Rail line running through Vail Valley sought by Kansas grain producer
Crossroads Agriculture wants to haul grain to the West Coast via Tennessee Pass
An eastern plains agriculture company is bidding to buy a railroad line that runs through the Vail Valley.
Colorado Pacific Railroad is offering Union Pacific $10 million for 170 miles of its Tennessee Pass Line, running from Parkdale near the Royal Gorge through the Vail Valley to Dotsero.
For now, the plan is to haul grain from eastern Colorado and western Kansas directly to the West Coast, instead of routing it through the Texas Gulf Coast, according to a Nov. 14 letter from Colorado Pacific to Union Pacific, written by Colorado Pacific attorney William Osborn and published in the Kiowa County Independent.
Union Pacific confirmed that it is entertaining offers.
“Union Pacific has received offers and are open to considering a deal that is mutually beneficial. We believe there could be business opportunities for the Tennessee Pass in the future,” Kristen South, Union Pacific’s director of corporate communications said in an email.
Stefan Soloviev, owner of Crossroads Agriculture and one of the country’s largest landowners, also owns Colorado Pacific. In 2018 he bought the 122-mile Towner Line, a rail line running from the Kansas/Colorado border to Pueblo. Connecting the Tennessee Pass line would provide Soloviev and other Midwest grain producers a more direct route to the West Coast and possible export markets.
“Mr. Soloviev is taking this step because a substantial portion of the time, eastern Colorado and western Kansas grain producers will get better prices if they ship using the shortest railroad route to the West Coast, instead of the Texas Gulf Coast, for the export market,” Osborn told the Kiowa County Independent. “This is part of a continuing effort to open up eastern Colorado farm ground to West Coast and pacific export markets for wheat and milo.”
Several proposals for commuter and tourist trains have been floated over the years, the latest in 2016 from Christof Stork of Golden, who pitched an idea for a 110-mile run between Eagle and Salida, with 18 stops in nine towns along the way.
Construction on the Tennessee Pass Line started in 1880, running near Leadville and Red Cliff to capitalize on the mining boom.
The line has been out of service since the mid-1990s when Union Pacific took it over the Rio Grande and Southern Pacific. Union Pacific already had a similar route and the Tennessee Pass route fell dormant.
The only recent rail Tennessee Pass Line traffic is a train that runs to the American Gypsum wallboard manufacturing plant in Gypsum.