The Joint Line

In Denver, BNSF PRB coal trains get a fresh crew and the BNSF's Brush Sub's ending 542.1 MP and the UP's Denver Area, Greeley Subdivision ending 0.0 (counting down from Borie Junction near Cheyenne) change to the Joint Line's starting 0.0. BNSF trains are now running on their Pikes Peak Sub jointly with the UP's Colorado Springs Sub for the next 120 miles into Pueblo. From Pueblo, BNSF coal trains continue on into Texas via other BNSF subdivisions. Several other rail lines contribute to traffic over the Joint Line in Denver, including UP PRB coal traffic off the UP's Greeley Sub, and UP coal loads from western Colorado off the UP's Moffat Tunnel Subdivision. On a drive south from Denver on Santa Fe Blvd. (HY 85) which closely parallels the Joint Line, one often sees several northbound coal and other trains stopped nose to tail waiting to get out of, or into, the Denver yards. All southbound trains travel on Track 1, with all northbounds (including coal empties) on Track 2. An interesting coincidence exists at Bragdon, just north of Pueblo. I-25 Exit 108 is the same as the railroad's Bragdon MP 108, but whereas the railroad mileage counts down from Denver, the Interstate mileage counts up from the state's southern border.

This "Joint Line" began in July 1871 when the new Denver & Rio Grande RR was built to open a rail route from Denver to El Paso, Texas at the Rio Grande River to connect with a Mexican railroad to Mexico City. The new line reached Pueblo, 120 miles south of Denver, by June 1872. But the Rio Grande would never get anywhere near its namesake river, instead in 1880 turning westward through the Royal Gorge of the Arkansas River to reach the mining boom towns in southwest Colorado after loosing the route on south to the Atchinson Topeka and Santa Fe RR. In 1888 after the D&RG's arch rival AT&SF completed their standard gauge line closely paralleling the Grande's between Denver and Pueblo, the Grande started standard gauging its line in order to better compete. To add to this rail competition, yet a third Denver to Pueblo line was built in 1881, operated through a succession of owners ending with the Colorado & Southern. In 1900 the C&S agreed to a joint operation using the ATSF's line, spawning for the first time the term "joint line," although the C&S line was largely unused until torn out in 1919.

The D&RG was not part of this new agreement, and continued to operate as a competing line, until WW I when America's railroads were taken over by the United States Railway Administration which mandated all Denver-Pueblo rail traffic would be a joint operation on just the two ATSF/C&S and D&RG lines, sharing all northbound traffic on one line, and all southbound traffic on the other. This joint operating practice continued after the war's end, today having funneled down to the two present "Joint Line" owners BNSF and UP (both still competing railroads, just like their predecessors). The Denver & Rio Grande Western ("Western" was added in 1921 after the D&RG merged with its own Rio Grande Western RR out of Utah) morphed itself into the Southern Pacific in 1988, which in turn in 1996 was sold to UP. The BNSF is the result of the Burlington Northern absorbing Colorado & Southern in 1981, then merging with the ATSF in 1996.

Built 1981-1987 to lower the tracks under Littleton's (12 miles south of Denver) two grade crossings
so emergency vehicles would not be blocked by slow moving trains.

Pre-depression, 1982, northbound.

Depression before RTD Light Rail was added, southbound.

With Light Rail.




Southbound on northbound main, Castle Rock.

Toma Road, southbound.

Toma Road, northbound on southbound main.

Yogi Bear Campground.

Greenland, southbound.

Greenland, northbound.



Southbound on northbound main, Palmer Lake.




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