Monday, December 20, 2010

Tennessee Pass on The D&RGW

The real line
You gotta love the movie Switchback, filmed partly on the Tennessee Pass. This fabulous line was modeled by Bernie Kempinski. If you get a chance to check out MODEL RAILROAD PLANNING 2006. It includes the layout and a great idea to figure how and what to model with a modeling matrix that Bernie designed. It's called a Decision Matrix. You score from 0-3 the acceptability level of key components of a model railroad and across the top, the lines you want to model and on the left, the scenery, power, staging, etc.


Bernie's Tennessee Pass

The Rio Grande railroad follows the Arkansas River from Salida to Leadville and then over Tennessee Pass. This was the original Native American trail across the mountains.

Beginning at Salida, the route runs north to Leadville, one of the first areas to experience a true gold rush in Colorado. The railroad reached Leadville in 1880, carrying supplies into and ore out of the region. From there the line continued north across the continental divide at Tennessee Pass. Here the original tracks over the crest of the divide were later replaced with a tunnel bored through the mountain. On the west side of the pass, the railroad follows the Eagle River on a relentless 3% down grade past the mining districts at Belden and on to Minturn. Beyond Minturn the route changes direction and heads west into Glenwood Canyon, a famous sight on the Colorado River. 

After leaving the canyon, the train arrives at Glenwood Springs, a well known resort area.  At Glenwood Springs passengers could relax in the famous Hot Springs pool. The branch line to the mining town of Aspen also began here.

Continuing from Glenwood, the tracks move westerly, following the Colorado River on a slow downgrade into more arid regions. The river corridor contains fertile agricultural and ranching developments. Coal mining was also a big industry. The tracks from Rifle to  Grand Junction were originally constructed in a joint venture between the Colorado Midland railroad and the D&RG. The line was named the Rio Grande Junction railroad and connected with the Rio Grande Western at Grand Junction and then traveled west to Salt Lake City.

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