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Gunnison History Tracker
Alpine Tunnel Historic District
The Alpine Tunnel Historic District includes approximately 13 miles of the former Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad railbed across the Continental Divide from Hancock to Quartz, as well as the Alpine Tunnel itself. Constructed in 1880-1881, the district illustrates the engineering and operational challenges faced by the Colorado mountain railroads in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Alpine Station -
   West from the tunnel, you approach the location where the 50-foot turntable was located, on the right side of the railbed, which was moved from St. Elmo in 1899. Then as you continue west, on the left of the railbed, is a platform base where the water tank was built to replace the tank that burned in the enginehouse fire. This tank was moved by the railroad to Boreas Pass and stands there today as the Baker Tank on the High Line Route of the Denver, South Park, & Pacific.
  Beyond the West Portal exit of the tunnel at Milepost I, at a elevation of 11,460 feet, stood the Alpine Tunnel Station, the highest station in the nation. The station was also an telegraph office, which its communication was a life-line to the railroad. The single #9 galvanized wire system controlled the entire railroad, and run on poles along the entire length of the railroad.
  This was the very heart of railroad operations. Upon the near completion of the tunnel in 1881, the Denver, South Park, & Pacific Railroad constructed two stone structures. A enginehouse, which contained an enclosed water tank, coal bunker, turntable, locomotive service area, and the enginehouse was large enough to hold six locomotives. Also was a stone section house, which had a kitchen, dining room, pantry, and several bedrooms. Both structures were crafted by Italian masons, of locally quarried, hand fitted granite, with finely dressed stone quoins, lintels, sills, and door and window trim. Records indicate a bunkhouse, store house, and wash house were also constructed at the time. The section house was abandoned by 1896, while the enginehouse was destroyed by fire in 1906. Both structures remain today as crumbling ruins located across from the restored telegraph office.
  The telegraph office was constructed in 1883, remains as the centerpiece of the tunnel complex restoration efforts. Ongoing volunteer help he’s re-constructed the station platform and re-laid 120-feet of original Denver, South Park, & Pacific rails.
  The Colorado & Southern Railroad built a coaling platform and water tank to replace those destroyed in the 1906 enginehouse fire. Likewise, a two-story wooden boarding house, underground storage cellars, and outhouses were constructed.
  The boarding house provided dining and bunking facilities for the assigned year round support personnel. This structure remained standing until the early 1960’s, when it succumbed to the ravages of the harsh winters.  There was also a turntable, water tank, boarding house, and a stone enginehouse.
  Today, the area is known as the Alpine Tunnel Historic District, which consists of a 200-foot wide right of way, along 13 miles of original Denver, South Park, & Pacific rail bed. The East Portal of the tunnel has collapsed, and the West Postal is covered by a landslide. You can access the West Portal on a road that travels the old rail bed from ten miles from Pitkin, up to the Palisades, where a landslide has taking the 4-wheel jeep road out. Walking traffic from there, where visitors can see the the remains of the old enginehouse that had burned in 1906, along with the restored railroad station house and turntable.