Almost before the devastating flood waters had begun to recede in Colorado, the phone of Midwest Railroad Maintenance and Construction (MRMC) in New London was ringing.
“We were on the road that night,” recalls Sarah Boleach, one of the company’s business managers. “It was late afternoon Monday and by 7 p.m. we had a crew, myself and Brian (Boleach, company owner) on the road headed to Colorado.”
Personnel from the almost 2-year-old company found themselves working on a stretch of Union Pacific Railroad track near Boulder.
“It was a section of track where the track was just suspended. The entire road base and rock base below had been washed out by the record rainfall they got here. That one hole was over 100 feet deep in one section,” said Boleach. “Our primary job was to be responsible for helping haul in fill rock, rip-rap rock and base rock to fill in that hole and get the base ready for relaying that track.”
According to Boleach, the first freight train was slated to use the reopened section of track on Wednesday night. The track also is used by passenger-hauling Amtrak trains.
“You could say we have done a lot of business in a short amount of time,” she said. “We have had two crews out here. We were running 24/7 for the last two weeks. As of tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 3) we’ll be running daytime only.”
With the change of work schedule, some members of MRMC’s 12-member crew will be returning home soon.
“Hopefully all of us will be home some time by the end of next week. So we’re looking at another week to week-and-a-half worth of work,” said Boleach. “There’s a lot of work to be done and even after that’s done there’s cleanup that is involved that needs to be done as well.”
The Colorado project is the largest the New London company has been a part of thus far.
“We have been called out to several derailments and other storm- and flood-related activities, but this has been the largest single site that we have ever been on,” said Boleach.
Playing a role in getting a section of track reopened carries a sense of satisfaction.
“People depend on railroads more than they realize for their everyday life. Freight traffic alone gets items to places like Walmart and different places that you don’t normally think of as being dependent on the railroad system,” said Boleach. “We’re helping in a small way to help get that rail system going again. It does make you feel good to be a part of restoring normal activity back to the folks out here in Colorado.”
Page 2 of 2 - The level of devastation that occurred during the flooding is hard for Boleach to grasp.
“The mountainside is beautiful where we are, but there’s a lot of water that runs off the mountains and the sheer force of that water has destroyed roads. It completely washed out half of a road system close to where we are,” she said. “There are families that have been stranded from their homes because their driveways and roadways have literally fallen off. There’s maybe 100 feet that separates them from their home. There’s a lot of homes where sediment and landslide fill have pushed up against their home and their houses and cars are destroyed. It’s sad to see all the devastation and know that a lot of families are displaced at this time.”