Rio Grande — Heart of the Rockies looks at the dramatic influence of railroad builder David H. Moffat on the Denver & Rio Grande Western. In Volume I of this series, one of the watershed events for the young D&RG was the conversion of the main lines from narrow gauge to standard gauge, initiated in 1890 during Moffat’s presidency. Following his departure from the D&RG the following year, Moffat intensified the pursuit of his great dream—constructing a direct transcontinental mainline west from Denver. Indeed, the “Moffat Road”, which he spearheaded, eventually became the primary transcontinental conduit for the D&RGW as well as the source of substantial local traffic.
Moffat, however, would not live to see the outcome of what he had begun and following his passing, his Denver, Northwestern & Pacific was reorganized into the Denver & Salt Lake. The color images in this volume, all captured in the later years of D&RGW operations, illustrate the many construction challenges he faced as he pushed the DNW&P rails west, for this was no route seeking the easiest of grades and alignments. It was the boring of the Moffat Tunnel beneath the Continental Divide in 1927 that encouraged the D&RGW to cast its lot with the D&SL in developing both local and transcontinental traffic. The completion of the tunnel, followed by the opening of the Dotsero Cutoff in 1934, gave the line through the Heart of the Rockies a chance to thrive, unlike so many other railroad enterprises that had challenged Colorado’s mountains and failed.
The line west of Denver remains one of the most colorful operations in the region. Though many changes occurred in the final quarter of the 20th century, the experience of trains winding through the mountains has beckoned rail photographers from around the globe to record the action. And while the Rio Grande itself is gone, the images herein help to illustrate how it was during the era of color slide photography along the D&RGW in the Heart of the Rockies.
Mile-High City — Denver
The Front Range — Denver to Tunnel 8
Heart of the Rockies — Tunnel 8 to Moffat Tunnel
Colorado Valley — Moffat Tunnel to Orestod
The Craig Branch — Orestod to Craig
Dotsero Cutoff — Orestod to Dotsero