List of railroad crossings of the North American continental divide

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A crossing of the North American continental divide is necessary for any transcontinental railroad in North America, and has always been one of the hardest obstacles. This article lists such crossings from north to south.

Canada[edit]

Location Province(s) Elevation Built by Current/Last Years of operation Notes
west of O'Dell British Columbia 747 m (2,451 ft) Pacific Great Eastern Railway Canadian National Railway 1967–present First of two crossings, about 4 miles apart, on CN Stuart Sub[1]
south of Summit Lake British Columbia 716 m (2,349 ft) Pacific Great Eastern Railway Canadian National Railway 1967–present Second of two crossings on CN Stuart Sub[1]
east of Summit Lake British Columbia 728 m (2,388 ft) Pacific Great Eastern Railway Canadian National Railway 1958–present
Yellowhead Pass Alberta and British Columbia 1,110 m (3,642 ft) Canadian Northern Railway and Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Canadian National Railway 1914–present Originally two lines. GTP built 1914, CNoR built 1915. Consolidated into one line in 1917, with some adjustments in 1924
Kicking Horse Pass Alberta and British Columbia 1,627 m (5,338 ft) Canadian Pacific Railway Canadian Pacific Railway 1884–present
Crowsnest Pass Alberta and British Columbia 1,358 m (4,455 ft) Canadian Pacific Railway Canadian Pacific Railway 1897–present

United States[edit]

Location State(s) Elevation Built by Currently Years of operation Notes
Marias Pass Montana 5,213 ft (1,589 m) Great Northern Railway BNSF Railway 1893–present
Mullan Pass Montana 5,566 ft (1,697 m) Northern Pacific Railroad Montana Rail Link 1883–present Passes through the Mullan Tunnel
Elk Park Pass Montana 6,365 ft (1,940 m) Great Northern Railway Burlington Northern Railroad 1888–1972
Homestake Pass Montana 6,328 ft (1,929 m) Northern Pacific Railroad BNSF Railway 1888–present (dormant since 1983)
Pipestone Pass Montana 6,347 ft (1,935 m) Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad 1909–1980 Passed through the Pipestone Pass Tunnel
Deer Lodge Pass Montana 5,801 ft (1,768 m) Utah and Northern Railway Union Pacific Railroad 1881–present Narrow gauge until 1887; railroad name Feely
Bannock Pass Montana and Idaho 7,575 ft (2,309 m) Gilmore and Pittsburgh Railroad Gilmore and Pittsburgh Railroad 1910–1939 Tunnel at summit
Monida Pass Montana and Idaho 6,823 ft (2,080 m) Utah and Northern Railway Union Pacific Railroad 1880–present Narrow gauge until 1886
Reas Pass Montana and Idaho 6,930 ft (2,112 m) Union Pacific Railroad Union Pacific Railroad 1905–1981 Branch to West Yellowstone
South Pass Wyoming 7,420 ft (2,262 m)[2] U.S. Steel U.S. Steel 1962–1983 Served U.S. Steel Atlantic City Ore Mine
Robinson Wyoming 6,940 ft (2,115 m) Union Pacific Railroad Union Pacific Railroad 1868–present Two sides of the Great Divide Basin; Robinson is the true Divide (per USGS)
Hadsell Wyoming 6,930 ft (2,112 m)
Rollins Pass Colorado 11,660 ft (3,554 m) (1904), 9,239 ft (2,816 m) (1928) Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railway Union Pacific Railroad 1904–present Original alignment replaced in 1928 by the Moffat Tunnel [1])
Jones Pass Colorado 8,964 ft (2,732 m)[3] Henderson Mine 1976–1999 Narrow gauge, passed through the Henderson Tunnel; replaced by a conveyor belt; elevation is for west (and only) portal
Boreas Pass Colorado 11,493 ft (3,503 m) Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad Colorado and Southern Railway 1882–1937 Narrow gauge
Fremont Pass Colorado 11,319 ft (3,450 m) Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad Colorado and Southern Railway 1884–1937 Narrow gauge. Line south of Climax retained, converted to standard gauge 1943, now operated by Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad
Fremont Pass Colorado 11,330 ft (3,453 m) Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad 1881–1923 Narrow gauge
Tennessee Pass Colorado 10,424 ft (3,177 m) [2] Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Denver and Rio Grande Railroad 1887–1890 Narrow gauge, replaced by standard gauge Tennessee Pass Tunnel
Tennessee Pass Colorado 10,239 ft (3,121 m) (1890), 10,221 ft (3,115 m) (1945) [3] Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Union Pacific Railroad (dormant) 1890–present (dormant since 1997) Passed through the Tennessee Pass Tunnel (original tunnel built 1890, replaced in 1945)
Hagerman Pass Colorado 11,528 ft (3,514 m) (1887),10,953 ft (3,338 m) (1893) Colorado Midland Railway Colorado Midland Railway 1887–1918 Passed through the Hagerman Tunnel, replaced in 1893 by the Busk-Ivanhoe Tunnel. Reverted to original route between 1897 and 1899
Alpine Tunnel Colorado 11,612 ft (3,539 m) Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad Colorado and Southern Railway 1881–1910 Narrow gauge
Marshall Pass Colorado 10,856 ft (3,309 m) [4] Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad 1881–1953 Narrow gauge. Original D&RG mainline before Tennessee Pass line opened
Azotea New Mexico 7,773 ft (2,369 m) [5] Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad 1880–1968 Narrow gauge
Hillcrest New Mexico 7,714 ft (2,351 m) Rio Grande and Southwestern Railroad Rio Grande and Southwestern Railroad 1903–1924 Narrow gauge
Campbell Pass New Mexico 7,244 ft (2,208 m) Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway BNSF Railway 1882–present
Tyrone New Mexico 5,990 ft (1,826 m) Burro Mountain Railroad Southwestern Railroad Serves Phelps Dodge copper pit; short tunnel under Divide
Wilna New Mexico 4,584 ft (1,397 m) Southern Pacific Railroad Union Pacific Railroad 1883–present
Hachita New Mexico 4,495 ft (1,370 m) Arizona and New Mexico Railroad Southern Pacific Railroad 1902–1934
Vista New Mexico 4,650 ft (1,417 m) (east), 4,694 ft (1,431 m) (west) El Paso and Southwestern Railroad Southern Pacific Railroad 1902–1961 Two crossings 2 miles apart
(name unknown) New Mexico 4,525 ft (1,379 m) Phelps Dodge Phelps Dodge 1970s–1999 Line served Hidalgo Smelter
Antelope New Mexico 4,510 ft (1,375 m) El Paso and Southwestern Railroad Southern Pacific Railroad 1902–1961

ST Paul Pass Milwaukee Road 4,755 FT Tunnels and Infrastructure are still in place for any group of investors daring enough to resurrect the greatest Transcontinental railroad to ever disappear from The United States. It would be the cheapest per mile Re-construction of a Transcontinental Railroad ever. Bridges and Tunnels will accommodate Double stack Containers. The US government converted it to rails to trails with the Grandfather Clause option for any North American Railroad to Reopen this grade by simply filing with the NTSB. The towns along the route will happily assist with the rebuilding of this route. The Lookout Pass Route is also available for a connection to the Montana Rail Link, and BNSF Railway. Please send Inquiries to The National Transportation Safety Board. Before Abandonment Of The St Paul Pass Route, The Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul & Pacific had just spent millions upgrading bridges and Tunnel Heights to accommodate the Tri-Level Auto rack cars that stand at approximately the same height as a double-stack container car when fully loaded. This was once the Electrified Division where the use of Boxcabs and "Little Joe" Electric locomotives were implemented to more efficiently pull freight through the mountains using Hydro-Electric and green power to pull their trains through the mountains. They were ahead of their time. THis would also be an excellent choice for any high speed Transcontinental Line as route gradients were far lower than any other mountain pass rarely rising above 2.5%. To put in in perspective all other Transcontinental routes gradients seldom fall below 3% and rise to as much as 3.5%... Google Earth St Paul Pass, also Harlowton MT, And Avery Id, to see the routes infrastructure. Government Grants and Full Cooperation Of The United States Government will support any group that files to rebuild and operate this once magnificent Railroad. Once the route of The Famed Hiawatha. These towns desperately need the economic stimulus.

Mexico[edit]

El Chepe train at Divisadero Chihuahua, 8 February 2009
Location State(s) Elevation Built by Currently Years of operation Notes
Divisadero Chihuahua 2,270 m (7,448 ft) Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México Ferromex 1961–present
Francisco I. Madero Durango 2,000 m (6,562 ft) Ferrocarril Coahuila Durango 1892–present
Niza Conejo
Chivela Pass
Oaxaca 224 m (735 ft)[4] Ferrocarril Nacional de Tehuantepec Ferroistmo 1894–present

Central America[edit]

Culebra summit; December 1854
Location Elevation Built by Current or last operator Years of operation Notes
Chato Guatemala International Railways of Central America (div. of United Fruit) FEGUA[5] 1908–1996
Ochomogo Pass Costa Rica 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) Incofer 1870s[6]–1991[7] 9°53′55″N 83°56′42″W / 9.898637°N 83.945031°W / 9.898637; -83.945031 (Ochomogo)
Culebra Cut Panama 80.4 metres (264 ft) Panama Railroad Company Panama Canal Railway Company (div. of Kansas City Southern Railway) 1855–present 9°3′24″N 79°38′20″W / 9.05667°N 79.63889°W / 9.05667; -79.63889

The Ecocanal is a proposal to build a rail line across Nicaragua from Monkey Point on the Caribbean to Corinto on the Pacific.[8] If built, the rail line will cross the continental divide in Nicaragua, likely at a point north of Lake Nicaragua.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Continental Divide Crossings - Trackside Guides - Trains Magazine - Trains.com online community". 4 March 2006. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  2. ^ "Pacific Springs, Wyoming, USGS 7.5 minute topographic map via Topoquest". USGS. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  3. ^ "Ute Peak, Colorado, USGS 7.5 minute topographic map via Topoquest". USGS. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  4. ^ Public Domain Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Tehuantepec". Encyclopædia Britannica 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 507. 
  5. ^ Williams, Glyn (2007). "Railways of Guatemala". Retrieved 14 October 2011. 
  6. ^ Public Domain Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Costa Rica". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  7. ^ Youd, T. Leslie (1993). "Costa Rica Earthquake, Limon, April 22, 1991". Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
  8. ^ "Dry Canal Project in Nicaragua Advances". Central America Data. 3 November 2010. Retrieved 17 October 2011.