Continental Divide Crossings

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Continental Divide Crossings
Posted by nanaimo73 on Saturday, March 4, 2006 8:11 PM

 

This is a look at the railroad lines that crossed the Continental Divide in North America.

I am focusing on the Divide that separates the drainage towards the Pacific Ocean to the west from the drainage to the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans to the east and north. The western side also includes The Great Basin, much of which drains into Great Salt Lake, and the Bering Sea. The eastern slope also drains into the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and Hudson Bay. This Divide reaches from the Panama Canal to the Bering
Strait in Alaska. Wikipedia has an informative article on the Continental Divide.
In the "Lower 48 States", the Divide runs through Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, and also forms part of Idaho's eastern border.

There has never been a railroad line built across the Divide in Alaska. The Alaska Railroad passes through Broad Pass at an elevation of 2,337', about 200 miles north
of Anchorage. The southern slope of Broad Pass drains through the Susitna River to
the Pacific, while the northern slope drains through the Nemana and Yukon Rivers into the Bering Sea, south of the Bering Strait.

I believe there were 31 different crossings, and there was also a long mining railroad tunnel under the Divide as well. Ten of these 31 crossings are still in use, and 21 have been abandoned or are embargoed. (They are shown in blue.)

The first crossing was built by Union Pacific in 1868 (#11), heading west to meet up with the Central Pacific during 1869. This was followed by 8 more "Transcontinental Route" crossings, Southern Pacific's Sunset Route (#26) and Tennessee Pass (#17)
in 1881, Campbell Pass (#24) in 1882, Mullan Pass (#2) in 1883, Homesteake Pass (#4) in 1888, Marias Pass (#1) in 1891, Pipestone Pass (#5) in 1909, and Moffat Tunnel (#13) in 1928. Seven of these nine routes remain in service, while Homestake and Tennessee Passes are embargoed.
By 1910, 26 of the 31 crossings were in place. Since Moffat Tunnel was completed in 1928, the last 4 routes have been spur lines serving the mining industry. These are South Pass (#10) in 1962, Tyronne (#25) in 1969, the Hidalgo Smelter line (#30),
built during the 1970s, and finally the BNSF line to the recently opened
El Segundo Mine (#23).

The Overland Route crossing in southern Wyoming (#11) handles about 150 million gross tons per year. BNSF's former ATSF crossing at Campbell Pass, NM, (#24) also handles about 150 GMT, and is overcoming the UP route to become the busiest. In third place is UP's Sunset Route at Wilna, NM, (#26) carrying close to 85 GMT. BNSF's Marias Pass, MT, (#1) comes next near 70 GMT. The Moffat Tunnel route in Colorado (#13) carries 45 GMT, followed by Montana Rail Link's Mullan Pass (#2), 30 GMT.

During the early 1970s, the Overland Route (#11) was the only crossing with more
than 60 GMT of traffic. SP's Sunset Route (#26) and AT&SF's Transcon (#23) followed, carrying between 40 and 60 GMT. Burlington Northern had 4th place Marias Pass (#1), at 20 to 40 GMT. In the range of 10 to 20 GMT was seen on BN's Mullan Pass (#2),
and D&RGW's Moffat Route (#13) and Tennessee Pass (#17).

Passenger service is provided by Amtrak on 4 of the passes. The Empire Builder 
uses Marias #1, while the California Zephyr runs through Moffat Tunnel #13.
Campbell Pass #24 hosts the Southwest Chief, while the tri-weekly Sunset Limited uses Wilna #26. Two other passes have hosted Amtrak service since 1971. The North Coast Hiawatha ran over Homestake #4 until October 7, 1979, while the Pioneer used the Overland Route #11 until May 11, 1997. 

Major Railroad Grades are covered on Al Krug's website.



1-Marias Pass, Montana 
  Great Northern built across Marias Pass during 1891, and completed the line to Seattle on January 6, 1893. The summit is only 5213', the lowest crossing north of the Sunset Route in the USA. This BNSF map shows details of the line over Marias. The grade against westbounds is only 1.0% but eastbounds face 1.8%. A wye at the summit was replaced by a balloon track around 1970 for turning helpers and snowfighting equipment, although it is now rarely used. Passenger service over Marias Pass is provided by Amtrak's Empire Builder. The Empire Builder can stop at East Glacier Park to the east or Essex to the west, home of the Izaak Walton Inn.
Traffic on this line is heavy, about 70 GMT per year. 
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap  Photos  Wikipedia



2-Mullan Pass, Montana 
  Northern Pacific completed their line on September 8, 1883 between Minnesota and Seattle over Mullan Pass. By using a 3896' tunnel the line is kept to 5566', which is lower than the 5590' of Bozeman Pass to the east. At first this route opened on March 9, 1883 with a temporary line over the Pass at 5902', until the tunnel opened on November 1st. Montana Rail Link took over operation of this line on October 31, 1987. Mullan Pass has grades of 2.2% westbound and 1.4% eastbound, and sees moderate traffic, about 30 GMT. Passenger service lasted until May 1971, with Burlington Northern running the Mainstreeter over Mullan Pass. The Montana Daylight brought passenger travel back to this route from 1994 until 2004.
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap  Photos  Wikipedia 



3-Elk Park Pass, Montana 
  James J. Hill's Montana Central built across Elk Park Pass to reach Butte from Great Falls during 1888. This was the first crossing of the Divide by the
Great Northern system, at about 6360', the greatest elevation reached by the Great Northern.
The line was abandoned by Burlington Northern in 1972.

Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap



4-Homestake Pass, Montana 
  Northern Pacific opened this route during 1888, connecting the Twin Cities with the west coast through Butte. The last passenger train service across Homestake Pass
was provided by Amtrak's North Coast Hiawatha, which ran over this line until October 7, 1979. Burlington Northern embargoed the line during 1983, leaving the tracks in place. Montana Rail Link currently runs up the eastern slope to a quarry at Spire Rock. Homestake Pass has grades of 2.2% on both sides to reach 6328', the highest point on the NP.
Montana Rail Link has studied reopening this line to relieve congestion over Mullan Pass.
NP Website  Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap  Photos

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5-Pipestone Pass, Montana 
  The Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul and Pacific's crossing was built during 1909.
Donald was at the eastern entrance of the 2290' tunnel. The elevation of 6347' made this the highest point on the Milwaukee Road, compared to Loweth at 5802' and St. Paul Pass at 4170'. The westbound grade was 2%, climbing up from 4350' at Piedmont, while eastbounds had a 1.66% climb from Butte at 5475'. Passenger service ended in January 1964 when the Olympian Hiawatha pulled back from Deer Lodge to Aberdeen SD. On March 15, 1980 the line was abandoned west of Miles City MT.
Photos  WikiMapia  Aerial  Topo map  GoogleMap



6-Deer Lodge Pass, Montana 
  This was built as a narrow gauge line during 1881 by the Utah and Northern, a Union Pacific property. The elevation of the Pass is 5801'. The narrow gauge was converted to standard gauge on July 24, 1887. This is now Union Pacific's Montana Subdivision, reaching 255 miles north from Pocatello ID to Silver Bow MT and also crossing the Divide at Monida Pass. The grades are 1.3% northbound and 2.0% southbound. This line is lightly used, with less than 5 GMT.
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap



7-Bannock Pass, Idaho & Montana 
  During 1910 the
Gilmore and Pittsburgh built a 75 mile line from Union Pacific's
Butte line at Armstead Montana across Bannock Pass at about 7585'(?) to the lead-silver mines at
Gilmore Idaho. A 45 mile branch to Salmon Idaho brought mileage to 120. The G&P was a Northern Pacific stepchild, although there was no direct connection. The G&P stopped running on April 30, 1939.
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap   WikiPedia 
The Gilmore and Pittsburgh is covered in the book Get Off and Push



8-Monida Pass, Idaho & Montana 
  Union Pacific's narrow gauge Utah & Northern built across Monida Pass in May 1880, heading for Butte, which was reached on December 26, 1881. The elevation of this crossing is 6817', and the grades are 2.3% northbound and 1.1% southbound.
Traffic over Monida Pass amounts to less than 5 GMT per year. 
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap  Photo  Wikipedia



9-Reas Pass, Idaho & Montana 
  Union Pacific's Yellowstone Park Railroad Company built this line during 1905, crossing the Continental Divide at 6934'. Union Pacific's passenger service to Yellowstone National Park ended in 1960, while the line continued operating in freight service until
it was abandoned during 1981.

Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap

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10-South Pass, Wyoming 
  South Pass was used by United States Steel to reach their Atlantic City mine.
This 76 mile railroad was operated between August 1962 and October 1983. The crossing was at 7550' and the mine was at 8430'.

Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap



11-Overland Route, Wyoming
  Union Pacific became the first railroad to cross the Continental Divide when their line was built through Creston during 1868. The Overland Route passes through the
Great Divide Basin, basically a bowl located on the Continental Divide. On the west side at Tipton is the boundary between the Pacific slope and the Basin. The eastern boundary is roughly 50 miles away and was previously called Solon. Between Tipton
and Solon is Creston, the highest point on this section of the mainline. Union Pacific's line has been replaced as the busiest crossing during the last few years by the former ATSF crossing at Campbell Pass in New Mexico, although both lines carry about 150 GMT. Approximately 65 trains pass through here during an average day.
Scheduled passenger service on this line ended when Amtrak's Pioneer was cancelled on May 11, 1997. 
11A-Tipton
At Tipton the line changes from the Pacific slope and the Basin, at an altitude of 7,000'. The second track was added to this part of the line during 1917.
1915 Map  WikiMapia   Aerial   Topo map   GoogleMap
11B-Creston  
The second track was added here during 1909. The elevation of Creston is 7107',
lower than the 7230' at Aspen Tunnel to the west and the 8013' at Sherman Summit to the east. The grade on both sides is an easy 0.8%.  
1915 Map  WikiMapia  Aerial  Topo map  GoogleMap
11C-Solon
Union Pacific enters the eastern side of the Basin at only 6,922', and double tracked this section during 1907.
1915 Map   WikiMapia  Aerial   Topo map   GoogleMap

 

12-Rollins Pass, Colorado 
  The line over
Rollins Pass was built by the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific and reached the 11,680' summit in the Fall of 1904. Winter weather and 4% grades made this line unworkable, and it was replaced by Moffat Tunnel in 1928. The Rollins Pass route was last used during 1929. 
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap  Photos  Photos  Photo  Wikipedia



13-Moffat Tunnel, Colorado 
  The Denver and Salt Lake Railroad began using the 6.21 mile long Moffat Tunnel during February 1928. This lowered the crossing of the Divide to 9239' and saved
about 23 miles of travel. The grades are 2.0% on both sides on the
Denver to Bond mainline. Roughly 45 GMT pass through this tunnel during the year, made up of about 16 trains per day. Passenger service through Moffat Tunnel is provided by Amtrak's California Zephyr.
There is a lot of information on the D&RGW at http://ghostdepot.com/  
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap  Photos  Photos  Wikipedia



14-Boreas Pass, Colorado 
  The
Denver, South Park and Pacific crossed the Divide three times, on the mainline through Alpine Tunnel, and over Boreas Pass and Fremont Pass on the line to Leadville. The "High Line" to Leadville was built while the DSP&P was under Union Pacific control. This crossing at Boreas Pass was at 11,494' and opened in 1882. The former DSP&P became part of the Colorado and Southern, who abandoned this line during 1937.
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap  Photos  Wikipedia

-

15, 16-Fremont Pass, Colorado  
  Fremont Pass was used by the Denver, South Park and Pacific heading south to Leadville and the Denver and Rio Grande's narrow gauge Blue River Branch heading north to Dillon. The D&RG was at 11,330' and this line was used from 1881 until 1923. The DSP&P line crossed at 11,320' and opened in 1884 and was abandoned in 1937.
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap  Wikipedia



17-Tennessee Pass, Colorado 
  The Denver and Rio Grande Western built over Tennessee Pass at 10,424' in 1881. The first tunnel through Tennessee Pass opened in 1890 (at 10,239'), replaced by a second tunnel in 1945. The 2550' 1945 tunnel reached an elevation of 10,220', with grades of 1.5% westbound, but 3.0% heading east. Tennessee Pass is embargoed and unlikely to reopen under Union Pacific.
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap  Photos  Wikipedia 



18-Hagerman Pass, Colorado 
  The Colorado Midland built across Hagerman Pass (11,925') during 1883, and during 1887 the 2161' Hagerman Tunnel opened which lowered the summit to 11,528'. This was replaced by the Busk-Ivanhoe Tunnel in 1893. The Busk-Ivanhoe Tunnel was 9394' long, and was at an altitude of 10,953'. The Colorado Midland shut down in August 1918 and was abandoned in 1921.
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap  Wikipedia  



19-Alpine Tunnel, Colorado 
  The 1772' Alpine Tunnel
opened in July of 1882, at an elevation of 11,523'. The Denver, South Park and Pacific used it until November 1910. It is now a
Historic District.  Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap  Wikipedia 



20-Marshall Pass, Colorado 
  The Denver and Rio Grande line over
Marshall Pass was built during 1881, reaching 10,856'. This narrow gauge line suffered from 4.0% grades on both sides and was abandoned during 1955.
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap  Photos



21-Azotes, New Mexico 
  This is the crossing of the Continental Divide by the Denver and Rio Grande narrow gauge route to Durango and Farmington, part of the
San Juan Extension. The elevation of the crossing is at 7733', lower than Chama and much lower than the 10,015' at Cumbres Pass. The line from Chama to Durango was built during 1881.
The D&RGW applied to abandon this route in September 1967 and abandonment took place during 1968

Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap



22-Rio Grande & Southwestern Railroad, New Mexico 
  The 36" gauge Rio Grande & Southwestern Railroad was built by the New Mexico Lumber Company from the D&RGW line to El Vado, about 5 miles. It operated from 1903 to 1924, and was one of the many logging railroads in
New Mexico, some of which were operated by shady characters.
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap

i

23-El Segundo Mine spur, New Mexico
BNSF Railway's line to the El Segundo coal mine crosses the Continental Divide here, at an altitude of 7200'. Peabody Energy's El Segundo mine began shipping coal in June 2008, and is the reason BNSF Railway built this line. 
The recent construction of this line brings the total to 31 crossings built over the Divide, although only 10 of these remain in use.
Aerial   Wikimapia   Peabody Coal    Article

.

24-Campbell Pass, New Mexico 
  The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe purchased the western half of the Atlantic and Pacific on January 31, 1880 and used it to build towards California. The A&P was a valuable Land Grant Railroad, and was planed to run along the route the ATSF wanted. The line over the Divide and into Gallup was built during 1882 and the line met the Southern Pacific at Needles California on August 3, 1883. The crossing is at 7244', lower than the 7354' at Arizona Divide to the west, and lower than
Glorieta Pass (7437') and Raton Pass (7573') to the east. The grades on both sides are only 0.6%, also much lower than those to the west and east. In the last few years this crossing has passed Union Pacific's mainline to be the busiest corridor, handling about 150 GMT. Passenger service on this route is provided by Amtrak's Southwest Chief, which stops 29 miles to the west at Gallup.
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap  Photo



25-Tyrone, New Mexico 
  The Southwestern Railroad operates into the Phelps Dodge open pit copper mine at Tyrone, which is just west of the Divide. This was a former ATSF branch acquired in 1990. I believe this line opened in 1969, and is at approximately 6000'. The El Paso and Southwestern had a line to Tyrone which was abandoned in 1934, and may have crossed the Divide. This mine spur handles the lightest traffic of the 10 remaining U.S. crossings.  
Southwestern Railroad  Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap



26-Wilna, New Mexico 
  Southern Pacific's Sunset Route crossed the Divide at 4584', the lowest of the Transcons. The Sunset Route has higher elevations, 4613' to the west at
Dragoon Arizona and 5078' to the east at Paisano Pass Texas. This line was built during 1881, and on March 1 the SP and the ATSF met at Deming, 25 miles to the east, opening the second transcontinental route. SP's Sunset route reached El Paso in May and was completed all the way to New Orleans in 1883. This is now the third busiest crossing, behind the former ATSF over Campbell Pass (#23) and the UP mainline across Wyoming (#11), handling about 85 GMT. There are about 50 trains traveling through here during an average day. Passenger service through Wilna is by Amtrak's Sunset Limited, with the nearest stops at Deming and Lordsburg.
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap



27-Arizona & New Mexico Railroad, New Mexico 
  The Arizona & New Mexico Railway was owned by the Arizona Copper Company, and ran from the Southern Pacific at Lordsburg New Mexico north to the Clifton Arizona area. The A&NW built south to connect with the EP&SW and on September 1, 1902 the Lordsburg and Hachita line was completed. The crossing over the Divide was at about 4495', just north of
Hachita.  (Aerial) The A&NM became part of the EP&SW in 1922, and that became part of Southern Pacific in 1924. The Lordsburg to Hachita line was abandoned during 1934.
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap



28-El Paso & Southwestern #1, New Mexico 
  The El Paso and Southwestern Railroad was formed on June 25th, 1901 by the Phelps Dodge Corporation to link the copper country in southern Arizona with El Paso and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe at Deming, New Mexico. The line was completed to Deming during February 1902, crossing the Continental Divide three times in 16 miles, with the two easternmost crossings only 2 miles apart. This first crossing is at 4650'. The Southern Pacific bought the El Paso & Southwestern on November 1, 1924. Southern Pacific abandoned this line on December 20,1961, and the tracks were torn up during 1963.

EP&SW Website  Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap  Wikipedia
The El Paso and Southwestern was covered in the February 1966 issue of Trains.



29-Vista, New Mexico 
  Vista was the second crossing of three over the Divide by the El Paso & Southwestern mainline, about 2 miles west of the first crossing. This was the highest
of the three crossings, at an altitude of 4694'. Drainage on the east side flows toward the Pacific, while the west side flows toward the Gulf of Mexico, somewhat contrary
to standard practice.

Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap  Wikipedia



30-Hidalgo Smelter Railway, New Mexico 
  The
Hidalgo Smelter and the railway to serve it were built for Phelps Dodge during the early 1970s. This is a 31 mile line starting at Separ on the former Southern Pacific mainline. The northern segment is in the Pacific drainage area while the southern portion drains toward the Gulf of Mexico. The elevation here reaches about 4525'.
The smelter closed in 1999 and is being dismantled.
Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap



31-El Paso & Southwestern #3, New Mexico 
  This is the third, and last, crossing of the Divide by the EP&SW mainline. This location is at, or near, the former station of Antelope. The elevation of this crossing is about 4510', making it the lowest of the three.

Aerial  WikiMapia  Topo map  GoogleMap  Wikipedia



There was one other crossing, this one under the Divide in Colorado. During 1976 Amax opened a 42" mining railroad which had a 9.6 mile double track tunnel.
The western mouth of the tunnel is west of Moffat Tunnel, but there is no eastern mouth. The tunnel ends at an underground Molybdenum mine near Georgetown. Phelps Dodge replaced the railroad with the world's longest conveyor of its kind; a fifteen-mile elevated belt that passes underneath the Continental Divide through the old train tunnel and then above ground to the Mill. The Henderson Mine RR was featured in the September 1981 Trains magazine.


Comparative altitudes
Black in service, blue out of service
11,925' 18-Hagerman Pass, original line
11,680' 12-Rollins Pass
11,528' 18-Hagerman Pass, first tunnel
11,523' 19-Alpine Tunnel
11,494' 14-Boreas Pass
11,330' 16-D&RGW Fremont Pass
11,320' 15-DSP&P Fremont Pass
10,953' 18-Hagerman Pass, Busk-Ivanhoe Tunnel
10,856' 20-Marshall Pass
10,424' 17-Tennessee Pass, original line
10,239' 17-Tennessee Pass, first tunnel
10,220' 17-Tennessee Pass, second tunnel
9,239'  13-Moffat Tunnel
7,733'  21-Azotes
7,733'  22-Rio Grande & Southwestern Railroad
7,550'  10-South Pass
7,500'  7 -Bannock Pass

7,244'  24-Campbell Pass
7,200'  23-Lee Ranch Mine spur 
7,107'  11B-Creston
7,000'  11A-Tipton 
6,934'  9 -Reas Pass
6,922'  11C-Solon 
6,817'  8 -Monida Pass
6,360'  3 -Elk Park Pass
6,347'  5 -Pipestone Pass
6,328'  4 -Homestake Pass

6,000'  25-Tyrone
5,902'  2 -Mullan Pass, original route
5,801'  6 -Deer Lodge Pass
5,566'  2 -Mullan Pass
5,213'  1 -Marias Pass
4,694'  29 Vista
4,650'  28-El Paso & Southwestern #1

4,584'  26-Wilna
4,524'  30-Hidalgo Smelter Railway
4,510'  31-El Paso & Southwestern #3
4,495'  27-Arizona & New Mexico Railroad


Canadian Crossings

1-Crowsnest Pass
  Canadian Pacific built over the 4451' Crowsnest Pass during 1898. The western approach has a 1.2% grade. Limited passenger service is provided over the Pass on
the Royal Canadian Pacific. The eatern slope of Crowsnest Pass and Kicking Horse Pass drains into Hudson Bay. 
Website  WikiMapia  Google Map  Wikipedia

2-Kicking Horse Pass
  Kicking Horse was the first crossing of the Divide in Canada, by the CPR during 1884. The Last Spike between Ontario and the West Coast was driven at Craigellachie on November 7, 1885. The 5332' Pass now has a 1.0% grade for westbounds and a 2.2% grades for westbounds. The original line had a 4.5% grade on the west side until 1909 when the Spiral Tunnels were completed. Luxury passenger travel on this line is provided by Rocky Mountaineer and the Royal Canadian Pacific
Google Map  WikiMapia  Wikipedia

3-Yellowhead Pass
  Canadian National's route over Yellowhead Pass was built by two Railways, the Canadian Northern and the Grand Trunk Pacific. The CNoR completed their line to Vancouver on Jan 23, 1915 and the GTP completed their line to Prince Rupert on April 7, 1914. The two lines were consolidated into one line during a WW 1 scrap drive. Grades are less than 1% due to the elevation of only 3717'. Via Rail Canada operates the Canadian and the Skeena through Yellowhead Pass, which also sees the
Rocky Mountaineer. Yellowhead Pass and the following three passes are on the
divide between the Pacific and Arctic Oceans. 
Google Map  WikiMapia  Wikipedia

4-Summit Lake
  The Pacific Great Eastern built north from Prince George during the 1950s, crossing the Divide at about 2400' along the eastern side of Summit Lake. Another 100 miles to the north the route passes through the Rocky Mountains at 2707' in Pine Pass,
which is not part of the Continental Divide. The PGE became BC Rail during 1972, and on July 14, 2004 Canadian National acquired BC Rail. 
WikiMapia  Wikipedia

5-CN Stuart Sub
  PGE completed the line from Odell to Fort St. James during 1967. This first crossing is in the first mile of the line. This former BC Rail branchline was also acquired by CN during 2004. 
WikiMapia

6-CN Stuart Sub
  The second crossing, near milepost number 5, puts the line back into the Pacific Watershed.
WikiMapia


Mexican Crossings

I have located 23 crossings of the Divide in Mexico, including the abandoned northernmost crossing.

Chihuahua
Mexico's largest State of Chihuahua (PDF Map) had 5 crossings, all of which were on the old Chihuahua al Pacifico Railway. The first two crossings were about 30 miles north of Madera on the right side of this map. The former branch to El Largo is not on the map. The line from Ciudad Juarez (across from El Paso) south to Chihuahua was built by the Mexico North-Western, which became part of the Chihuahua al Pacifico during 1955. This line has been abandoned north of Casas Grandes.
Crossing 1 and 2 Google view

There are three crossings on the left side of this map. The first is between the city of Cuauhtemoc and the junction of Adolfo Lopez Mateos. The other two are to the south, on either side of San Juanito. The line from Chihuahua to the junction and then north was built by the Mexico North-Western. The Kansas City, Mexico and Orient built the line from Adolo Lopez Mateos through San Juanito to Creel. The Chihuahua completed the line from Creel to the coast on November 23, 1961 through the Copper Canyon. Ferromex took over this line during 1998, and they run the Chepe passenger trains.
Crossing 3 Google view
Crossing 4 Google view
Crossing 5 Google view


Durango
The next two crossings of the Continental Divide are in the State of Durango.
(PDF Map) A 130 mile line running north from Durango to Santa Catarina de Tepehuanes crosses at the bottom right corner of this map.
Crossing 6 Google view
1958 Timetable

The route linking Durango with Torreon goes over the Divide on this map just west of Guadalupe Victoria. Since 1998 this line has been operated by the
Ferrocarril Coahula Durango.  Ferrocarril Coahula Durango photos
Crossing 7 Google view


Zacatecas
Zacatecas (PDF Map) has three crossings, two of them on the border with Aguascalientas. The Ferrocarril Coahula Durango line running southeast from Durango through the town of Rio Grande to a connection with Ferromex at Canitas de Felipe Pescador crosses over the Divide on the right hand edge of this map.
Crossing 8 Google view

The mainline of Ferromex runs south from Ciudad Juarez (across from El Paso) to Mexico City and enters the Pacific Watershed as it enters the State of Aguascalientas, on the left side of this map. The Ferrocarril Central Mexicano completed this line in 1884. FCM was merged into NdeM during 1909.
Crossing 9 Google view

About 30 miles to the east on this map. is the 10th crossing, a few miles north of Loreto. This is now a branch of KCS de Mexico from their mainline at San Luis Potosi to Aguascalientes. The line was built by the Ferrocarril Central Mexicano and continued east to the port of Tampico, opening in 1890.
Crossing 10 Google view


Guanajuato
The State of Guanajuato (PDF Map) contains the 11th and 12th crossings, on the left side of this map. Both just a few miles west of the KCSdeM mainline. The northern line is a branchline.
Crossing 11 Google view

The second line is part of KCSdeM's route to the Pacific port of
Lazaro Cardenas, which opened during the 1970s. This line over the Divide opened in 1888 as part of the Ferrocarril Nacional Mexicano, between Mexico City and Monterey. A cutoff to the east was built in 1903 keeping the mainline on the Atlantic side.
Crossing 12 Google view


Queretaro
Queretaro (PDF Map) is the location of the next two crossings. These adjacent lines of KCSdeM and Ferromex go over the Continental Divide just east of Santiago de Queretaro on the right side of this map. The Ferromex line is their mainline between Mexico City and the US border, which opened in 1884. The KCSdeM line runs west to Guadalajara.
Crossing 13 and 14 Google view


Mexico
Mexico (PDF Map) is the most populous State, and surrounds the Distrito Federal, which contains the Capital. The 15th and 17th crossing are in the State, while the 16th is in the DF. Crossing 15 is shown at the top of this map, while number 16 is on the right side. The Ferrocarril Nacional Mexicano opened their route between Mexico City and Monterey during 1888 as a narrow gauge line. This was the mainline until 1903 when a more direct route was opened running north from Mexico City.
Crossing 15 Google view

This line runs south from Mexico City and then descends to Cuernavaca.
Crossing 16 Google view

This one is just south of Amercameca de Juarez on the right side of this map. The narrow gauge Ferrocarril Morelos opened this route in 1881, and it was replaced by a standard gauge line in 1973. The narrow gauge line still exists on the southern slope. Terrific article
Crossing 17 Google view


Tlaxcala
Tlaxcala (PDF Map) is Mexico's smallest State, and has two crossings. The Ferrosur route between Puebla and San Lorenzo goes over the Divide on this
map just south of Ciudad de Nanacamilpa. The Ferrocarril Interoceanico opened this Mexico City-Puebla-Veracruz line in 1892.
Crossing 18 Google view

A Ferrosur line running north of Puebla past the State capital of Tlaxcala crosses the Divide on the left side of this map.
Crossing 19 Google view


Puebla
Puebla (PDF Map) is another populous State, and also has two of the crossings. The 20th crossing is on the Ferrosur route between Puebla and the port city of Veracruz. KCSdeM has trackage rights on this line to reach Puebla. The line runs along the eastern slope of the Volcano Lamaliche on the right hand side of
this map. This was on the 1892 Ferrocarril Interoceanico Veracruz to Mexico City line.
Crossing 20 Google view

Ferrosur crosses the Divide on this line between Puebla and Tehuacan, at the center of this map. This line was built by the narrow gauge Ferrocarril Mexicano del Sur.
Crossing 21 Google view


Oaxaca
The last two crossings are in the southern State of Oaxaca. (PDF Map)
The route heads southeast from Puebla and Tehuacan and goes across the Divide south of the center of this map to reach the State capital Oaxaca. It was built as the narrow gauge Ferrocarril Mexicano del Sur, thanks to Matias Romero. This website mentions riding on this line, and several other trips.
Crossing 22 Google view

The last route was built across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to link ports on the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. This line opened in 1907 across Chivela Pass at an altitude of only 735'. The Pass is on the right hand edge of this map south of Matias Romero. This line is now operated by Genesee and Wyoming's
Ferrocarriles Chiapas-Mayab.
Crossing 23 Google view

Mexican Railway Maps

Mexican Railway Photos

more Mexican Railway photos

more Mexican Railway photos

Ferromex roster

Ferrosur roster

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dale's Trackside Guides

#1-Mississippi River Crossings
This is a study of the Railroad crossings over the Mississippi River.

#2-Amtrak's Current Routes
A detailed accounting of which railroad owns every mile of track used by Amtrak.

#3-Class 1 Railroads in the 1950s 
A summary of the 127 class 1 railroads in 1950.

#4-The Milwaukee Road Mainline
Points of interest on the CMSP&P mainline from Chicago to Seattle and Portland.

#5-Montana Rail Link, I&MRL and IC&E Rosters 

#6-GP30 Ownership
A simple rundown of the dozens of owners of GP30 locomotives.

#7-Amtrak's Original Routes
A look at the routes used by Amtrak on May 1st, 1971.

#8-Continental Divide Crossings
A summary of the railroad crossings of the Continental Divide in North America

#9-Iowa's Counties
A listing of the railroads operating in Iowa's 99 Counties today and in
1985 and 1930.

#10-America's Regional Railroads
A look at the 62 current and former Regional Railroads in the United States

#11-AC Ownership
Owners of locomotives with AC traction motors

#12-Ohio's Counties
A listing of the railroads operating in Ohio's 88 Counties today and in
1985 and 1930.

#13-1980
A look at the events that took place during 1980 affecting America's railroads.

#14-Pieces of the Rock
Surviving rail lines and locomotives of the Rock Island Railroad.

#15-Amtrak's Abandoned Routes
A State by State list of routes previously used by Amtrak.

#16-Missouri River Crossings
A study of the Railroad crossings over the Missouri River.

Dale's Nexus

Dale
  • Member since
    May 2005
  • From: S.E. South Dakota
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Posted by Murphy Siding on Saturday, March 4, 2006 9:29 PM
Once you start putting some of this info into book form, let me know. I'll join the book of the month club.[;)]

Thanks to Chris / CopCarSS for my avatar.

  • Member since
    May 2004
  • From: Valparaiso, In
  • 5,516 posts
Posted by MP173 on Sunday, March 5, 2006 8:38 AM
nanaimo:

When you do a project, you dive right in. I would like to nominate you as the trainsforum Reference Director. I am very appreciative of all the work you do to research all this stuff.

Quick question...I clicked onto Marias Pass. What is that loop connected to the track? Is that for turning the locomotives?

ed
  • Member since
    January 2005
  • From: Ely, Nv.
  • 6,312 posts
Posted by chad thomas on Monday, March 6, 2006 4:41 PM
Hey Dale, There are a bunch of ruleing grades listed on Al Krugs site if your interested go here:

http://www.alkrug.vcn.com/rrfacts/grades.htm
  • Member since
    April 2005
  • From: Nanaimo BC Canada
  • 4,076 posts
Continental Divide Crossings
Posted by nanaimo73 on Thursday, March 9, 2006 1:03 AM
QUOTE: Originally posted by MP173

nanaimo:

When you do a project, you dive right in. I would like to nominate you as the trainsforum Reference Director. I am very appreciative of all the work you do to research all this stuff.

Quick question...I clicked onto Marias Pass. What is that loop connected to the track? Is that for turning the locomotives?

ed


Thanks Ed.
It must be for turning helpers, and probably snowfighting equipment as well. You can see there was a wye there before the loop was built, and I'd guess the loop was put in so the snowplows would not have to back up one of the legs of the wye.


QUOTE: Originally posted by chad thomas
Hey Dale, There are a bunch of ruleing grades listed on Al Krugs site if your interested go here:

http://www.alkrug.vcn.com/rrfacts/grades.htm


I hadn't thought about grades. Great idea!
Dale
  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: NW Wisconsin
  • 3,741 posts
Posted by beaulieu on Sunday, March 12, 2006 12:32 AM
Dale, what about Broad Pass on the Alaska RR.
  • Member since
    April 2005
  • From: Nanaimo BC Canada
  • 4,076 posts
Continental Divide Crossings
Posted by nanaimo73 on Sunday, March 12, 2006 10:00 AM
Hi John.
My maps and these websites say the Divide is about 250 miles north of Fairbanks, at Atigun Pass.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:NorthAmericaDivides.gif  
http://www.prudhoebay.com/Photos_Wagenheim.htm  
http://www.bhoffcomp.com/alaska/d20_atigun01.htm  

Dale
  • Member since
    May 2005
  • From: Where it's cold.
  • 555 posts
Posted by doghouse on Monday, March 13, 2006 7:56 PM
Absolutely first rate work! Thanks for the info on the old El Paso lines.
  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: NW Wisconsin
  • 3,741 posts
Posted by beaulieu on Tuesday, March 14, 2006 12:52 PM
QUOTE: Originally posted by nanaimo73

Hi John.
My maps and these websites say the Divide is about 250 miles north of Fairbanks, at Atigun Pass.



You're, right. Somehow I was under the mistaken impression that the Yukon River was east of the Rockies. I was thinking of the Mackenzie River and its tributaries.
  • Member since
    September 2002
  • From: Grand Rapids, MN, USA
  • 181 posts
Posted by DanRaitz on Saturday, March 18, 2006 8:39 AM
Dale,

Now if you threw in the "Other Continential Divide" (the one between the Gulf of Mexico and Hudson's Bay), you could really have a list. :)

Dan
If women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy .... Red Green
  • Member since
    April 2005
  • From: Nanaimo BC Canada
  • 4,076 posts
Posted by nanaimo73 on Saturday, March 18, 2006 11:31 AM
I don't think I'd enjoy that Dan. Northern Minnesota can be difficult. Something called M&RR went north from Deer River in 1928 and crossed into the Bowstring Lake watershed on two lines, but I couldn't find out where that lake drained. You and John could get together...

[:D]
Dale
  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Oklahoma
  • 76 posts
Posted by PwdOpd on Saturday, March 18, 2006 1:42 PM
A Question. I went through Lordsburg on the way to Phoenix last year and on the way home went through Clifton. I stopped at the Chamber of Commerce in the old depot in Clifton and the lady said there was a daily train from Lordsburg. Outside the depot were two UP maintence of way trucks. My question - Is the line from Lordsburg to Clifton a UP branch line or is it a line of The Arizonua and New Mexico Railway? Does anyone know?

Paul
  • Member since
    April 2005
  • From: Nanaimo BC Canada
  • 4,076 posts
Posted by nanaimo73 on Saturday, March 18, 2006 2:34 PM
QUOTE: Originally posted by PwdOpd

A Question. I went through Lordsburg on the way to Phoenix last year and on the way home went through Clifton. I stopped at the Chamber of Commerce in the old depot in Clifton and the lady said there was a daily train from Lordsburg. Outside the depot were two UP maintence of way trucks. My question - Is the line from Lordsburg to Clifton a UP branch line or is it a line of The Arizona and New Mexico Railway? Does anyone know?

Paul


That line was built by the Arizona & New Mexico and it was purchased by the EP&SW in 1922 and became part of Southern Pacific in 1924.
http://www.hardingcounty.org/History/EP-SP_RR.htm
Dale
  • Member since
    January 2003
  • From: Rock Springs Wy.
  • 1,964 posts
Posted by miniwyo on Saturday, March 25, 2006 1:58 AM
Nanimo- One thing you might not know about the Creston Pass here in Wyoming is that it actually crosses the divide twice in the state. [:P] The Google map that you show is near the eastern part, It croses it again about 40 miles east of Rock Springs but at a bit lower altitude, somewhere near 7000 feet Inside that basin there is almost literally NO water, and the water tabe is down about 400' . The divide splits just south of South Pass and branches out and creates a basin. it cones back together just north of the State line. Wyoming is the only place where while traveling you cna cross the continental Divide twice without doubling back across it. The eas edge of it was created by the Rawlins uplift and the western side made by the Rock Springs uplift. The early pioneers tried to go across it but discovered the lack of water so went north to South Pass. The area is all rich in Oil and Coal so although the area is desolate, you see lots of people out there. There are some great rock formations and fossils in this area too.

RJ

"Something hidden, Go and find it. Go and look behind the ranges, Something lost behind the ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go." The Explorers - Rudyard Kipling

http://sweetwater-photography.com/

  • Member since
    April 2005
  • From: Nanaimo BC Canada
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Posted by nanaimo73 on Saturday, March 25, 2006 5:27 PM
I was looking at that, but decided to go with Creston as it is about 200' higher than either enterance to the Great Divide Basin. I don't disagree with you.
Dale
  • Member since
    January 2003
  • From: Rock Springs Wy.
  • 1,964 posts
Posted by miniwyo on Saturday, March 25, 2006 8:05 PM
I was just putting it out there as a fun fact that most people don't know, I knew you chose Creston becasue it was higher.

RJ

"Something hidden, Go and find it. Go and look behind the ranges, Something lost behind the ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go." The Explorers - Rudyard Kipling

http://sweetwater-photography.com/

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, March 30, 2006 7:42 PM
More about the great divide basin:

Yes, the Rock Springs uplift is responsible for the high that creates the modern continental divide between rock springs and rawlins wyoming. There is, however, some debate as to whether the uplift itself caused the location of the divide, or that the diversion of the Green River did. Some geologists have supposed that the Green River once flowed eastward into the north platte near rawlins, and that it was "captured" by another stream near green river, WY about 600,000 years ago. That event would have diverted the headwaters of the Green River into the Colorado river system rather than the Mississippi river system. Prior to this hypothesized "capture", the continental divide would have been the wyoming range on the Wyoming/Idaho border and the uinta range on the utah/wyoming border. All of wyoming would have drained east to the mississippi river. This hypothesis is championed by Wallace Hanson in various publications and Wilmot Bradley in 1936. There is another geolgist at the community college in rock springs who disagrees with this capture. He and some students have done some extensive mapping of the Green River near Green River, WY.

kevin

  • Member since
    January 2003
  • From: Rock Springs Wy.
  • 1,964 posts
Posted by miniwyo on Tuesday, April 25, 2006 12:08 AM
Nachoman, You are absolutly correct, all evidence does support that the Green River did at one point in time, flow east. The community college professor is Charlie Love, and he is my professor for, you guessed it, Geology. However, there is no evidence to support that there wasnt another river that could have been there. Also the divide could have bery well moved at one point in time from the Wyoming range to its current location along the Rock Springs uplift therefore moving it to its present location.

RJ

"Something hidden, Go and find it. Go and look behind the ranges, Something lost behind the ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go." The Explorers - Rudyard Kipling

http://sweetwater-photography.com/

  • Member since
    April 2003
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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, January 1, 2007 12:46 AM
 nanaimo73 wrote:

This is a look at the railroad lines that crossed the Continental Divide in North America. In the "Lower 48 States", the Divide runs through Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, and also forms part of Idaho's eastern border. There has never been a railroad line built across the Divide in Alaska.

An excellent list and my hat's off to your effort and altruisum.  Could I suggest you refine it to say that you're covering only the Continental Divide that separates waters flowing between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, since there's no accepted definition of The Continental Divide.  My friends at the ARR think that Broad Pass crosses a Continental Divide (between the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea), and who am I to say they are wrong.

I would also list both divides of the Overland Route in Wyoming. 

S. Hadid 

  • Member since
    April 2005
  • From: Nanaimo BC Canada
  • 4,076 posts
Posted by nanaimo73 on Tuesday, January 2, 2007 12:20 PM
 1435mm wrote:

 An excellent list and my hat's off to your effort and altruisum.  Could I suggest you refine it to say that you're covering only the Continental Divide that separates waters flowing between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, since there's no accepted definition of The Continental Divide.  My friends at the ARR think that Broad Pass crosses a Continental Divide (between the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea), and who am I to say they are wrong.

I would also list both divides of the Overland Route in Wyoming.

Thanks for the suggestions. I have made a few changes to clarify those points. 

Dale

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