The Moffat Subdivision between Denver and Dotsero has been constructed and owned by different corporate identities before being bought by the Union Pacific.
Among them are the former Denver Northwestern & Pacific, Denver & Salt Lake, Denver & Rio Grande Western and Southern Pacific. To avoid confusion this portion of track will be referred to simply as "Moffat Road" and "Moffat Route", a term that has been coined by railroad men and railroad fans alike in honour of it's builder David Moffat.
MP 000.00 Denver Union Station, Moffat Station
We begin our journey at Denver Union Station. Nowadays, only Amtrak’s California Zephyr stops here on its way from Chicago to Oakland and vice versa. Occasionally, special trains will also stop here:
The Ski Train from Denver to Winter Park utilizes equipment with the old Rio Grande Single Stripe paint scheme. It is sponsored by the Anschutz Corp. and runs during the skiing season once daily, bringing skiers to Winter Park in the morning and returning in the afternoon.
The American Orient Express can be seen here occasionally. It is a luxury charter train that travels through the scenic areas of the U.S. on non scheduled runs. If you are lucky, you might spot an "employees special" by UP using either their Challenger steam locomotive or their EMD 9 units to pull vintage streamliner cars across the Rockies.
Inside the building, you will find the name plates of the once great railroads that ran passenger trains into Denver:
The term "Union Station" has nothing to do with the Union Pacific. It comes from the word „unite“ – meaning several railroads met here.
If you wonder why the Southern Pacific is not mentioned here: SP was bought by the Rio Grande in 1983, which in turn adopted its name. By that time no passenger trains where run except those of Amtrak.
The “Moffat” was long denied access to this station. That is why you will find no sign of the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific or the Denver & Salt Lake. The “Moffat” had it’s own little station within eyesight of the building.
The station was also used by the Denver Laramie & Northwestern Railroad between 1909 and 1917.
After the Moffat Road became part of the Denver & Rio Grande Western in 1947 the little station was used occasionally by special trains.
A fire destroyed the interior of the structure in the 1990s and vandalism did the rest. Still there is hope that the station may be restored as a historical landmark.
MP 001.00 Prospect Junction
MP 001.50 Fox Junction
MP 002.50 North Yard
North Yard is the big freight terminal of Denver. This is where the mainlines of Union Pacific and BNSF meet. Many trains are assembled here. You can watch some of the action from Coors Field Baseball stadium.
MP 003.20 Utah Junction
This is the crossing of the former Colorado & Southern (BNSF) and Union Pacific. As mentioned before, UP’s Ed Harriman and his colleague Gould were not pleased to find another player in Denver and hence they denied trackage rights to the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific into Denver.
Consequently, the railroads very first terminal was built here on the corner of 15th and Little Raven St. Later, the Moffat connected to Denver by means of the Denver Terminal Railway to the Moffat Station described at MP 00.00
MP 004.80 Colorado & Southern Junction
Crossing of BNSF and UP tracks, the first of which was formerly called the Colorado Central Railroad
MP 007.00 Arvada
Suburb of Denver. This was once a starting point for an earlier venture by David Moffat, the "Denver & Northwestern Rwy." It led to several mines located in the Leyden area. The railway was operated by electric trams that pulled mine cars.
MP 012.43 Leyden Siding, Junction Length: 7020ft
The siding is accessible from Indiana and 82nd Avenue. When North Yard is crowded sometimes trains are parked here.
Leyden has always been a place of railroad activity. Between 1902 and 1950 the standard gauge Moffat Road shared grade with the narrow gauge Denver & Northwestern.
The later had been founded in 1901 and was constructed as an electric railway by David Moffat to serve the coal mines at Leyden. Even though the railroad was narrow gauge, the rails were mounted on standard gauge ties. This leads to the conclusion that Moffat had intended to extend this line to a transcontinental railroad already. Unfortunately, investors could not be convinced of the financial viability of this project. Thus, the Denver & Northwestern ended forever in Leyden and was bought by the Denver Tramway Co. in 1914, which operated streetcars on the tracks until 1950.
In days gone by the Moffat Road also crossed tracks with the Colorado Central at this location.
Leyden is the starting point of the continuous 2% climb into the Rocky Mountains. Here is where the real adventure begins.
MP 014.50 Chem Spur
MP 016.00 Plastic Siding, Junction Length: 0656ft
The siding used to serve several very small coal mines. Up to ten cars could be loaded here. Nowadays Plastic is not in use anymore.
Plastic is also the intersection point with the branchline to GWA Idealite Concrete and Rocky Flats Nuclear Power Plant. The rails of this branchline cross the road leading newcomers to the false conclusion that this is the mainline. The mainline, unnoticed by most drivers, crosses underneath the Hwy in a cut.
MP 017.80 Barbara Gulch
This is not an official timetable location. Barbara Gulch is a cut underneath Hwy 93. It is a pretty spot to take some pictures though as the railroad curves through some bushes. You may park your car right next to the Hwy overpass.
MP 018.00 Rocky Siding Length: 7330ft
This is another long siding often used to park eastbound trains when North Yard is full. The beginning of Rocky is only a few yards from Barbara Gulch.
During the early days of the Moffat Road Rocky was a passenger stop. Later it was used as a scheduled stop for the seasonal Ski Train (until 1980).
MP 018.50 Big 10 Loop
The first spectacular sight on the Moffat Road. The trains round a combination of large curves gaining 270 ft altitude. If You use your imagination, these large curves from a
"10" on a map – hence the name "Big 10 Loop".
Since strong winter winds frequently blew trains down the mountain, old hopper cars were filled with rocks and welded to rails mounted on the inside of the curve. This protection is one of the landmarks of the Moffat Road.
On the farm land below, lighter spots on the grass are said to indicate the location of a former Red Indian Village. However, it seems more likely that these were the locations of former shallow mines.
The Big Ten Loop can best be seen from above by taking a left onto Blue Mountain Drive from Hwy 72 at Coal Creek. As one goes up Blue Mountain one gets a magnificent view of the loop from above
MP 021.20 Clay Siding Length: 5780ft
In 1910, a short stub track was constructed to serve some clay mines and a settlement named Fireclay. The siding was originally referred to as Hunt Siding. Later, the track was extended to 212 ft and renamed after the settlement Fireclay. The name became a scheduled stop until 1947 when the mines were closed.
With a sharp eye, the remains of the station can be recognized as such today.
In 1939, a short siding called Clay was built close to Fireclay. For several years, there was much confusion regarding Clay and Fireclay, especially since there is another Fireclay on the Denver & Rio Grande in Utah. Eventually, Fireclay was connected with Clay as one long siding and the new location kept the name Clay.
Clay Siding is still in occasional use today. It is considered to be short by today’s standards and the downhill side is on soft ground preventing heavy trains from using it.
MP 022.93 Coal Creek Trestle
Originally, David Moffat planned a 2 mile long tunnel to South Boulder Park at this location in order to render a “Tunnel District” unnecessary. However when the railroad was built it followed today’s route with all the tunnels consequently pushing construction costs to 78323 $ per mile at the time. This was about four times as much as a normal grade would cost in those days.
Coal Creek was crossed by a steel trestle bridge and a water tower constructed on the northern end of the bridge to cater to steam engines.
The concrete foundations of the bridge were a continual maintenance nuisance and eventually in 1939 the railroad replaced the trestle with a short bridge and a fill. The water tank was dismantled in 1956 when the last steam locomotives left the Moffat Road.
Coal Creek offers a nice view of the railroad which circles Coal Creek Canyon in a horseshoe curve. Going up Blue Mountain Drive from here, one will get a nice view of Big Ten Loop. Just opposite is Plainview Road which leads to Plainview Siding.
MP 023.43 Tunnel 1 Length: 0365ft
This is where the Tunnel District begins. Initially Tunnel 1 was 330ft in length, 89ft of which was lined with wood. Little by little, this tunnel lining was replaced by concrete. In 1958, a portal was constructed on the western end of the tunnel as the danger of sliding rocks was getting imminent.
For the following tunnels, construction contracts where given to individual firms. Different construction companies started to work simultaneously on “their” tunnels.
MP 024.50 Plain(view) Length: 6530ft
If you take a right from Hwy. 72 and take a drive up Plainview Road, you immediately understand why this place is called Plainview. You can look out onto the Great Plains as far as the eye can see. In the foreground, you see the skyline of Denver. It looks like somebody ran out of money to fill up this huge space.
Behind you is Plainview siding - the last time the railroad can be reached by public access. Often, you will meet maintenance crews here who set out for the task of the day from this location.
At the end of Plainview siding, Rainbow Cut can be found - a cut in the rocks through which the railroad runs on its way up the mountains. Especially when it rains the rocks which are layers of different types of stone, will turn all different hues, hence the name Rainbow Cut.
Last Update: Mar 1st 2008
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