Saturday, November 24, 2018

Train to the East Portal of Alpine Tunnel in Train-Time video

I've come across a number of online videos of the ride to the west portal of the Alpine Tunnel, but never the eastern approach, probably due to the fact that you can't drive the stretch between Hancock and the tunnel.  I really wanted to fill this gap, first for myself, because I love this side of the pass with its undisturbed grade, and also for others who haven't had the chance to see the stunning scenery and the courageous engineering of the railroad.

I got ahold of a GoPro and a chest attachment in order to make this happen.  Walking with my family (and sometimes carrying one member of it-you will see her red raincoat-covered arm occasionally) I filmed the entire length from Hancock to the east portal.

This video was filmed in July 2018.  I chose to speed up the footage to mirror the same time (30 minutes) that it took a train to travel the same distance according the C&S's schedule of October 1910.

The Denver, South Park & Pacific/Colorado & Southern line from Hancock to the east portal of the Alpine Tunnel, the highest tunnel in the world in 1881 when completed, was abandoned in 1910 in part because this stretch of railroad on the eastern side of the tunnel was so costly to maintain due to the difficulty of clearing snow from this side of the mountain.

I know it's a long video, but every bit of this route is a marvel.  I'm working on a shorter "highlight" version as well that will also incorporate still photos, including those of the interpretive signs that are posted along the way.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A Tale of Two Tunnels: Where the rails to the Alpine Tunnel ended up

When the rails from Quartz to roughly a mile below Alpine Tunnel's west portal were finally pulled 13 years after trains stopped running, they were all piled up at the former Quartz townsite.  What became of these discarded rails?  Apparently, they went off to help another tunnel.

Author's collection
In September of 1923, the Denver & Salt Lake Railroad began construction of its own tunnel that, like the Alpine Tunnel, would pierce the Continental Divide.  Roughly one month after work commenced, a note was printed in the Pitkin Miner of October 5th that read, "Two cars of rails were loaded at Quartz last week and shipped to Denver.  They are to be used in the construction of the Moffat Tunnel."

So, these rails started out their life serving a Colorado mountain tunnel and went on to do the same in their second life.

A Documentary History of the South Park Line: Vol. 5: The Gunnison District, Part II by Daniel W. Edwards, 2016.  Page 165.
"Facts About the Moffatt Tunnel" Steamboat Pilot, 24 March 1926. From Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Another angle on BN selling the Leadville-Climax route

Photo by Mike Condren
So why did the Burlington Northern basically give away the former C&S Leadville to Climax route to a Leadville couple, Ken and Stephanie Olsen, and not just scrap it?  This previous post looked at one reason, given by Ed Quillen in 2003 in the Colorado Central Magazine.  There it was explained that Amax, owner of the Climax Molybdenum mine, desperately wanted to keep the rail line in case it might need it again.  Using their corporate muscle, they basically threatened the BN not to junk it.

In Leadville Today, though, a 2013 article by Kathy Bedell explains some further reasons for selling an entire rail line with equipment for $10.  In the late 1980’s the EPA was looking for a way to “make its mark” in an attempt to gain a cabinet position in the government.  It chose Leadville, a place with lots of residue from mining, as the place to target.

In the words of Bedell, “The words contamination and remediation had BN looking for a way out-desperately.  They needed to unload the dormant railroad line or face the possibility of [a] very expensive ‘clean up.’”

Bedell also points out that BN’s chief officer was not from a railroad background and was trying to shed unprofitable lines.  This comment may betray Bedell’s lack of experience with railroads as many railroad officials have sought to shed unprofitable lines.

As the saying goes, it appears that ‘the stars aligned’ for Ken and Stephanie Olsen, in a surprisingly inexpensive way, to fulfill their desire to contribute to the Leadville community.

"The Leadville Train: 25 Years of Family Tradition!" by Kathy Bedell.  Leadville Today, 25 August 2013.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Last Mason Bogie

Many of us who love the Denver, South Park & Pacific have enjoyed the photos of the 23 DSP&P Mason Bogies.  Sadly, all have been lost to the scrapper.  I was surprised to find on a recent school field trip with our kids that there is actually one remaining Mason Bogie left in the world...and it's in operation!