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The Denver and Salt Lake Railway (D&SL) was a U.S. railroad company located in Colorado. Originally incorporated in 1902 as the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific (DN&P) Railway, it had as a goal a direct connection of Denver CO with Salt Lake City UT. It underwent numerous reorganizations throughout its financially troubled history and by the time the company was acquired in 1931 by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, it had advanced only as far as Craig, Colorado. The portions of the railroad still in use today are known as the Moffat Tunnel Subdivision of Union Pacific Railroad's Central Corridor. Amtrak’s California Zephyr service from Denver to Glenwood Springs follows much of the old D&SL route.

Denver and Salt Lake Railway
Moffat route.png
Route of the Denver and Salt Lake Railway
Reporting markD&SL
LocaleColorado
Dates of operation1902–1947
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
HeadquartersDenver

Contents

HistoryEdit

 
Front Range near Denver
 
Needle's Eye Tunnel
 
Arrow, Colorado
 
Winter atop Rollins Pass
 
Gore Canyon
 
East portal-Moffat Tunnel

When the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific (DN&P) Railway was first incorporated in July 1902 by David H. Moffat, Walter S. Cheesman, William Gray Evans, Charles J. Hughes, Jr., George E. Ross-Lewin, S.M. Perry and Frank P. Gibson, Denver had been bypassed by the Union Pacific Railroad which reached Salt Lake City, Utah via Cheyenne, Wyoming, and by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) which ran from Pueblo, Colorado, west through the Royal Gorge. No matter, the Denver business community wanted its own "Air Line" west of the city to connect directly with Salt Lake and the railways president, David Moffat, vigorously directed the DN&P Railway efforts to that goal. [1]

Front RangeEdit

Construction began in December 1902 as the line headed west out of Denver and then started north up the face of the Front Range of the Rockies towards Boulder before turning west when it reached South Boulder Canyon. Chief Engineer H.A. Sumner, needing to enter the canyon area as high as possible but still maintain a 2% grade, gained the necessary altitude via the Big Ten Curve and some eight tunnels. As a bonus, his routing scheme along the front range provided rail passengers majestic views of Denver and its surrounding countryside. [2]

Continental DivideEdit

By 1903, the tracks reached the Tolland area just east of the Continental Divide where Sumner’s second major engineering feat involved crossing Rollins Pass at an elevation of 11,680 feet (3,560 m). Originally, Moffat had planned to build a tunnel underneath the pass but funding was not available at the time. [3] The DN&P climbed to Rollins Pass using a series of switchbacks with a 4% grade at many locations; tunnels at various places as well as huge loops were also needed so as to get over the pass. At the time it was the highest mainline railroad ever constructed in North America; Rollins Pass was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 for its railroad related engineering feats[4] Small rail stops at Corona at the top of the pass and at Arrow, 11 miles to the west, had restaurants and lodging which housed workers keeping the rail line free of snow in winter. Despite this, trains were often stranded for several days during heavy winter snows. [5]

Middle ParkEdit

In the spring of 1905, the tracks were completed on the western side of the divide to Fraser and from there, the line went through Granby, Hot Sulphur Springs, and Byers Canyon to the last of Sumner’s railroad engineering masterpieces, the three mile long traverse of Gore Canyon. Built on the side of the canyon wall, the railroad track is the only way through the canyon (other than whitewater rafting the Colorado River) and was considered a "monumental achievement" in its day. The road then continued west to State Bridge where it then turned north to Steamboat Springs in the winter of 1909. By 1913 it arrived at what would turn out to be its final destination, Craig in Moffat County, Colorado.[6]

Moffat TunnelEdit

The trials and tribulations of railroading over Rollins Pass were solved in 1927 with the completion of the Moffat Tunnel which cut through the Continental Divide under James Peak. This 6.2-mile (10.0 km) long bore is 9,239 feet (2,816 m) above sea level at its apex. Fifty miles west of Denver, the tunnel was 'holed' through on July 7, 1927, and formally turned over to the railroad on February 26, 1928.[7] Moffat unfortunately never saw the turnnel that was named in his honor, as he had died in 1911 while in New York City trying unsuccessfully to raise money to continue railroad construction.

Moffat Tunnel/Rollins Pass

Dotsero CutoffEdit

One year after Moffat’s death, the railroad was placed in receivership and in 1913 it was reformed as the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad. Reorganized as the Denver & Salt Lake Railway in 1926, the DS&L was acquired by the D&RGW in 1931 along with the Denver & Salt Lake Western Railroad (a company in name only) whose sole function was to acquire the rights to build a 40-mile (64-km) connection between the two railroads. In 1932, the D&RGW began construction of the Dotsero Cutoff east of Glenwood Springs to connect to the D&SL at Bond on the Colorado River. This project which was completed in 1934 finally gave Denver its direct rail line to Salt Lake City. In 1947, the D&SL was completely absorbed into the D&RG, which in turn was taken over by the Southern Pacific in 1988 and finally the Union Pacific RR in 1996. Other than the Rollins Pass section, all of the original DS&L railroad route is still in use today. [8]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ P.R. Griswold (1995). David Moffat's Denver, Northwestern and Pacific: The Moffat Road. Rocky Mountain Railroad Club. ISBN 978-0962070723.
  2. ^ "Railfan Guide". RailroadConnection.com. Retrieved 2019-05-06.
  3. ^ "A Feat In Railroad Building: A New Road Over The Rocky Mountains From Denver To Salt Lake". GoogleBooks.com. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  4. ^ "NRHP Submission". NPS,gov. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  5. ^ Edward Taylor Bollinger (1979). Rails That Climb. Colorado Railroad Museum. ISBN 978-0918654298.
  6. ^ "Moffat Road History". Elvastower.com. Retrieved 2019-05-06.
  7. ^ Harold Boner (1962). The Giant’s Ladder. Kalmbach Publishing Co. ASIN B0007EB0H6.
  8. ^ Robert G. Ahearn (1977). The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad: Rebel of the Rockieslpublisher=University of Nebraska Press. ASIN B007EU3KEW.

External linksEdit