NO MORE HILL HELL
"Hell" is usually associated with something very hot. The "Hill," as railroaders referenced Moffat's crossing of the Continental Divide via 11,660 foot high Corona Pass built to allow revenue trains to run west until the tunnel under the Divide could be built, was anything but hot. Despite the fact that Colorado's publicists boast that the state has over 300 days of sunshine a year, what they conveniently fail to mention is this is 300 days with at least some sunshine. In Denver, this means at the most a little rain or snow. What this meant up on Corona, however, even on spring days when Denver was basking under 70 degree sunny skies, the tracks could be covered higher than a locomotive by blowing snow.

This 4 percent grade over Corona was envisioned only as a 3 year temporary line. Instead, it would be the Moffat's main line for 25 years, and was almost the ruin of Dave Moffat's dream. On average, almost two full months a year were lost on Corona, at times for several weeks straight. With storm after storm crossing the Rockies and high winds, snow would refill cuts as fast as a rotary could clear them. If stranded trains ran out of water and their fires had to be extinguished, they literally froze to the rails from cooling steam and leaking water settling over driving gear, wheels and rails. Snow melting during the day would re-freeze at night to a solid sheet of ice many inches deep over the rails, derailing the next train or rotary. In addition, the "white death" was always a danger. If a train was caught in an avalanche, it was lucky if it was only buried and not swept down the mountain side to oblivion!

Even in good weather, it required four of Moffat's large Mallets to pull just 22 loaded freight cars over Corona, which took 14 hours. The deficit from the expense (said to have been as much as 41% of revenue!) combined with the lack of revenue when the line was closed was so enormous it literally drove the line into bankruptcy. After Moffat's death in 1911, several government attempts to finance construction of a tunnel failed. But in 1922 a bill authorizing a "Moffat Tunnel Commission" to issue 50 year bonds passed and in February, 1928 the first trains began running through the new tunnel (at 6.21 miles the sixth longest railroad tunnel in the world). The line over Corona, saved as a back-up, was finally dismantled in 1936. The right of way was turned into an automobile road until tunnel cave-ins and the deteriorating condition of the two "Devils Slide" trestles forced a permanent closure of the upper portion of the road in the late 1980s.


Amtrak’s westbound California Zephyr overtaking a westbound freight waiting in the siding at Rollinsville is the fulfillment
of Dave Moffat’s dream of fast passengers and merchandise freights linking Denver with the west coast.



Rollins siding (Rollinsville).




Near Tolland.



East Portal.














One of the two Devil's Slide trestles near Corona Pass.

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Hanging Ten Into the Front Range      Thirty VS One      Canyonlands and Horseshoes
Through the Rockies in Grande Style      Union Pacific on the Moffat

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