The railroad’s impact on Grand County’s growth


by Braun Horner

The railroad system can take much credit when it comes to the advancement of early settlements and towns. Even now, passengers can enjoy a trip along the Colorado River and back to the station as a day trip. Coal is still being transported, along with other large loads. And the retired equipment from the early days of the railroad has found a resting place in museums for people to enjoy.

The construction of the railroad to Grand County was a challenging undertaking that began in Denver in July of 1902 beginning in Denver and arrived in Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs in 1905 and in Kremmling in 1906. The Moffat Road, officially the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railroad, had been completed and had an enormous impact on the overall growth of Grand County. It brought more people to the county, adding to its population significantly. According to Grand County records, the total population in Grand county in 1901 was 741; this grew to over 1800 residents by 1910.
The first railroad to Grand county had to ascend and descend Rollins Pass. There was even a place for the workers to stay at the Corona Station. This stretch of the railroad was the highest in altitude of its time. Once over Rollins Pass, the train descended into Fraser Valley. According to Fraser history, locals were not too fond of the train, as it often held up trips to school and was awfully loud with the clanking of the steel and the blaring of the horn.

But on the train went, bringing travelers and homesteaders, livestock and supplies, and dreams to and through Grand County. And of course, there were train legends and stories that accumulated throughout the years. One such story is found in an article contributed to Grand County History Stories by Abbott Fay:

courtesy photo – Train heading to Fraser Valley over Rollins Pass.

“The No. 3 westbound was seven hours late out of Denver because of a severe winter blizzard. It crept out of the Fraser Canyon and whistled for the Granby Crossing. The engineer parked the train, intending to wait till daylight to continue on. In the meantime, the No. 2 eastbound, 2 days late out of Craig, reached Corona without passing the No. 3. In the morning, all were amazed to find the train parked at the “plumb center” of Granby’s main street. Later investigation showed that the No. 3 train left the train tracks just east of Granby and traveled almost a mile over a frozen highway. The next day a Chinook wind came up and melted the frozen soil, sinking the train to its axles in mud. It required the building of 1500 feet of special track to salvage the train. However, some longtime Granby residents say the location of this incident was the Kremmling flats.”

Trains use the Moffat tunnel now, instead of Rollins Pass. Passenger and load trains pass by and through Grand County regularly. Thanks to the railroad pioneers and contributors, Grand County was able to establish itself at a respectful pace.