On this day our primary goal is to reach the West Portal of the Alpine Tunnel and video record the trip up and back. We will start our assault on this old Denver, South Park and Pacific railroad route up the narrow cliffs to the top of the Continental Divide from the town of Pitkin, CO where the old depot still survives
The first half of the trip is not too tough and it’s also where the first Water Tank the Steam Engines used. The 47,500 gallon “Midway Water Tank” has been mostly lost to time which is why we are trying to locate and photograph things. Here is what is left…
As the climb gets steeper water tanks were needed more often. The next water tank is at “Williams Gulch” (a.k.a. Tunnel Gulch Tank) which holds 33,000 gallons of water. This one has been restored in 1965 with additional work down in 2010. Keep in mind this was originally built-in 1885 in a harsh environment so the fact it’s in this top condition today speaks volumes to the restoration efforts.
Historically the next Water Tank was at Woodstock, CO. On March 10, 1884 a massive avalanche swept down the mountainside wiping out the Tank, the Town, and killing 13 including an entire family of six. The town and tank were never rebuilt but the old stone foundation can still be found.
When Woodstock was destroyed, the railroad facilities were rebuilt higher up the line in a new town called Sherrod in 1904. Two years later the railway abandon the town and the depot that was once here was moved to Ohio City. The Sherrod Loop can still be seen today where a portion of the track still can be found.
As we get closer to the top we reach an engineering marvel of a stone wall made without mortar. It is over 100 years old and only a few stones have been displaced. It’s 2′ wide, 33′ tall, and 452′ wide; it is known as the Palisades. You can see from our photograph how the roadway has narrowed and you don’t want to make a driving mistake up here!
Once we near the summit, we must go the rest of the way by foot. The ruins of the old railway facility can still be found here along with the restored Telegraph Office.
There was also a water tank that existed here and was later moved to Boreas Pass known as Bakers Tank.
When Lisa was taking photographs at this same spot she would catch a photo of “Pika” that now calls this place home.
The last train that passed through the West Portal was November 10, 1910 and in the winter of 1924 the rails were removed. The tunnel entrances are now buried in rocks so all you can see today is just the top of the West Portal. The interior of the tunnel is also partially collapsed…
After taking lots of photos and videos we head back down the same route taking video as we head back down to Pitkin. This however is not the end of our day…
As we travel back towards Gunnison, CO where we are staying for this chapter of our journeys we pass by a property that has D&RGW MOW Car #04408.
After passing though Gunnison, CO many times and finding the Pioneer Museum closed for one reason or another or too short on time to visit, this time we planned our trip to tour the museum.
Part of the highlights here is “Cinderella” which is a 1882 Baldwin Steam Locomotive which is D&RGW #268 in its special paint Bumble Bee scheme. There are several other freight cars, caboose, and a MOW equipment behind it as well.
There are two railroad structures also here, and Water Tank and a Depot. The depot is the D&RGW Sargents facility and the Water Tank is from Mears Junction that was on the est side of Marshall Pass.
I will also get a couple of Railfan shots of boxcars located near Main and Iowa…
Another target on our search list is to find and photograph the D&RGW Combination Depot. BTW, it’s “For Sale” when we were there…
Our final structure we looked for on this day is the old Denver and Rio Grande Railroads Railway Express Agency which today is the Arts Center