial photograph and also the map of the Craig Branch) from Rock
Creek high to the north. The creek is
separated from Conger Mesa by a steep cliff that drops hundreds of feet. The
early pioneers, who created the Kayser Mutual Ditch Company in 1905 (the Kayser
family owned a ranch on the plateau), had to become self-taught engineers to
divert water from high up in the basin, sometimes using wooden flumes to carry
it across gullies and channel it onto their hay fields. Because their fields were thus irrigated, the
Kayser family stayed on.
The brothers told me I could have free range over their
ranch to take photographs, provided I did not bother the cattle. This was a wonderful opportunity, with only
two problems: (1) by 2013, there was little traffic on the
Craig Branch; (2) the weather did not cooperate. I was at the loops three different days and
dodged clouds the whole time. Still I
was able to obtain a few worthwhile images.
The Cinder Cone and Stratovolcano
The loops take their name from a geological formation at the
north end of the plateau. The area has
been a commercial lava rock mine for almost one hundred years; today there are virtually
no remnants of the ancient formation. I
drove through the area many times without realizing what I was looking at. However, I recently found a photograph taken
in 1913 from near the top of an extinct volcano, looking down on what was then I
believe a pristine cinder cone.
A cinder cone is a steep conical hill of loose cinder and/or scoria (both often generically referred to as "lava rock") formed by explosive eruptions or lava fountains from a single, typically cylindrical, vent. As the gas-charged lava is blown violently into the air, it breaks into small fragments that solidify and fall as either cinders or scoria around the vent to form a cone with slopes between 30-40 degrees, and a nearly circular bottom. Most cinder cones have a bowl-shaped crater at the summit.
Cinder cones are commonly found on the flanks of shield volcanoes and stratovolcanoes. A shield volcano is built from a fluid lava flow and, from above, looks something like a warrior’s shield lying on the ground. The low profile is caused by fluidity of erupted lava flowing far from the source. A stratovolcano, on the other hand, is created when stickier lava piles up close to the source of eruption, rather than flowing along the ground. Stratovolcanoes look like mountains – for example, San Francisco peak above Flagstaff, Arizona.
Stratovolcanoes are much more common than shield volcanoes. Perhaps the two most famous are Krakatoa, best known for its catastrophic eruption in 1883, and Vesuvius, famous for its destruction of the ancient Roman towns Pompeii and Herculaneum.
It appears that the cinder cone that the railroad called “Crater,” for which the loops and a nearby passing siding were named, was a vent of a stratovolcano lying about a mile to the northwest.
If you look carefully behind the image of the cinder cone, you can see the railroad line coming up from the south, passing behind, then beginning the climb up the ridge. About a half mile left of the image, the tracks turn east into Rock Creek Canyon, an extremely narrow defile in the mountainside. After another half mile, the tracks horseshoe back to the west, still climbing, then twist out of the canyon and begin to climb the side of the stratovolcano. In the image above, the photographer is standing near the top of the stratovolcano. The tracks run about 200 feet below on the hillside.
This is an excellent article and set of photographs, however, the ending information is all incorrect, as are several photo tags of eagle no 5 mine. There are still 4 coal mines operating in northwest Colorado. 20 mile has just recently landed a contract keeping them open for 10+ more years.ReplyDelete
Feel free to contact me to update all this incorrect information. Fidel is still open, Trapper mine is still open. Colowyo mine is still open. Neither powerplant has been converted to nasty gas, and there are still several trains a week. Good pics, lots of inaccurate informationReplyDelete