Rollins Pass

Rollinsville to Winter Park, CO

This line was originally built by the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railway, which was incorporated in 1902 to build a line west out of Denver to Salt Lake City, UT, on the opposite side of the Continental Divide. By this time, both Pueblo, CO (via the Denver, Rio Grande & Western) and Cheyenne, WY (via Union Pacific) had railroad lines heading west across the divide; it seemed logical that Denver should have one as well, and the DN&P was created for this purpose.

Construction on the line began in 1902, reaching the Continental Divide at Rollins Pass by 1903. By 1913, due to the difficulties of laying track in such mountainous terrain, the DN&P went into receivership and emerged as the Denver & Salt Lake Railroad, but it was for naught: construction on the line ultimately failed to reach Salt Lake City, only covering less than half the entire distance.

The climb over the top at Rollins Pass was fraught with numerous switchbacks, steep grades, and many instances of severe snow storms. These alone would seal the fate of the line over Rollins Pass, as the Moffat tunnel was built in 1928 to "replace" the tracks through the troublesome geography.

Today, the Moffat Tunnel is still in use by Union Pacific. The now-abandoned right-of-way over Rollins Pass branches from the UP line just east of the Moffat Tunnel's east portal, and then heads up to Rollins Pass via a series of switchbacks and tunnels. It then comes down the western side and meets back up with the active UP line at Winter Park. The entire abandoned route can be traced by following both Rollins Pass Road (on the eastern side) and Corona Pass Road (on the western side).

—  User Comments  —

This is an excellent brief description of the Rollins Pass road. However, it is not possible to follow the abandoned roadbed from one side of Rollins Pass to the other. The phrase "the entire abandoned route can be traced" might leave that impression. From the west side one can follow the roadbed to the top of the pass. From the east side one can only follow it part of the way, not all the way to the top. The west side is the easiest route to follow. It is a terrific trip and well worth one's time.

Stan Blevins
Lubbock, TX

Are you able to hike over the top of the pass? My Uncle Charles Rogers and Great Uncle Tom Rogers had a grain elevator in Craig on this line. Rogers family sold it in 1977 as I recall. As a child, I remember DRG geeps switching the elevator in the early 1970's.

Harold Rogers
Fort Scott, KS