Fifty years ago this month, a generator for the new Hayden power plant started its tortuously slow journey from Pittsburg, Pa., across the country.
The special-order Westing-house Electric generator weighed 399,300 pounds and was the heaviest load to travel by rail to the Yampa Valley up to that point in time. Riding on a specially constructed flat car that had 12 pairs of wheels, instead of the standard 8 pairs, the load required a five-unit locomotive to haul it across the mountains and edge it slowly down to the valley floor. Traveling at speeds of no more than 15 miles per hour, the trip — about 1,200 rail miles — took almost a full month to complete.
The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad had to apply for a special permit to transport the oversize load for the Colorado-Ute Power Company, and the generator was allowed to travel only during daylight hours.
At the end of January, the generator was moved into place at the power plant as a D&RG locomotive nosed it slowly into the building that would house it.
The coal-fired power plant, which opened later in 1964, was a major source of change for the valley, opening up new jobs in the energy and construction sectors, which brought an influx of newcomers to the region.
A second unit was later added to Hayden, and in 1979 another coal-fired plant opened in Craig, which now has three units and is the largest such power plant in the state. New technology is constantly being implemented to enhance the clean-burn potential for both the Hayden and Craig stations. These two coal-generating power plants continue to offer stable employment opportunities to area residents, generating a large portion of income for both Routt and Moffat counties.