Friday, September 16, 2016

Moffat Tunnel

(Satellite: East Portal, 133+ photos; West Portal, 14 photos)

Mark Hinsdale posted
Nicholas Boyd posted
Moffat Tunnel UP Colorado
[This shows the tortuous route they had to use over Rollins Pass until they got the tunnel built.]

Bill Rogerson posted

Ron Oatney posted
Moffat West portal at what is now Winter Park, CO ...Old postcard...... 1928
Dennis DeBruler Note the water aqueduct just to the south of the tracks. Bringing water to Denver from the other side of the continental divide was one of the reasons the 6.21 mile tunnel was built.!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4...

Bob Rulli posted
Moffatt tunnel west portal.
[We can see the water aqueduct on the right.]

Bud Rath posted
East Portal about 10 years ago. Colorado.
Dennis DeBruler Note the door in the photo that they can close after the train clears so that they can fire up the fans and blow the exhaust out of the tunnel. Looking at a satellite image, there is a lot of buildings supporting the fans. On the south side of the satellite image, you can see the outlet for the water tunnel. Denver help pay for this tunnel because they get most of their water from the west side of the continental divide. They grab some water from the Colorado River watershed before it flows to the Southwest states. This is just one of their sources.!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x0...

Andre Tardif posted
Andre Tardif shared
Robert Barron: Looks like west tunnel entrance, I remember entering there in nice weather and existing out east tunnel with blizzard conditions.
Estraka Ivan Jose: My work land for the past 3 years and more to came! That’s the east side of the tunnel!

[This photo confirms BNSF has
trackage rights over what is
now a UP line.]
I'm glad to see the Winter Park Ski Train is returning. My wife is from Denver, and even though we don't ski, we took the train in the 1970s to see some Rocky Mountain scenery without having to drive narrow, twisty, steep roads with no guard rails. This was when I first learned about the Moffat Tunnel. The West Portal is very close to the Winter Park Resort. (I was surprised to see so many lines on the Google Road Map west of the resort. Then I realized the dotted red lines must be the ski lifts and the other colors are different difficulties of ski runs.)

Until trains started using the tunnel in February 1928, they had to travel 27 miles over the 12,000-foot Rollins Pass. [ColoradoRailfan] Some of the grades over the pass exceeded 4%. The tunnel was 6.21 miles long. [American-Rails] (American-Rails indicates the route over the pass was 23 miles.) David Moffat intended to build a railroad to Salt Lake City, but it didn't get past Craig, CO. However, he was instrumental in getting the Colorado Legislature to allow the tunnel to be built, and construction began in 1922. One reason it took six years to build the tunnel is that they encountered "bad rock" on the west end. 28 workers died during construction.

One of the reasons the state and Denver were heavily involved with the tunnel was that they planned to use it to divert water from the west slope of the Rockies to Denver. The Rockies are tall enough that there is relatively little snow on the east side. In 1936 it was Denver's first transmountain water diversion. It carried water from the Williams Fork and Fraser Rivers. [9news]

The Denver & Rio Grande assumed control of the route in 1931, but the ICC required that they build a connection between the Moffat route and their mainline so that the Moffat Tunnel didn't remain just a long, expensive hole in a mountain. In 1934, they finished the 30-mile "Dotsero Cutoff" between Dotsero, CO and Orestod. [drgw] Note that Orestod is Dotsero spelled backwards. It took me a while to find the junction because it is in Bond, CO. Later, I came across a reference that stated Orestod was renamed to Bond. The Dotsero Cutoff provided the competitive transcontinental route that the ICC wanted. The California Zephyr passenger train between Chicago and the San Francisco bay area was jointly operated by Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; Denver & Rio Grande; and Western Pacific. Amtrak still uses this route to run the California Zephyr.

The Union Pacific now owns the D&RG and WP, and they discontinued service on the 175-mile [TrainOrders] circuitous Pueblo + Tennessee Pass route in 1997 [Wikipedia]. I read an article that because of the reduction of coal shipments on this former DR&G line, UP may abandoned this route as well. This would jeopardize the California Zephyr because Amtrak could not afford the heavy maintenance expenses that a mountain route requires. (Update: a railfan video shows that at least some coal trans are still running on this route.)

Looking at the East Portal, there are a couple of features of note. Along the bottom we see the outlet of the water pipe of the previously mentioned diversions from the Williams Fork and Fraser Rivers. The building at the end of the tunnel has a door that can seal the opening shut. That allows the three fan structures along the side to blow air through the tunnel so all of the smoke/diesel exhaust is removed from the 6.3-mile tunnel before the next train goes through.


William A. Shaffer posted
The Moffat Tunnel (April, 1982)
(Photo by William A. Shaffer)

William A.Shaffer posted
Atop the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel on the D&RGW Railway in Colorado. (Circa 1982)
(Photo by William A. Shaffer)

Brian Peterson posted
Lee Ryan The date is written right on the tunnel. 100 years from 1927 is 2027. The capsule is due to open on February 28, 2028 though which is the 100 year anniversary of the first train through the tunnel. The opening date is written on the capsule plaque.
Rick Miska commented on Brian's post
I have the complete Denver Post from Opening day.

Chris Ness posted
Moffat Tunnel East Portal 05/07

Chris Ness posted
Moffat Tunnel from behind
No one ever shows it from this side. The building on the left is the headhouse which closes a curtain after each train and blows from 4 to 30 minutes of clean air into the tunnel.
Tolland, CO 05/07
Dale Hokanson: From Google looks like a new trail was constructed to bypass the railroad and the bridge over the aquaduct. Too bad, the original trail, crossing the railroad and bridge, was kind of a fun way to start the climb.
Robert Plummer: And the electric power source for those fans are backed up by a 16 cylinder EMD!

Chris Ness posted
Moffat Tunnel East Portal
Track work near PineCliffe means no trains today, my only sunshiny day this trip.
Middle of Nowhere, CO 05/12 (OK, Tolland, I guess)
Chris Ness
Now they have built a high fence preventing this kind of thing. But in the process, they killed almost any decent view.
This is after they tore down the shed and after Homeland Security put up the camera bridge.
Facebook Comments

Cab ride into Moffat tunnel
Eugene Hofmann Why did it stop?
Kevin Gravely Eugene Hofmann i had to get back up inside the cab. No electronic devices allowed there.
Chris Zaccaria Eugene Hofmann , why?
Randall Hampton FRA safety rules, put in place a long time ago when a MARC train ran a red signal because the engineer was looking at his phone. Several people died.
Eli Banks It was a passenger train in California, resulted in this idiotic PTC mandate - and, the best part, is the fact the wreck was actually caused by a signal malfunction!

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