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Southern Colorado Astronomical Society
Southern Colorado Astronomical Society
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Starlight Express
Welcome to the Starlight Express!
Colorado Skies are beautiful for star gazing, Colorado Skies at 9,200ft are nothing short of amazing!  Getting to those amazing clear skies at 9,200 ft. by Steam
Engine while traveling through absolutely gorgeous Colorado mountain country…it’s breath taking!
Welcome to the Starlight Express!  No where else in the country will you find this one of a kind opportunity to enjoy a 1800’s steam engine locomotive  ride to 9,200 ft
then camp the night under the stars, participate in star gazing, and enjoy the company of other astronomy and night sky enthusiasts.

What really makes this trip amazing is the fact that although you are camping you have amenities available to you not normally found at some of the most improved
campgrounds, such as hot and cold running water, men and women restroom (with flushing toilets and sinks), electricity, an amphitheater, and WIFI access.  And
when sun sets there are NO lights in the area except that which you bring with you.  Best off all the site can be accessed only by rail.

The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad and the Southern Colorado Astronomical Society have teamed up to put this one of kind trip together for star gazers and amateur
astronomers who also happen to enjoy historic yesteryear train rides and the great Colorado Outdoors.  In the months of August the No. 18 Steam Engine will haul to
Veta Pass, departing from La Veta Colorado. The trips are scheduled to coincide closest to the New Moon Phase for maximum dark skies.  Once at Veta Pass
travelers will unload from the train with their camping gear and telescopes, be transported to the camping area just a few hundred yards away via a quad ATV, set up
camp, cook a meal, and wait for sundown.  From time to time we’ll have special guest speakers to fill the time between arrival to sunset, speaking about
astronomical related topics.  Once it is dark the real fun begins as night sky objects appear with unparalleled clarity.  The Milky Way shines bright enough that you are
able to walk around without the aid of a flash light.  

After a night of star gazing and camping, wake up to a beautiful Colorado morning, fire up some breakfast, or have it catered in, and wait for No. 18 to round the bend
for the return trip to La Veta that returns you to civilization.  Enjoy the breath taking beauty once again as the Steam Engine makes its way down the mountain.
Guidelines for the trip.

Our primary concern is of course safety.  There are a few things you need to know before climbing abroad the iron horse.  You are going to be camping in the
rugged high country of Colorado.  There are deer, elk, chipmunks, and you guessed it, bear.  In fact if you don’t see a bear on the way up it would be surprising.  
The bear do however tend to shy away from Veta Pass but that could change in an instant if we don’t take certain precautions such as bagging up our trash at night,
leaving no food out, and making certain our food is sealed up in airtight containers.  At nighttime all trash will be bagged and moved away from the camping area.  
We’ve made this trip a number of times and have had no problems.  To be on the safe side SCAS members do carry bear mace that has been developed to make
an Alaskan Grizzly bear turn on its heels and head for even higher country.  That being said firearms of any kind are not allowed.  You are more than welcome to get
a can of bear mace and bring it with you, just remember to check the safety on the container often.

Although we are camping open campfires are not permitted.  When it comes time for the evening meal, breakfast, or hot drinks we do encourage the use of small
propane and dual fuel stoves.  The burning of charcoal or wood is not allowed.  The risk of a wildfire is too great to take a chance with open fire.

Bring your meals with you.  There will be plenty of time to cook up something once you get on site.  Military style MRE’s or Meals Ready to Eat can be found at
sporting goods stores, major grocery stores or ordered on line.  These work best as often you need only add water and you have got dinner or breakfast.  If we have
enough participants request it the morning meal can be catered on site by the Whistle Stop.

We do have water on site however campers do need to bring bottled water with them.  The water on site is great for cleaning up, sinks, and toilets but drinking
water should be carried in.

Bring the appropriate clothing with you.  You’re going to be camping at 9,200 feet in elevation.  Once the sun goes down the temperature starts dropping, fast!  
During the summer months nighttime lows can fall into the mid 60’s.  In September it will get down into the 30's or 40’s.  Conversely bring your sun block.  
Remember you're at 9,200 ft., that’s a lot less atmosphere to help block the power of the sun.  Do remember to wear the appropriate foot gear.  Flip flops and open
toes shoes are not permitted.  Cover your feet up, when you get off the train you will be next to rail line, it is a little dirty, and the terrain is uneven in the camping area.

Tent, sleeping bag, a pad to go under your sleeping bag, a flashlight or small lantern.  Do remember we are going to be star gazing so make sure you have a
flashlight that has the red light option.

We are surrounded by private property at Fir Station.  The SCAS members will point out the boundaries once we get on site.  Wondering off to explore outside of the
Rio Grande property is not permitted.

At Fir Station we've got hot and cold running water, his and her restrooms with flushing toilets, an overhead structure should the weather turn on us, pave stone
paths, and a 4 seater ATV with payload that will transport equipment and people to the campsite and stargaze location that is about 100 yards away.   

There is power at Fir Station but you need to bring your own extension cord.  Battery packs work great too.  In need of internet access?  Believe it or not we do have
Wifi access at the pass.  Cell phone reception is at best spotty but if you have a certain carrier you will get a signal in and out.

The train ride up is very smooth and a cushioned seat has been reserved for your telescope.  Still do try to bring something to pad your delicate instrument against
the bumps and thumps associated with loading and unloading.  Speak of loading and unloading once you get to La Veta on Saturday the best way to load your
gear into the train is by forming a bucket brigade.  Everyone who is participating forms a line that moves the gear into the train.  Please make certain you have your
gear tagged with your name.

We leave the pass cleaner than we found it.  In the morning after all of the gear has been transported back to the platform everyone on the trip is expected to give
the site a good go over to make sure we didn't leave any trash behind.  This is also a great time to make sure no one lost an eyepiece, or anything else of value.

A number of the SCAS members have trained for conducting events at Fir Station so you are in good hands.  Join us for a ride into yesteryear and spend the
evening taking in the incredible skies found at high elevation.  All Aboard!
Be at the train station in La Veta no later than
1:00pm.  A SCAS member will be on hand to
let you know which car your purchased tickets
are for.  If you need to pick your tickets up visit
the reservations office to get them. The train
departs La Veta at 2:00PM sharp.  Roughly 1
hour 15 minutes later you arrive at Fir Station.  
Equipment will be unloaded on the platform
platform.  Once the train has departed a Quad
ATV (Mule) with payload will transfer the
equipment to the camping and viewing
location.

Sunday all gear will need to be staged on the
platform by 11:15AM when the train arrives.  
After the concert passengers disembark we
will load up. At that point it is the same
process as when we loaded in La Veta.  The
train arrives in La Veta at 12:45, everyone
unloads.

For both loading and unloading we will be able
to back a vehicle up to the platform at La Veta
should you have that need however your car
will then need to be moved to accommodate
loading/unloading of other Starlight Express
passengers.
To purchase tickets for the Starlight Express you can either call
1-877-726-7245 and speak with a reservations clerk or book on
line.  Because the reservations office is not always staffed you may
need to leave a message.   If you get the recording leave your
information,Rio Grande Scenic Railroad will call you making a
reservation for the Starlight Express and the date of your trip.

To make reservation online click on the following link
https://www.coloradotrain.com/starlight-express.html
The cost per person is $26.00.  Please note the Southern Colorado
Astronomical Society does not receive any money from these trips.  
Your ticket fee goes to cover railroad expenses.  Yes SCAS
members do pay their way on these trips.
Below is the initial survey video shot by the SCAS President and Public Relations Director when they spent the night on site
with their families to determine the potential for astronomical use.  Site facts and figures are included during the video.  If you
have any questions concerning the trip or the site please contact SCAS PR Director Alan Knight at 719-337-3970 or email
him at
aknight@scaspueblo.com
Industry leaders, experts, educators involved in the field of
astronomy, astrophysics, astrobiology or a related space field, this
trip is for you!  Through our arrangement with the Rio Grande
Scenic Railroad you will be given a ticket to ride in the air
conditioned Club Car and you get first choice to stay in the cabin at
Fir Station. In return we would ask you to give a 1 hour lecture
related to your area of expertise.  If you are interested in being a
guest speaker on one of the Starlight Express trips please contact
SCAS PR Director Alan Knight at 719-337-3970 or email him at
aknight@scaspueblo.com
In 2014 we will be
organizing 1 trip of the
Starlight Express.  Please
join us on August 23rd and
24th for this one of a kind
trip.