Raton Pass's Current Status?

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Raton Pass's Current Status?

Unread postby Racer » Sun Nov 10, 2013 1:34 pm

I was reading the December issue of Trains Magazine and one article covers the Raton Pass and it's semaphore signals. Aside from the signals themselves, there was brief discussion that the line is in "danger". Aside from Amtrak running 1 eastbound and 1 westbound Southwest Chief a day, what else operates over this line? If these trains get relocated, could BNSF abandon this line?
Last edited by Racer on Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Raton Pass's Current Status?

Unread postby Saturnalia » Sun Nov 10, 2013 1:40 pm

IIRC Raton is doomed unless the states pony up to keep the Chief.
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Re: Raton Pass's Current Status?

Unread postby SD80MAC » Sun Nov 10, 2013 1:59 pm

IIRC there aren't any BNSF trains that use the entirety of the line anymore.
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Re: Raton Pass's Current Status?

Unread postby Ypsi » Sun Nov 10, 2013 2:28 pm

SD80MAC wrote:IIRC there aren't any BNSF trains that use the entirety of the line anymore.

Correct, BNSF doesn't run trains, and Amtrak only has the two. BNSF also doesn't keep it up to speed, the trains article mentioned speed restrictions which make it easy to chase the SW chief in tha area
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Re: Raton Pass's Current Status?

Unread postby Racer » Sun Nov 10, 2013 3:14 pm

That's too bad! It seems like such a scenic line that will likely become a scenic bike trail at some point (If it will even be rail banked).
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Re: Raton Pass's Current Status?

Unread postby Norm » Sun Nov 10, 2013 3:19 pm

BNSF could use it as a "safety valve" should something close the transcon. They are not using it for through trains and neither Amtrak or the states are willing to pick up the cost of maintaining it to class 4 standards. The grade on Raton Pass is the primary reason for BNSF not using it at present. If no one is willing to pick up the costs, Amtrak is likely to get it's route changed.
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Re: Raton Pass's Current Status?

Unread postby Saturnalia » Sun Nov 10, 2013 3:28 pm

It is a classic case of something being worth nothing in the marketplace*, useless to its for-profit owner, everybody wants to save it, but no one wants to pay for it. It is a game of chicken until it is either paid for or abandoned.

*obsolete for BNSF, a money pit for the gov't to maintain alone
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Re: Raton Pass's Current Status?

Unread postby Racer » Sun Nov 10, 2013 3:43 pm

Norm wrote:BNSF could use it as a "safety valve" should something close the transcon. They are not using it for through trains and neither Amtrak or the states are willing to pick up the cost of maintaining it to class 4 standards. The grade on Raton Pass is the primary reason for BNSF not using it at present. If no one is willing to pick up the costs, Amtrak is likely to get it's route changed.


I read in the past that the New Mexico DOT would *try* to purchase and control the line for the possibility to expand the Rail Runner and allow freight tenants (Like the Michigan Line), but that talk was many years ago. One of the issues was Colorado did not want to control their end of the line and BNSF had no interest in spending more on their maintenance since the last train BNSF ran on Raton Pass was around 2009/10. That train was a move to collect all the empty flatcars stored on the York Canyon branch and BNSF has not ran a freight train over the pass since. Also, there are supposedly no customers past Las Vegas, NM, but BNSF and Rail Runner are still very active on the southern end of the line.

Amtrak also has their issue of getting the train onto the Southern Transcon without severing their service to Albuquerque via backtracking which has been done when there is winter storms on the Raton Pass. Seems like they still have a few issues to move the trains off the Raton Pass, but it's anyone's guess if it will be used for the Rail Runner, mothballed (Like Tennessee Pass), or ripped-up.
Last edited by Racer on Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:51 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Raton Pass's Current Status?

Unread postby Norm » Sun Nov 10, 2013 8:04 pm

IIRC, Rail Runner only wanted to go as far as Santa Fe.
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Re: Raton Pass's Current Status?

Unread postby Racer » Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:18 am

Norm wrote:IIRC, Rail Runner only wanted to go as far as Santa Fe.


Like I said, it was talks according to some posts on Train Orders and boards from rail fans in the Albuquerque area, but they were back in 2007 and 2008 when the BNSF stopped running trains over the pass. If the state won't fund the Amtrak trains and move, the section of the line between Las Vegas, NM (Maybe further west) and Trinidad, CO will definitely be in trouble. BNSF is still regularly operating trains between Albuquerque and Belen along with the Rail Runner and these Amtrak Trains, but Belen to Las Vegas is the potential for a shortline if an abandonment is made between the Las Vegas and Trinidad, Colorado section. IIRC, the line from Las Vegas and west towards Belen still has a few customers around. Colorado has mentioned long-term plans for commuter trains between Pueblo and Trinidad, Colorado, but it doesn't appear to be a guarantee.
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