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Some movements on the Tennessee Pass line

Brief by Central Staff

Transportation – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

Trains haven’t moved over Tennessee Pass for several years, but there has been some recent activity on the line between Parkdale (western terminus of the Canon City & Royal Gorge RR) and the top of the pass.

The official action involved 74 empty coal cars which had been parked since June 2001 at the Vallie Siding between Swissvale and Cotopaxi.

The coal-hauling business is somewhat seasonal, since demand is higher in the winter when people use more electricity, much of it from coal-fired generating plants.

So recently UP replaced a piece of rail just west of Parkdale, moved the cars down to Pueblo, and removed the rail again. Our spies report that the coal cars went to Birmingham, Alabama.

The unofficial action is that last summer, somebody was cruising the Tennessee Pass area in a “speeder” — a small self-powered vehicle on rails that replaced the handcar long ago. We know it’s unofficial because UP doesn’t use them any more (it uses regular pickups and the like which have both flanged wheels and regular highway tires) — and this one was all decked out in D&RGW livery. Our spy reports that the man driving the speeder looked “the part of a railroader, pretending to inspect culverts and signals.”

Sounds like harmless fun to us, but it could lead to big trouble in the current security climate, with railroads supposedly offering a target for terrorists. On the other hand, the Tennessee Pass line can’t be all that vital to national security, since it’s been out of service for several years, and no plans have surfaced to re-open it for regular traffic.