Town Considers Objecting to Tennessee Pass Reopening

An eastbound train is seen at Belden, Colo., on Tennessee Pass in August 1996. Photo by Jeff Simley.

Town Considers Objecting to Tennessee Pass Reopening

By Justin Franz

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. — A town along Colorado’s storied Tennessee Pass line is considering challenging a plan by Union Pacific to lease the mountain railroad to a Texas-based short line operator. 

The Town of Avon, Colo., is helping cover legal fees so that a Denver law firm can review the plan to lease the line to Rio Grande Pacific’s Colorado Midland & Pacific Railway (CMP). Town officials tell the Vail Daily that any plan to resume train service through the area would have “significant repercussions” on the community.

On Dec. 31, it was announced that CMP, will lease a majority of the Tennessee Pass line and file for common-carrier authority with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to operate it for both freight and passenger service. CMP is planning to lease the line from Milepost 171.90, at Parkdale, Colo., to Milepost 335.00, near Sage. The former Rio Grande line has sat dormant for nearly a quarter-century and has long been considered one of the most iconic pieces of mountain railroad in the American West. 

Another railroad, Colorado Pacific, has also challenged the plan. Colorado Pacific wanted to buy the line from UP and has filed an objection with the STB over the proposed lease agreement

The Tennesee Pass route has been dormant since 1997, not long after Union Pacific purchased the Southern Pacific. A short section of the east end of the railroad, through the scenic Royal Gorge, is operated by a short line, Rock & Rail, and a tourist carrier, Royal Gorge Route Railroad.

This article was posted on: January 20, 2021