Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New Railroad Construction In Denver

It's always a good sign when your friendly neighborhood railroad, usually BNSF or Union Pacific west of Chicago, starts adding capacity in your region. It could be a second main line between two points only a few miles apart, or it could be a third or (wow!) fourth main for 20 miles or more. After a century of contraction and abandoned routes, railroads are cautiously upgrading and adding rail routes.

When the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad stopped operations in 1912 and officially abandoned its 35 miles between Florence and Victor, Colorado in 1915, it was the first few pebbles that heralded the beginning of an avalanche. By one estimate, nearly 2,000 route miles were abandoned by railroads in Colorado between 1915 and 1966, only 51 years. Put another way, 40 miles of railroad vanished every year for that period. Now, some of that was an elimination of duplicate routes between railroads, but a lot more was the reduction of service and wholesale abandonment of routes and complete railroads.

Factors range from competing traffic by asphalt and airplane to regulatory restrictions that were largely undone by the Staggers Act. So it's refreshing to see any new expansion, such as the UP project Kevin Morgan is tracking that adds a second main between C&S Junction and Arvada. Kevin said in an update why UP needs it.
UP appears to want the second track to be able to park a coal train between Tennyson Street and Lamar Street without blocking crossing. If both of the two new Belt Bypass tracks have trains in them, this would provide a new place for parking trains east of Leyden or Rocky.

Right in his proverbial back yard, Kevin has the ability to monitor, photograph and update us via a dedicated page on his already-robust Colorado Railfan web site. Thanks, Kevin, for tackling this!

While not quite a major railroad expansion, it certainly hopes to alleviate a growing traffic snarl when beer and coal compete for space on Denver's rails. As far as an historic railroad expansion on the horizon, I believe market pressures in the next 20 years are going to push travelers away from fuel-intensive transportation like air and highway, and continue toward passenger rail, provided no other alternatives show up, like matter-to-energy conversion (Beam me up, Scotty!). Even if that happens, Amtrak will still be trying to do more with less, and pleasing half its riders while disappointing the other half. Some things never change.


  1. This is great news. Please keep us all updated.

  2. I wonder if this track will go as far west as Wadsworth as theres a double bridge there (both were built back in the early 90s right before the SP UP merger).

  3. Anonymous, you and Kevin might be thinking the same thing. According to his project map,

      It may extend further west. That is yet to be determined.

    I wonder if that would mean moving or straightening some sidings and switches. Time (and Kevin) will tell.

  4. I enjoy reading about Construction projects in Colorado, especially one like this that involves keeping semi-trucks off of the road. I have lived in Boulder for 5 years, and the roads could use a break from all of the huge trucks, especially during the winter. I drive on 36 and that road is in terrible shape. This railroad project is much needed for the roads around Colorado. Being in the construction industry, I definitely try and stay updated on construction projects happening around Colorado. I found a great resource for staying current on Dodge Projects happening around Colorado. If you are like me and enjoy staying current on the construction news happening around Colorado, definitely check out the website.

  5. I drove by this project the other day and noticed the grading work went as far west as Pierce St in Arvada. At Lamar there was grading on both sides of the main where it looks like UP may re-install the spur to the nearby lumberyard on the northside. On the southside the grading look to be quite far along, I did notice that the spur to the tanks at the pickle plant on the southside were gone..

  6. I happened to drive by on Lamar St yesterday afternoon and on the northside of the main a line of concrete ties with newly laid rail on them was on both sides of the crossing. A sign indicated that the Lamar crossing will be closed from 8/15/11 to 8/18/11.


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