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Hagerman Pass and the Colorado Midland Railway

Wednesday – Saturday, July 27-30, 2022

This Thursday and Friday I was going to be attending the GIS Colorado Summer Meetup which was being held at Turquoise Lake near Leadville and then I planned to spend the rest of the weekend exploring the surrounding area. I was hoping to get plenty of hiking in during the evenings and over the weekend, but that didn’t end up happening and I spent most of the time meeting new people and relaxing around camp, which was a nice change of pace. Although the weather forecast had been calling for a wet and stormy couple of days at the end of the week, we didn’t see much rain at the campground, but it was still overcast and cloudy much of the time. These are some photos I took over the days I was in the area.

I left after work on Wednesday afternoon and took the scenic route over Hagerman Pass to get to the group campsite near Turquoise Lake.

Peak View

Crossing over Hagerman Pass at 11,925 feet along the Continental Divide.

Hagerman Pass Sign

Once over the pass there was a view over Hagerman Lake to Mount Massive.

Hagerman Lake & Mount Massive

Driving down the other side of the Hagerman Pass Road on my way towards Leadville.

Hagerman Pass Road

A nice view of Mount Elbert taken one morning from near the Sugarloaf Dam.

Mount Elbert Morning

 

The Colorado Midland Centennial Trail to the Hagerman Tunnel

On Friday afternoon I went on a short hike along the old railroad grade of the Colorado Midland Centennial Trail to the Hagerman Tunnel with two other guys who were attending the Summer Meetup. This turned out to be a nice hike not too far from our campsite and the tunnel at the end was much more interesting than I was expecting it to be.

Born 1883, Died 1921 – The Colorado Midland Railway was the first standard gauge pike over and through the Colorado Rockies. It had less than 350 miles of track, never made any money yet has excited the imagination of railroad lovers as have few railroads in the nation – the section of railbed that you are about to walk over leads through fallen-in snowsheds, over trestles no longer in existence, to the lofty Hagerman Tunnel, 11,530 feet above sea level, which pierced the Rockies – in your walk you will see the almost forgotten site of a magnificent curved wooden trestle 1,084 feet long.

Colorado Midland Centennial Trail Sign

Luckily we got a break from the overcast sky for a while and enjoyed views with blue sky and puffy white clouds as we followed the trail up the old railroad grade along the Continental Divide.

Railroad Canyon

Colorado Midland Grade

Colorado Midland Centennial Trail

Railroad Canyon II

Although none of the trestles that were once used along this route are still standing, here are two historic photos of the large trestle that used to be here that was known as the Great Trestle.

      

Just before reaching the tunnel there was a nice view over this little tarn.

Continental Divide Tarn

This is the east portal of the Hagerman Tunnel. The highest railroad tunnel in the world at the time of its completion in 1887. The great tunnel is 11,530 feet above sea level. It is 2,161 feet long, 16 feet high, 18 feet wide, and cost $200,000 – – It was replaced in 1890-91 by the Busk-Ivanhoe (later Carlton) Tunnel further down the road to Leadville. The Hagerman Tunnel was used briefly again in 1898-99 but was soon abandoned.
DANGER DON’T ENTER

Hagerman Tunnel Sign

All the old railroad tunnels that I have visited in the past have either been closed by rockslides or blocked off, so I was a little surprised to find this one was still open.

Hagerman Tunnel

The floor of the tunnel was covered in a sheet of ice that was probably five or six feet thick and it was nice and cool inside.

Thick Ice

After checking out the tunnel for a bit we started our hike back down the railroad grade so we would be back to camp in time for dinner.

Old Railroad Grade

Trail View

Hagerman Lake

Hagerman Lake

 

Weston Pass

On Saturday morning I was planning to visit a couple of peaks near the top of Weston Pass and drove up there to begin the hike, but by the time I arrived I really wasn’t feeling up to hiking this morning and decided to skip it, so I drove back down to Leadville for an early lunch instead.

Driving down the Weston Pass Road.

Weston Pass Road

Big Union Creek

 

Douglass City

When we visited the Hagerman Tunnel on Friday we had missed visiting the ghost town of Douglass City along the way since we didn’t know exactly where it was and we were short on time to get back to camp and didn’t have the time to look for it. Since I decided to drive back home over Hagerman Pass on Saturday afternoon, I stopped at the trailhead for the Colorado Midland Centennial Trail again and hiked up to visit Douglass City this time.

Typical of the short-lived ghost towns of the Colorado Rockies was Douglass City – the remains of which you see here. Douglass City however was built for a different purpose – to house the Italian construction workers who labored on the Colorado Midland in this area and who helped construct the Hagerman Tunnel, trestles etc. — This one street “city” had eight saloons, mostly in tents plus a dance hall. Here the “professor” played the piano while the “ladies of the evening” too jaded for Leadville, entertained and took the laborers’ money. The wild city was the scene of drinking, shooting, fighting, knifing, and others innocent pleasures.

Douglass City

This was the most complete cabin still found at the site.

Douglass City Cabin

Historic artifacts found around Douglass City.

Douglass City Relics

There wasn’t much left of most of the cabins at this site, like this one where only the corners of the structure remain.

Four Corners

 

Hagerman Pass to the West Portal of the Hagerman Tunnel

After visiting Douglass City I returned to my Jeep and started my drive back over Hagerman Pass. Once I crossed to the other side of the pass I thought it would be interesting to see if I could visit the West Portal of the Hagerman Tunnel and headed up in that direction.

Glacier Creek Overlook

Glacier Creek Overlook

Ivanhoe Lake

Ivanhoe Lake

After driving around Ivanhoe Lake I could see that there was rain headed my way.

Incoming Rain

Of course, the rain caught up to me just as I neared the West Portal of the Hagerman Tunnel. I was surprised to find that this side of the tunnel was still open, too. There was no sheet of ice on this side, but it looked there was at least a foot of standing water on the floor. I didn’t stick around long since I started to hear rumbles of thunder while I was here.

Hagerman Tunnel West

A rainy view over the Fryingpan River as I started my drive back home.

Fryingpan Rain

>> Hagerman Pass Photo Gallery

2 Comments

  1. Robert L Walters
    Robert L Walters August 10, 2022

    I don’t comment often, but I enjoy reading your posts and seeing your photos. Thanks for taking time to do so.

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