Deal may allow use on Tennessee Pass rail line
Line has been little-used since the 1990s
After decades of little to no use, rail service may return to the Tennessee Pass line.
The Colorado, Midland & Pacific Railway Company Thursday announced it has completed an agreement with the Union Pacific Railroad for commercial use on the line, which stretches from roughly Canon City to Eagle.
The Colorado, Midland is a subsidiary of the Rio Grande Pacific Corporation, which operates freight and passenger railroads in eight states.
While an agreement is in place, a lot of work remains before trains will roll.
“The real work is just beginning,” Colorado, Midland community liaison spokesperson Sara Thompson Cassidy said in a phone interview.
A press release from Colorado, Midland noted that “Track and other infrastructure will require rehabilitation before any service can begin.”
Just what that service might look like remains to be determined, and railroad officials say they’ll work closely with local governments in Fremont, Chaffee, Lake and Eagle counties to help determine local and regional needs. The release also states that if there’s interest, the railroad will help public agencies find funding for establishing passenger rail service.
Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry hadn’t yet heard the news when contacted by phone. Chandler-Henry said she’s intrigued by the news, and eager to learn more, particularly if the line could somehow be used for passenger traffic from Dotsero to Dowd Junction.
Regular use on the line — which dates to the late 1800s — ended in the mid-1990s. Until the Moffatt Tunnel was completed in 1928, the Tennessee Pass line was the primary way to link Eagle County with Colorado’s Front Range, via Pueblo. Since the line was deactivated, locals have looked for ways to use the line, either for trails or rail use.
Union Pacific officials in the 1990s said the railroad wanted to keep the rails intact for future use. Since then, several ideas have come and gone.
In 2016, Christof Stork presented the Eagle County Commissioners with an idea for passenger and tourist service on the line.
In 2019, a hauler on Colorado’s eastern plains submitted a $10 million bid to Union Pacific to use the line for hauling agricultural products west from Kansas and Colorado.
“There’s been lots of interest,” Chandler-Henry said, particularly from local governments. “We’ve been looking at (the line) for some time.”