Denver & Rio Grande engine # 9774 inches the mammoth generator ponderously forward past snowy fields, on the last leg of its journey from Pennsylvania to the Hayden power plant site 50 years ago this month.

Denver & Rio Grande engine # 9774 inches the mammoth generator ponderously forward past snowy fields, on the last leg of its journey from Pennsylvania to the Hayden power plant site 50 years ago this month.

Museum of Northwest Colorado: 50 years of generating changes in the valley

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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.

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