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After decades of little to no use, rail service may return to the Tennessee Pass line.

The Colorado, Midland & Pacific Railway Company Thursday announced it has completed an agreement with the Union Pacific Railroad for commercial use on the line, which stretches from roughly Canon City to Eagle.

The Colorado, Midland is a subsidiary of the Rio Grande Pacific Corporation, which operates freight and passenger railroads in eight states.

Vail Daily News Article

One wonders what [new?] traffic source could attract the capital necessary to rehabilitate this line which has been mothballed since the mid-90s?

Last edited by Rich Melvin
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People iz strange. We lived beside the T (20ft from our bedroom window to the outside rail) in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. Even at the rush hour 15min schedule the T cars were less bothersome that the constant never-ending noise from the busy street four houses west of us.

Having said that, the real problem for me with trains is those awful ear-damaging-volume Federally mandated air horns. I know the theory is to wake motorists up at grade crossings but with modern sound-deadened automobiles that is a futile effort. The only real solution is grade-separated crossings with bridges or underpasses.

This will be interesting.

With grades as steep as 3%, and the highest railroad crossing of the Rockies at over 10,000 feet, this is one of the most difficult stretches of railroad in the country to operate. A 3% grade on a real railroad is a serious operating obstacle. This is the primary reason UP mothballed the line.

I think the commuter rail aspect of this proposal is almost laughable. The highest track speed on this line would be about 25 mph, maybe 35 mph for a light passenger train, due to the grades and curves. Not exactly "high speed rail."

It would be exciting indeed if that Royal Gorge Route re-opened. It has to be one of most scenic stretches of railroad in the country. I've driven much of it, and have memories of watching DRGW freights on it. There's a deep gouge on the northwest end, and a road on the edge far above that affords a view down to the bottom, where the trains run. Up near the top of the grade there's a tunnel, and on the southeast end is the Royal Gorge, with a thousand foot deep narrow canyon with the rail line hugging the river. Spectacular stuff of all types.

The far southeast end is in use by the Rock & Rail line, which services a large quarry. There was also a tourist passenger train that runs up through the Royal Gouge and back, beautifully painted in Rio Grande orange colors. Shortly before they shut down the line, the UP ran an excusion on the route with the Challenger - what a great trip that would have been. There's a commercially available tape of the trip, from Pentrex, I think. The UP used the line for a while after acquiring the Rio Grande, but then went exclusively to the Moffit Tunnel route to get back and forth between Salt Lake and Denver, and points east and south from there. While the Royal Gouge route offered a 45 degree shortcut to rail lines heading south, I always assumed the choice to abandon it was mostly about fuel cost. Although shorter in mileage, with the grades involved more fuel was burned, and thus more expense incurred, and the money saved by using the Moffit Tunnel route - though it was longer and more time consuming - made it more economically viable for the UP.  That's just speculation, of course.

Last edited by breezinup
@breezinup posted:

...Up near the top of the grade there's a tunnel...
Tunnels are always a high maintenance item.

...and on the southeast end is the Royal Gorge, with a thousand foot deep narrow canyon with the rail line hugging the river. Spectacular stuff of all types...
Including rock slides...which are expensive to prevent and clean up.

The UP used the line for a while after acquiring the Rio Grande, but then went exclusively to the Moffit Tunnel route to get back and forth between Salt Lake and Denver...While the Royal Gouge route offered a...shortcut to rail lines heading south, I always assumed the choice to abandon it was mostly about fuel cost. Although shorter in mileage, with the grades involved more fuel was burned, and thus more expense incurred...
Fuel costs were not the reason the line was abandoned. It was the on-going TRACK MAINTENANCE COSTS. Any railroad on a 3% grade suffers from "rail creep". This is the tendency of the rail to slowly slide down the hill. Because of this, and the inherent overall ruggedness of this line, it has to be inspected almost daily, and that's expensive. There are tunnels and bridges...both high maintenance items. And finally, there is that 3% grade, which is, as I said above, a major and serious operating obstacle for any railroad, going up and down.

It wasn't fuel cost that caused the UP to abandon this line. It was the high maintenance nature of the railroad itself.

Thanks for that information, Rich. I've wondered for a long time about the factors involved in UP's decision to close that line. The "rail creep" information is really interesting. I'd never heard of that before. I suppose the friction of the engines' wheels slowly turning and pulling on the rail as they travel up a steep grade with a load, would also have the effect of trying to pull the rail downhill, and be a contributing factor to the rail creep.

Apparently living up to the Rio Grande's old motto "Through the Rockies, not around them" didn't come cheap. Just thinking about the CN and CP maintaining their routes west of the Calgary area - what an expense that must be.

Last edited by breezinup

I have serious doubts. I have hi-railed a small part of the line in the past. There are miles and miles of removed track that would have to be replaced. All the signalling equipment has been damaged with target practice or removed. Conflicting miles with a couple of short lines that use a portion of what is left. Reworking all the roadbed. This new company that wants to reopen the line better have some deep pockets.

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