Brief by Central Staff
Transportation – October 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine
Latest RR gossip says Tennessee Pass line might re-open next summer
Our spies along the idle Tennessee Pass rail line report that there are minor washouts and rockslides in several places between Minturn and Parkdale (the west end of the Royal Gorge) that Union Pacific hasn’t bothered to repair.
That’s no surprise, since no trains have gone over the pass in more than a year, and the last train to Malta ran this spring.
Initially, UP planned to abandon the route after its merger with the Southern Pacific in 1996. However, UP later withdrew its application for abandonment, and signal crews have been seen at work along the tracks in recent months.
As for gossip, it starts with Jerry Davis, former SP president who held an executive position with UP after the merger. Davis had no use for the Tennessee Pass route, with its curves and steep grades, when he was with SP, and his opinion carried some weight after the merger.
Davis retired last summer, though. And UP still has congestion problems along the Moffat Tunnel route on account of heavy coal shipments from the Western Slope.
Thus one insider’s statement that the odds are “somewhat better than 50-50” that UP will re-open the line next summer, presumably to haul empty coal cars west, thereby avoiding the need for helper engines for the eastbound climb from Minturn to the tunnel at the top of Tennessee Pass.