Rollins Pass - Colorado

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Willbridge

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The D&SL ran a 4th of July special up there from Denver so that families could play in the snow. When we were cleaning out a closet at our North Denver church we found a professional photo of a Sunday School outing on the D&SL that from the clothing appeared to be prior to WWI. It would have been easy to schedule excursions because there was so little other traffic on the line.

After bankruptcy and epic politics, a special district was established, and the Moffat Tunnel was completed. Bonds were paid off with property taxes until the railway was able to pay. This resulted in some screwy rules at election times, as it followed the obsolete rule that one had to be a property owner in the district to vote. If you owned property in the district, you did not have to be a resident! And the east and south areas of Denver were outside of the district, which was based on the Denver city limits of the 1920's, so instructions for election volunteers were rather confusing if they didn't know rail history.
1992 Moffat voter002.jpg
1992 Moffat voter001.jpg
 
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Siegmund

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It is a beautiful area. I went too early in the year the one time I visited by car/foot, and only got to follow it up to about the 10500 foot level from each side.

It is one of three or four abandoned passes in Colorado that I need to get back to before my already-diminished hiking ability diminishes much farther.
 

Palmland

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Looking at the video it’s hard to believe I went across it in a ‘62 Pontiac that tended to get vapor lock. It was great fun as those years in college I went to most of the places described in’Jeep Trails to Colorado Ghost Towns’ - most with a narrow gauge railroad connection. The Pontiac was never the same!

I was surprised and disappointed in later years when I tried it again to find the pass was blocked for through car travel and I got a flat tire for my efforts. Hope one day it will reopen.
 
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A trip to Rollins Pass is on my loose bucket list - I've been to Winter Park many, many times (both winter & summer, mostly winter). It looks like it's be a relatively easy hike and would have historic interest as well.

Berthoud Pass is pretty fun too, although totally different - there used to be a ski area there where I fell off the chair lift....
 
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I can't imagine riding in a train across that original route in the winter!! 😬
It sounds like the bulk of it was in snowsheds and even then trains got stuck. I can't find pictures right now but there are impressive shots of showplowing efforts around.
 

Cal

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I can't imagine riding a train across that route in the summer! :) How far can one go by road, and in what shape is the road?
They can go accross the entire thing, btu not in a vehicle. One of the tunnels partially caved in and is closed to all traffic. But if I saw correctly you can still walk through it if you jump the barrier. There is a detour route which you can walk over.
 

jis

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At one time there were many more railroad routes westward and wih expanding rail raffic they may need to be reopened. The Tennesee pass in Colorado (former Northern Pacific) still has tracks but it has been dormant for about 20 years.
Did you really mean to say "former Northern Pacific" for a line that was built by Denver and Rio Grande Westernand is now ostensibly owned by UP? 🤔
 
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I thought I heard/read somewhere that there was on again off again talk about reinstating Tennessee Pass at some point in the not crazy distant future.
 

Willbridge

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Is Homestake pass Northern Pacific?
It was the original NP main line and was the preferred passenger route. The line through Helena and Mullan Pass was better for freight and is in service.

On the Butte - Homestake route a conductor liked to point out a puddle at the summit, which he said couldn't make up its mind as to whether to flow to the Pacific or the Gulf of Mexico.

Elevation profiles of several transcon main lines including the Helena route may be found in this fascinating website:

 

Siegmund

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Wow that is neat. like the other commenters…I’d love to trace that path

Almost all of the roadbed is still there. You can drive almost all of it on the west side (bypassing a short segment west of Riflesight Notch.) On the east side you can drive up to the Yankee Doodle Lake/Jenny Lake area and walk the rest of the grade, with a bypass around the caved-in tunnel mentioned upthread.

It is of course hard to predict, any given day or year, whether there will be an unmelted snowdrift on the road / a washout / a new gate put up where the route crosses a boundary between forest land and private land.

You can similarly drive over Marshall Pass (Rio Grande), over Boreas Pass (DSP&P), over most of the old Florence and Cripple Creek, over most of the old Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek, among many others. You could spend the whole summer and not run out of abandoned railroad grades in Colorado.
 
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Drove the Moffat road in a Jeep Wagoneer with my father and grandfather. Quite a ride. Back in those days, you could just walk up to the Moffat tunnel entrance and one of the operators would show you around and let you wait for a train. Now you have to stop at a micro-visitor center about 200 yards away. It has some decent info signs and a toilet.

We used to have a favorite picnic place by the river only a short distance from the tunnel. Now it is plastered with no parking signs.

Thanks for the video above!
 

Cal

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You can similarly drive over Marshall Pass (Rio Grande), over Boreas Pass (DSP&P), over most of the old Florence and Cripple Creek, over most of the old Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek, among many others. You could spend the whole summer and not run out of abandoned railroad grades in Colorado.
That honestly sounds like a wonderful summer-trip. And anyone who enjoys hiking, nature, or history could join.
 
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