Tennessee Pass reopening?
Date: 12-01-2006 - 00:16
From a friend who lives next to Hobson Siding on this line:
Some of you may have already seen this...
Excerpted from The Lineup, newsletter of the Rio Grande Chapter, NRHS,
edited by Alan Kraus
"As you may recall, I mentioned some rumors about the possibility of the
Union Pacific's Tennessee Pass being reopened. Well, Warren Kiefer did
some sleuthing and we can now provide more than rumors. As reported in the
UP's Denver Service Unit News, the UP has replaced three bridges on the
line. Two wooden structures were replaced with concrete slab girder
bridges (126-feet long and 40 feet long) and a 60-foot bridge was
eliminated. In the latter case, drainage pipe was installed and a flowable
concrete compaction was used to fill approximately 90 yards of space below
the tracks. The bridge work began last March. The Federal Government
offered to finance the necessary track work in order to facilitate the
removal of a slag pile at a Leadville smelter. I think it would be a safe
guess to say the government agency making the offer would be the U. S.
Environmental Protection Agency. . . snip . . Warren was told by UP folks
that the Tennessee Pass line will re-open for short trains only. However,
as Warren pointed out, what is a "short train"? Here are some facts
regarding UP train lengths running through Grand Junction and Salt Lake.
Last spring there was a mixed freight from the west. It had 90 loaded cars
and 50 emptys for a total of 142 cars (12,659 tones, 9,077 feet long.) A
lineup in 2005 showed a train with 250 cars going through the Roper Yard
in Salt Lake City. This would have been about 14,000-15,000 feet - nearly
3 miles! Empty trains coming from the west through Grand Junction commonly
have around 105 cars. If one dies and has to be dogged, another one will
pick it up, making a train of 210 cars coming into the Grand Junction Yard
(about 11,000 feet.) If trains are that long, what is a short one? Of
course, it doesn't really matter. We will just be happy to see trains
running over (actually under, via the tunnel) Tennessee Pass once again.
It will no doubt, continue to be a challenge. Minturn (base of the pass on
the west side) saw lots of helper engines tied up there. It recalls the
train that got away from them while descending into Minturn (if I recall,
about 8 years ago) and derailed. A tank car with sulphuric acid broke open
and spilled acid down the hill and across the highway. It happened in the
area of Camp Hale. For those of you out of Colorado, that was the training
camp for the U. S. Army's famed 10th Mountain Division. There was a
concern the acid would reach the Eagle River but it was contained before
it could. No doubt, incidents like this contributed to the railroad's
decision to close the line down." . . .snip.
I'll add my two-cents:
There have been 16 talking detectors added over the last three years
between Portland and the Pass, with some into the Pass beyond were the
tourist train runs. I hear the detectors report every month as the
maintainer must test all of them monthly, even though there are no trains
in the area. Traffic is still heavy for the UP and Rock & Rail weekly. UP
runs the Local daily and R&R runs two trains a day and at least one every
Saturday and Sunday. The power plant at Canon City gets a heavy coal train
twice a week (last train went by last night).
The maintainer and the track foreman have been working out on the
Tennessee Pass Subdivision (this is how the UP dispatcher refers to this
trackage since three years ago when the signal system was changed over) as
well as the track gang. Three years ago the track from Pueblo to Canon
City was rebuilt and the speed limits were brought back up to standard.
The welding gang, tie gang and track gang were out again this summer for
about a month and half working. Jake stated this is the most activity
track maintaining-wise he has seen in along time. The coal train use to
leave loads that could not fill Canon City on Hobson siding. This siding
has now been kept clear for the last two weeks and meets between the Local
and R&R occur here on an almost daily basis.
In a nut shell, I think we're going to see trains over the Pass again soon.