Wednesday, September 18, 2013


The Alpine Tunnel was built by the Denver, South Park and Pacific RR  to connect Denver to Gunnison CO. The 1,772 ft. tunnel at 11,723 ft. elevation went under the continental divide and is the highest and longest railroad tunnel in North America. Construction of the tunnel took over two years. During that time the Denver & Rio Grande beat the South Park to Gunnison by the expedient of buying the Marshall Pass toll road from Otto Mears and laying its track on the old toll road. Winter conditions were so severe that the last train ran through the tunnel in 1910, 28 years after it was built.

In the long valley at the western end of the tunnel the South Park built an engine house with turntable inside, section house, telegraph house, boarding house and other ancillary buildings in the high valley. Fire took out the engine and section houses, the frame boarding house collapsed after the route was abandoned,and the second turntable up the valley was removed, leaving only the frame telegraph house standing at the site for many years. Now many of the buildings partially have been resorted and tracks laid where they existed over a century ago.

98% of the road leading to the Tunnel complex east of Gunnison  is on the old railroad bed, making for easy driving. The exception is at the Sherrard Loop. On Sept. 12 we easily drove up to the tunnel in our Jeep Grand Cherokee in high range, two wheel drive. I recently read an account on the web saying that the road was difficult and should be attempted only in an ATV. If that accurately described the condition of the road at one time, it no longer is accurate.


The drive up has several landmarks, where signs recently have been erected to explain the scene. The first is the base of a water tank, below. Above is the sign with a picture of the tank when it was in use.



Here is the next water tank up the road, nicely restored with the original colors. Can you make out the spout on the left side of the tank?


This is one of three cuts made for the road bed.


This shot looks back down the road we just came up.



Above, the sign explains the Sherrod Loop, and below is a part of the loop on which track has been relaid.



Probably the most scenic part of the road is the Palisades. The shelf road was stabilized by granite walls on the downhill side to prevent the road from slipping into the valley below. The sign below explains. There are several walls supporting the road.Yes, that is our road shown in the valley below. The Williams Pass road, open only in August, crosses the road bed here.





At the new upper parking lot for the tunnel complex is a full sized replica of the cross section of the redwood lining of the tunnel required for 80 % of its length. The signs below are mounted in the replica.






The first building encountered on the walk into the long valley is the engine house. It collapsed long ago. The corners have been partially rebuilt to give a much better impression of its size. There was a turntable in the middle.  Its pit easily is visible in the rubble. An identical roundhouse was built by the DSP&P at Boreas Pass.


In a partial reconstruction track has been relaid into the engine house.  I was very impressed by the rebuilding of the corners. Framed by the opening in the building is the telegraph house, and at the left is the rebuilt coal storage bunker. At the far end of the valley is the west end of the tunnel, now collapsed.


The original tool shed has been replicated near the west end of the engine house.


The heavy timbers supported a water tub (a water tank without a top) within the engine house.


Closeup of the workmanship in the reconstructed corner of the building.


The long side wall of the engine house was partially  reconstructed, as well as the corners at the far end.


This new sign explains the engine house with a picture of the original and a drawing of its floor plan.


The lumber on the ground what is left of the collapsed frame boarding house. In back is the rebuilt  outhouse for residents of the boarding house.

IMG_5103 The telegraph house survived time and the elements better than the other buildings there, but it still needed work to  stabilize it and to get everything square again. The ties and track are recent additions.

IMG_5104 This is the view up the valley toward the end of the tunnel. The track to the right leads  to the engine house.IMG_5107

This sign shows the original appearance of the section house.IMG_5105

Here are  the partially rebuilt  walls of  the section house. It housed track workers stationed here until they finally  moved into the boarding house finished later.  In the foreground is track to the engine house.



 IMG_5110View down the imaginary mainline tracks an engineer of a westbound train might have seen after coming out of the tunnel, with the turntable tracks at the right. The turntable was located here after the engine house burned about 1902. The only purpose of the “armstrong” turntable was to rotate a locomotive 180 degrees. There was not enough room in the valley for the more conventional wye.


  The platform and railing was not part of the turntable. Perhaps it was built to illustrate  size of the turntable pit.


The hypothetical engineer of the westbound rain would have this view of the mainline with the switch for diverting to the right track in the foreground and the track to the engine house at the left in the background. (The lady would not have been there.)


Jo at the now rare harp switch stand used by the Denver South Park and Pacific RR. The railroad used mainly Mason Bogie locomotives. It is a shame that none have survived  the scrapper.



After leaving the Alpine Tunnel we returned to the good county road at the bottom and continued north toward Cumberland Pass.


Those are  fourteeners in the background.


The pass was an open area, with a side road going up higher to a viewpoint.


Our road came up the canyon seen here. The climb up to the pass was quite gradual. I did not shift out of 2 wheel high all day.



Town Hall of the tiny remote town of Tincup. We continued on to Taylor Reservoir and followed Taylor Creek down to Almont and Gunnison to complete our circle trip.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013



On  a sunny Sunday, Sept. 8, we visited Garden of the Gods in Colorado  Springs. Neither of us had visited it in several years. It was well worth the repeat visit. A short  movie in the Visitor Center explained the complicated geology of the area. The up thrust rocks were sedimentary, laid down in a large inland sea, and pushed vertically when the current version (the third) of the Rocky Mountains were pushed up by tectonic plate action.

As a youngster I bought a View Master reel of color stereo images taken here. I wonder if I can find it again!


This view is from the Visitor Center balcony. Pikes Peak is in the background. The gift of the Garden of the Gods land by the private owner to the the City of Colorado Springs provided that no charge was to be made for entry into the park. The City has built and maintained the internal roads very well.  The City has income from the tourists by services provided in the Visitor Center and services and sales at a Trading Post (large gift shop and cafe)  in the park.



This and the next view are from the first parking lot encountered by the tourist. There are many developed hiking trails throughout the park. We did not try any.





This up thrust of grey rock is made from a different sedimentary layer than the red one.

IMG_5062The formations in the center aptly are named Cathedral Spires. In the background is Cheyenne Mountain in which the NORAD cave is  located.


Balanced Rock is a popular spot for taking pictures of those in your party. Jo easily climbed to this spot.  This area was not a part of the park many years ago and an enterprising photographer who owned the land charged tourists $0.25 for their picture taken next to the rock or seated on a burro he supplied.  



And I climbed to a little more accessible spot for my picture.


The Trading Post is the large gift store and cafe.



These views are enhanced by the clouds building in the bright blue sky. Below is a telephoto shot from the same  camera position as this one.




All of the rocks are named, but I cannot recall the name of this one, significantly different from the others in color and shape. If one wants to do technical rock climbing in the park he must get a permit.



On Sept. 1 we drove from the Westminster Elks Lodge to Boulder to visit friends George and Mardi Oetzel. They took us to the pedestrian mall in the old downtown area about 4 blocks long. It was a very pleasant day, and many were out strolling the mall, including sidewalk performers. The stores generally were specialty shops, boutiques, and restaurants. There were no vacancies in the storefronts.IMG_5043

The mall was nicely landscaped. The traffic on cross streets was minimal.




This large sandy play area was equipped with statues of animals on which children were playing. Two are on the snail.


The county courthouse, nicely landscaped, fronted on the mall.


This sidewalk performer played a tune on his drums.


And this performer was entertaining with his large bubbles soon burst by the children.



He is not a Wallenda, but he successfully walked his tight rope about 15 feet with no balancing rod.


The mall also was decorated with a few bronze statues.   

IMG_5054 We checked out the Boulder Dushanabe Tea House. It was built in Boulder’s sister city, Dushanabe Tajikistan, disassembled, shipped to Boulder in creates and reassembled. We elected to have our evening meal in a nearby Cheesecake Factory restaurant. Jo and Mardi are seated on the bench.




This juggler was juggling 3 burning batons when we stopped to watch him, and his next act was briefly to juggle 5 of them in these two shots.