The Union Pacific has been here and done that

Brief by Central Staff

Transportation History – October 1996 – Colorado Central Magazine

On Sept. 12, the Union Pacific began its takeover of the Southern Pacific, and so the trains that rattle through here (until they manage to abandon the Tennessee Pass line) will be UP trains.

The UP has been here before, though. The story starts in 1873 with the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad.

The DSP&P was a narrow-gauge line that ran from Denver up the South Platte and over Kenosha Pass to Como, where the old roundhouse still stands. There it branched.

One line crossed Trout Creek Pass to Nathrop, then climbed Chalk Creek for the Alpine Tunnel and the Gunnison Country. The other line crossed Boreas Pass to Frisco, then Frémont Pass to Leadville.

Not all of those tracks had been laid in 1880 when Jay Gould, the notorious robber baron, acquired the DSP&P.

Gould also controlled the Union Pacific, which made it easy for him to persuade the UP to buy the DSP&P on Jan. 25, 1881. It was soon integrated into the UP and became the South Park Division of the Union Pacific.

So, the UP was in the mountains.

But as one rail history notes, after 1883 the South Park Division “showed an operating deficit, primarily through Union Pacific mismanagement.” In 1889, the South Park went into receivership, and was reorganized as the Denver, Leadville & Gunnison, “still under the yoke of UP control.” Then came the Panic of 1893. The UP went bankrupt, and the South Park line was removed from UP control.

Thus the UP was out of the mountains.

The local curiosity is that the 14 miles of track between Leadville and Climax, now operated for tourist excursions as the Leadville, Colorado & Southern, were laid by the Union Pacific in 1884 — and if the UP gets its way on abandonment, that Climax line will be the only railroad remaining in Central Colorado.

All the others — UP, SP, Rio Grande, South Park, Colorado Midland, Santa Fé — will have either vanished or fled.