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Five get in line for the Royal Gorge Route

Brief by Central Staff

Transportation – September 1997 – Colorado Central Magazine

5 get in line for the RR line

What happens next to the rails on the Royal Gorge Route?

We’re supposed to get an answer from the state in the middle of September.

The Union Pacific acquired the 170 miles of track last year when it merged with the Southern Pacific, which in turn had absorbed the Denver & Rio Grande Western. And the UP doesn’t want this track.

The state of Colorado is involved as part of a deal cut by Gov. Roy Romer when he agreed not to oppose the UP-SP merger. UP is supposed to work with whoever the state picks to handle the rail corridor, if it proceeds with abandonment.

So, the Colorado Office of Economic Development asked for proposals and 14 applications were picked up. Five were returned by the deadline of July 21.

Sometime this month, the state will select the winner, who will then have to negotiate with the UP to purchase the line and operate trains. If that fails, then the corridor will likely become a rail trail, primarily administered by the state parks department.

One bid, from INAP Rock/Rail, Inc., is from a company that wants to open a big quarry at Parkdale and ship millions of tons of crushed granite to Kansas by rail.

Another, from the Royal Gorge Scenic Railway, envisions tourist trains through the Royal Gorge, but no farther.

The other three — Marcus Corp. of Denver, which operates the Georgetown Loop line; Mile-Hi Transportation of Broomfield, rumored to be affiliated with Rader Railcar; and Tulare Valley Railroad Co. of Salt Lake City — are apparently interested in tourist or excursion service along the entire corridor.

Meanwhile, UP appears to be succeeding in its effort to shift traffic away from the line, or at least we haven’t heard as many trains lately. The company hopes to close the line by October and never run another train over Tennessee Pass.