A Western Regional Railroad - 1930's - 1940's
Denver & Salt Lake Railway


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The Denver & Salt Lake Railway (D&SL) was a very interesting example of how a visionary man and a needy community come together to produce a national treasure. In the early days of the 20th century, the city of Denver was seeking a rail route west, which was shorter than the round about path of the Rto Grande, which went south to Pueblo, then northwest through the Royal Gorge and up over Tennessee Pas before finally heading west toward Salt Lake. This lengthy line was no competition for the Union Pacific which missed Colorado and headed across Wyoming to reach west. The formidable barrier of the main range of the Rocky Mountains offered a huge challenge and rails that had attempted to go west from Denver would not provide a satisfactory route. Enter David Moffett, the visionary, who engineered a plan to go over the front range on modest grades, if a tunnel could be provided to avoid a high pass, . Starting in 1905 the Denver Northwestern & Pacific built up to a likely tunnel location on less than 2% gradient, but ran out of money. So, Moffett built a temporary line up over Rollins Pass, at 11,000 feet, but at a 4% gradient. He wanted to build as far as Craig but died in 1911 before the line reached Craig. Fortunately the state of Colorado came to the rescue, built the Moffett Tunnel, a 6.2 mile bore at 9200 feet, leased it to the (now) D&SL, and a 232 mile line to Craig was complete. The D&SL soon had trains to Craig with sleepers and cafe lounge cars. The D&RGW, seeing the competition, finished a cutoff from the west main of the D&SL near Bond to their main to Glenwood Springs, and gained trackage rights to Denver over the D&SL. The Rio Grande merged the D&SL in 1947. A passenger train was still running to Craig as late as 1965, before Amtrak took over the national passenger rail service.
Short History of the Denver & Salt Lake Railway
1902 - Denver, Colorado was seeking a direct route west from Denver through the Rocky Mountains to reach towns and cities west of the continental divide and farther western points. The D&RGW route was 200 miles longer than necessary, other narrow gauge roads were not capable of doing the job and the northern route left Colorado and went through Wyoming, also a longer route.
1902 - David Moffett, a visionary man, suggested a route from Denver to Salt Lake, going directly west from Denver through the main range of the Rockies, through a great tunnel, then through Bond, Steamboat Springs and Craig.
1902 - Name of planned road is Denver Northwestern & Pacific.
c1902 - Routes up and through the main range are surveyed and a route is selected which can be built with grades not over 2%, but would require tunneling through. Finances are hard to get.

D&SL logo


D&SL
Denver & Salt Lake - October 1943
partially due to Harriman's (UP) attempt to stop the DNW&P. and tunneling will take valuable years, so a plan to run a temporary line over Rollins Pass at 11,000 feet at 4% grades is decided upon in order to reach potential markets (coal, cattle, lumber, etc.) quickly.
1903 - Route through narrow and difficult Gore Canyon is surveyed. Disputes over rights to Gore Canyon go to the courts.
1904 - The DNW&P reaches Mammoth (current day Tolland) 42 miles from Denver on June 23.
1904 - First locomotive crests the divide at the temporary Rollins Pass line at 11,000 feet on September 2.
1904 - On September 26 the rails reached Arrowhead on the west side of the divide and trains start running bringing cattle and lumber.
winter 1904-5 - Was tough on DNW&P. Rollins Pass snows, lack of snow sheds and snow plows, and heavy snows shuts line down often and passengers are stranded.
1905 - By August tracks had reached Hot Sulfur Springs 110 miles from Denver, and tri-weekly passenger runs began from Denver.
1905 - In October, through the intervention of Theodore Roosevelt, the DNW&P was given rights to the Gore Canyon route.
1906 - Line is building down Gore Canyon but is virtually out of money.
1908 - David Dodge provides financing to continue the line. In September of 1908, rails finally reached the first online resource - the coal fields near Oak Creek and Yampa.
1909 - By January 1909, the railway had progressed to Steamboat Springs, but shortly after that, the line was once again out of money.
1911 - David Moffett passes away, so the visionary is gone.
1912 - DNW&P goes into receivership on May 1, under David Dodge as receiver
1912 - In early December 1912, a contract was let to extend the railroad from Steamboat to Craig in order to tap many of the coal fields along the route.
1913 - In January the railroad underwent yet another reorganization, at least on paper, due to the more delinquent debt payments. By April 30, 1913, the reorganization had completed, and the DNW&P lapsed into history. From that point forward, the line would be the Denver & Salt Lake Railroad, (D&SL) reflecting the original ambitions of David Moffat carried forward.
1913-1920's - Winters are hard on the D&SL and it is difficult to keep up financing.
early 1920's - Colorado legislature agreed to build tunnel through Rockies if D&SL would lease it.
1924 - Construction started on Moffett Tunnel.
1928 - On February 14 the 6.2 mile tunnell was completed (at elevation of 9200 feet), eliminating need for Rollins Pass line at 11,000 feet and 4% grades.
1931 - D&SL is running one passenger train a day between Denver and Craig, 232 mikes. Train includes a cafe lounge car.
1931 ,- The D&RGW acquired the Denver and Salt Lake Western Railroad (a company in name only), a subsidiary of the D&SL which had acquired the rights to build a 40 mile connection between the two railroads. After years of negotiation, the D&RGW gained trackage rights on the D&SL from Denver to the future cutoff.
1932 - The D&RGW began construction of the Dotsero Cutoff west of Glenwood Springs to near Bond on the Colorado River, at a location called Orestod. This would provide a connection to the D&SL.
1934 - Construction completed giving Denver a direct transcontinental line west via D&SL and D&RGW.
1935 - Application to tear up Rollins Pass line is approved.
1937 - Rollins Pass line is gone.
1940 - By 1940 the D&SL had added sleeping car service on a second train Denver to Craig.
1947 - D&RGW merged with the D&SL gaining control of the "Moffat Road" through the Moffat Tunnel. The D&SL main from Bond to Craig, becomes a D&RGW branch line.
1947 - D&RGW maintains the 2 trains to Craig.
1967 - The D&RGW is still operating a coach train to Craig on the "Moffett Road".
1983 - Amtrak begins "California Zephyr" using D&RGW trackage from Denver through Moffat Tunnel to Salt Lake City.
1996 - UP absorbs SP (D&RGW)

Denver & Salt Lake - Denver to Craig
Denver & Salt Lake - Denver to Craig


Our Sources
Private Collection of Richard R. Parks(rp)
Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia [web](wik)
Official Guide- April 1940
DRGW.Net

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Web Page Written and Maintained by Richard Parks
Copyright Richard Parks, April 27, 2009