In Central Colorado where the Great Plains meet the Rockies, trains battle a short, stiff grade to the Continental Divide. Denver businessman David Moffat spent his entire fortune building this engineering marvel. Although he never lived to see its success, this stretch of track was instrumental to the growth of Colorado and remains a busy main line today.
Part of Union Pacific’s Denver Area, this former piece of Denver and Rio Grande Western track is known as the Moffat Tunnel Subdivision. In Part 1 of this two-part series, we will cover the east side between Denver and the Moffat Tunnel. Watch trains wrap around Big Ten Curve, climb through the rugged Tunnel District, and disappear under the Continental Divide through the famous 6.2 mile-long Moffat Tunnel. Cresting the Rockies at over 9,000 feet, this is the highest active mainline in North America.
Coal traffic is king on the Moffat Tunnel Sub, with loaded trains heading east to Denver and empties returning west. The steep mountain grades require additional locomotives in the middle and rear of eastbound coal trains, creating a fantastic show of horsepower. Besides coal, mixed manifests from both UP and BNSF plus Amtrak’s California Zephyr make a daily appearance. There’s nothing like mountain railroading in the Colorado Rockies! This program was shot between August and October, 2012.