One last post to close out 2020. And boy, is it big news!
A group known as Rio Grande Pacific is going to lease the Tennessee Pass Route from Union Pacific. Both Trains and Railfan & Railroad announced the news today.
Railfan & Railroad stated,
According to a press release, Rio Grande Pacific subsidiary, Colorado Midland & Pacific Railway (CMP), will lease a majority of the line and file for common-carrier authority with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to operate it. Officials said that CMP will “assess the interest of the communities served by the Tennessee Pass line” for both freight and passenger service.
Trains followed with more details from the STB filing:
The Colorado Midland & Pacific filing to the STB says the railroad will lease 163.1 miles of the line between milepost 171.9 at Parkdale, Colo., and Milepost 335.0 near Sage, Colo., and that it projects the railroad’s annual revenue will not exceed $5 million. The portion of the line east of Parkdale is currently operated by short line Rock & Rail, and also hosts the Royal Gorge Route Railroad tourist operation.
Rio Grande Pacific is based out of Benbrook, a suburb of Ft. Worth, Texas.
With no traffic over the railroad for over 20 years now, my guess is that at least three months are going to be spent rehabilitating the line. The line has been stripped of most of its copper and any other valuable metals by vandals during the gap in operations. It's more likely, with the new PTC standards, that the entire line will be rewired.
Questions about passenger service and other meaningful commodities still need to be assessed by the new company, but their associated transit company would certainly be involved. Commuter service to Dowd Junction for Vail would certainly bring a great deal of help for those who work in the ski industry and the associated services like food and hospitality. It may eventually even raise property values all along the line to accommodate those workers. The Vail news site Real Vail has more on these contingencies.