Collections Spotlight: The Moffat Tunnel
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In February of 1928 the Moffat Tunnel was completed. The 6.2 mile railroad tunnel that passes under the Continental Divide, connects Gilpin and Grand counties, and made available an array of opportunities for the citizens in Steamboat Springs.
Early railroad lines through central Colorado found shipping people and freight from east to west was expensive, dangerous, and frustrating. Railroad magnate David Moffat, whose Denver, Northwestern, & Pacific Railroad Company built a line from Denver to Craig in the early twentieth century, wondered if there was a way to make travel through the mountains easier.
His trains traveled over the Continental Divide at Rollins Pass, and clearing snow from the tracks was so pricey it nearly bankrupted the railroad. While many scoffed at his plans to build a railroad tunnel through the mountains, Moffat’s tunnel was approved by Colorado voters in 1922.
It took miners six years to dig the tunnel. The work was hard, and sometimes fatal—twenty-eight workers died completing the steel-and-concrete Moffat Tunnel. But its completion cut travel time dramatically. Trains that took five hours to chug over Rollins Pass now sped through the Moffat Tunnel in 12 minutes.