Sunday, April 08, 2007

Poor Stepchild

Continuing on the subject of Wyoming to New Mexico Passenger Rail:

We know that turning the Wyoming – New Mexico Passenger Rail corridor into a High Speed Rail line wouldn’t favor New Mexico. If there had been an easier, flatter way to get from the likes of La Junta, Colorado, to Las Vegas, NM, the old Santa Fe would have used it when they had a chance. Yes, the Santa Fe could have dropped south further east and taken a water level routing through the mountains and mesas that strangely extend too far east from the Rockies along the NM-CO border – but the old Santa Fe was shooting for Pueblo and the riches of Colorado miners. New Mexico and El Paso were afterthoughts that became more desirable as competition with the Rio Grande heated up. But we don’t see any use for one of those routings now.

Even La Junta is too far out on the eastern plains for a practical north-south high-speed line. So getting into New Mexico, the proposed passenger line would probably have to follow the old Raton Pass line of the AT&SF anyway.

Practically speaking, it could take a decade to bring Raton-Santa Fe up to nominal standards, more to get high-speed running. The latter would need significant grade relocation, maybe tunnels, and certainly many environmental impact studies. Not least, the Raton tunnel, the high pass at Glorietta, and the narrow way through Apache Canyon would have to be eliminated.

South of Santa Fe, HSR would not have a problem with the old right-of-way. Even today, it could be a rocket ride from Galisteo to Albuquerque if New Mexico (remember the state owns the tracks) would get rid of the jointed rail, poor ties, and equally outdated semaphore block signals. (As a rail historian, Mister Trains loves these old signals. There could be a way to save them, but the objective is Revamp Nothing.) The rest of the way to El Paso could be made equally fast with a minimum of investment compared to what would have to be done in the Raton area.

Blogger's Note: Some portions of the track from Galisteo to Belen are FRA approved for 79 mph now, notably some of the Rail Runner route. This route will not be approved for 99 mph until such time as the state relays the track. That's still well short of desirable HSR speeds.

So we figure that Pueblo should be sold as a destination-positive for travelers wanting to take the slow ride down the scenic Santa Fe. Let a tourist cruise take the travelers south to Santa Fe, where they can get artsy with the tartsy and then continue HSR down to El Paso if desired. The same could work from the opposite direction.

But as a fast trip Albuquerque-Denver, it won’t work for a lotta years, if ever.

©2007 - C. A. Turek -
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