Retired SP conductor Gary Smart recalls with fondness the day he was called to work the RODVF train with engineer Kenny Leighter from Roper Yard to Grand Junction. He arrived at Roper on Oct. 15, 1995 to see his paperwork listing the train’s leader as the SP 5331. He thought “What exactly is the SP 5331? An original SP SD39 or what?” With his paperwork in order and the request for a helper done, he and his engineer were delivered by van to his waiting train . . . much to his surprise and delight, the SP 5331 was actually an original Rio Grande SD45 on the point! DRGW SD45 No. 5331 was trailed by SP B40-8 No 8003 and SP B39-8E No. 8020. The fourth and fifth trailing units were DIC (dead in consist): NS C39-8 No. 8649 and SP AC4400CW No. 178. The RODVF had 73 cars (7 auto racks and 66 cars of piggyback trailers). The two DIC units put the train way over tonnage for the available power and tonnage ratings. When they arrived at Provo, they found out the dispatcher had forgotten to order the helper. Gary reluctantly agreed with his engineer to see how far they could make it without a help. The DRGW 5331 performed flawlessly . . . all 20 cylinders humming along just like it was brand new.
The helper set eventually hit the high iron out of Helper Yard and met up with the RODVF at Gilluly. The dispatcher flagged Rio Grande SD40T-2s 5404 and 5405 on the point and away they went! Once they reached Soldier Summit, the helper cut off on the fly and returned to the yard light ahead of the train. Later while crossing the remote Green River Subdivision east of Helper, the engineer was making excellent time between Helper and Grand Junction arriving at the crew change in just 8.5 hours from on-duty to tie-up.
For Gary Smart, this memorable journey in the cab of the DRGW 5331 was the highlight of his railroad career. “It was amazing to see the oldest unit in the consist on the point and I know we could have made it without the help but they needed to get their days pay for being called out so we stopped and waited for them.”