• Denver and Salt Lake Denver Passenger Station

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by Desertdweller
I just returned today from a weekend meeting in Denver. On my way home through Lower Down Town (LoDo) I thought I would take advantage of the light traffic condition to check out the environs of Denver Union Station. Specifically, I wanted to see if the old D&SL station was still standing.

I had checked out the site some months ago on Google Earth. The station was still there then, but no recent photo was available of it. The two existing pictures on Google Earth showed a gray, badly deteriorated building. I don't know how it ever managed to escape the Urban Renewal wrecking ball of the mass-destruction era of the sixty's and seventy's.

I was extremely pleased to see the building, right where the satellite photo showed it was. Only the headhouse remains. It sits on a little plot of grass amid some new streets and massive buildings, on the banks of Cherry Creek. The building now houses the Little Raven Art Gallery. I did not stop for a personal inspection, but suspect the building has been put on the Register of Historic Places. I wish I had taken pictures (my camera was packed in my suitcase in the truck of my car). But I am reasonably confident it will still be there the next time I am in Denver.

The building has seen some external restoration. It is wearing fresh brick red paint. There is an unmistakable archway over the grand front entrance.

I did a Google search for "Little Raven Art Gallery", but found no pics of the building. Apparently, its present occupants are more interested in their art inside the building than the art of the structure itself. That is too bad, it is a grand and historically significant structure.

This building has special appeal to me because of the story behind it. The Denver and Salt Lake was a late competitor to the Denver and Rio Grande. It attempted to put in operation a more direct route between Denver and Salt Lake City than the roundabout routes of the D&RG and the UP. It effected this by boring a massive tunnel under the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Unfortunately for them, this cost so much money that the railroad was unable to complete its line down the Western Slope. The railroad effectively ended at Craig, up the Yampa Valley past Steamboat Springs. The man behind the undertaking was David Moffat. His big tunnel now bears his name.

Moffat would like to have become a partner in Denver Union Station, but in the true Robber Baron fashion of the era, Denver and Rio Grande refused to allow him use of the facility. So he built his own terminal station about a quarter mile from the edifice of DUS. From the location of the Moffat terminal, DUS still looms to the northeast.

The Rio Grande slowly took over their smaller competitor. They completed a main line connection (the Dotsero Cutoff) between the D&SL line west of the tunnel to their own main line north of Tennessee Pass. This saved them 250 miles getting to Salt Lake from Denver. The former main line via the Royal Gorge and Tennessee Pass became a secondary main, then was mostly taken out of service by the time of the UP takeover of D&RGW/SP.

By today's standards, the Rio Grande would only be a regional railroad, and the Moffat Road only a shortline. But in it's day, the D&SL was a David taking on a Goliath. The final corporate takeover of the D&SL happened in 1949. I assume the old station has been out of service at least since then.

I have this station represented on my N-scale railroad, but it is located here northwest of DUS instead of southwest (I had to rearrange things a bit to make everything fit). I still have two station tracks to it and its abandoned platform. I use it as overflow tracks for D&RGW passenger trains, as I assume the real D&RGW had. My station building is a boarded-up frame building that in no way resembles the prototype. but now that I know what it is supposed to look like, I'll fashion a better replacement out of DPM modular brick walls. I am going to place a well-dressed N-scale figure alone on the platform. David Moffat looking at what has happened to his railroad.

DUS happens to be out of service now too. The once-massive terminal track layout between the station building and the South Platte River was reduced to just three tracks after the coming of AMTRAK. (I used to joke that my Denver Union Station has more tracks than the real thing.) But now, with the anticipated coming of heavy commuter rail, all the tracks have been torn out. The great headhouse looks out on a torn-up area filled with piles of dirt, broken concrete, and heavy construction equipment. AMTRAK trains are having to make due with some sort of AMSHAK north of the terminal. That should do nicely for now, as there are no trains that terminate at the terminal.

  by mtuandrew
Very interesting post, desertdweller! For those who are interested in seeing an older picture of the Moffat depot, check this out: http://digital.denverlibrary.org/cdm4/i ... X=1&REC=11 Handsome building too, and hopefully one whose future is secured by the 16th Street corridor being such a hit. Once I get to visit Denver, I'll check it out.
  by Desertdweller
I did a little more checking, and the building is indeed on the National Register of Historic Places.