A LOOK BACK at TENNESSEE PASS
In 1880-81 the narrow gauge Denver & Rio Grande RR built through the Royal Gorge west of Pueblo into the rich silver mining boom town of Leadville, then continued west over 10,424 foot Tennessee Pass to eventually reach Utah. A tunnel under the summit replaced the original line in 1890, which itself was replaced by the current tunnel in 1945. After 1896 when competition from the standard gauge Colorado Midland threatened the Grande’s Utah traffic, the Tennessee Pass route was converted to standard gauge, becoming the Grande’s only route west to Utah after the abandonment of their remaining narrow gauge line through Gunnison, until 1947 when the Rio Grande (by now the Denver & Rio Grande Western) took over the Denver & Salt Lake RR's Moffat Tunnel route west of Denver. In 1988 the D&RGW bought the Southern Pacific but continued under the SP name, until Union Pacific bought SP in 1996 and gained control of both Tennessee Pass and Moffat Tunnel routes.

Watching a long heavy coal train with several units on the head-end, three or four mid-train and a couple of rear helpers laboring up through the Mitchell curves just west of the Tennessee Pass tunnel was always a sight to see. But with fatal runaways on these curves, and with maximum grades of 3% VS the Moffat Line’s 2%, UP filed for abandonment of Tennessee Pass. When abandonment was denied, in 1997 the UP simply quit running trains over Tennessee but left the rails in place, where they remain to this day, rusty but intact. The yard rails in Minturn were removed and the property sold to a real estate developer.

Above: A D&RGW train passes over and under the three bridges outside Redcliff,
including the HY 24 high bridge spanning the Eagle River canyon.



Minturn helper station at western foot of Tennessee Pass.



Minturn

Minturn


Minturn


Minturn


Minturn


Minturn


Belden siding


Belden siding


Belden siding


Pando siding


Pando siding


Pando siding


Pando siding


Mitchell curves


Mitchell curves


Mitchell curves


Mitchell curves


Mitchell curves


Mitchell curves


Leadville, on the former connection to the Colorado & Southern line over Climax Pass.


Malta, just west of Leadville.



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