CANYONLANDS and HORSESHOES
In Little Gore Canyon, between Tunnels 39 and 40 (just behind the photographer).
|Icebox of America
Having reached the "Western Slope" of the Divide, the Moffat rolls through the ski resorts and ranching communities of Colorado's beautiful Middle Park region, and area frequently called the "Ice Box of the Nation" as wintertime temperatures can plunge to way below 0. At Tabernash, steam helpers waiting to assist trains over Corona would be effectively "welded" in place as condensing steam and fog rising from the Fraser River, Crooked and Ranch Creeks formed an icy blanket over steel wheels and rails. Eastbound trains could even freeze to the rails in just the few minutes it took to couple in helpers, and then would be torn apart as the power tried to yank them free from Old Man Winter's icy grip.
From the west switch of Tabernash, the Moffat rolls through the 7 miles of the remote Fraser River Canyon and Tunnel 34 to emerge at the east switch of Granby, to follow the Colorado River west. At Hot Sulphur Springs (with constant 121 degree waters, a remnant of ancient volcanic activity), trains slow to a restricted 20 MPH through the short but impressive Byers Canyon. Then more open running through ranch lands into the lumber mill community of Kremmling at the eastern mouth of the deep Gore Canyon of the Colorado. In the 14 miles of Gore and Little Gore between Kremmling and Radium are tunnels 35 through 42. 40 is the shortest on the Moffat at 63 feet, and 41 was daylighted in 1952.
Coal: Savior of the Moffat
Moffat had preferred his main line follow the Grand (today's Colorado) River southwest to a connection with the D&RG's Tennessee Pass line through the spectacular Glenwood Canyon, then into Utah. But the Grande would not allow a connection, so in 1907 Moffat turned north at Bond toward Craig to reap revenue transporting northwest Colorado's vast coal deposits. The line, planned to continue on into Utah, ended in Craig in 1913. North of Bond and Tunnel 43 is the wide, deep chasm of Rock Creek Canyon. Just to position the tracks for an approach required a horseshoe curve and Tunnel 44 in Yarmony Creek Canyon; and the "Crater Loops" double horseshoe near today's Crater siding. To avoid a massive trestle from Crater across Rock Creek, an additional 3 miles of horseshoe track through Tunnels 45-49 cross a narrower section of the canyon. After another horseshoe curve near Volcano siding (for a near-by extinct volcano), the tracks emerge by way of Egeria Canyon and Tunnels 50-55 into the Yampa River Valley at Toponas, then continue through sagebrush covered ranching land into Phippsburg ("P-Burg"), a crew change point and helper station. Then through the Oak Creek Canyon for 21 miles into Steamboat Springs, to rejoin the Yampa for the rest of the trip into Craig, 48 miles to the west.
When the Moffat Tunnel Improvement District was formed to build a Divide tunnel, a key provision was a connection with the Denver & Rio Grande, and in 1934 the "Dotsero Cutoff" following the Colorado river from Bond was completed. (The connection, listed as "Dot Zero" on surveyor maps, is known today as "Dotsero." The other end at Bond is "Orestod," Dotsero spelled backward!) But the "Craig Branch" continues to prove the wisdom of its building. Several coal trains (referred to as, simply, "Moffat trains" by dispatchers and crews) a day roll down through Bond to enter the main line.
West Portal of Moffat Tunnel.
Hot Sulphur Springs
Out of Byers.
Tunnels 39 and 40 in Little Gore.
Eastbound out of Tunnel 40.
Westbound out of Tunnel 40.
Yarmony siding today....
...and when, as God intended, the Rio Grande ran the Moffat!
Bond and the Craig Branch.
Yampa River Valley
Tunnel 44 in Yarmony Creek Canyon.
Rock Creek Canyon
Adams siding, west of Steamboat Springs.
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Hanging Ten Into the Front Range      Thirty VS One      No More Hill Hell
Through the Rockies in Grande Style     Union Pacific on the Moffat
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