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The Alpine Tunnel was the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad’s method of crossing the Continental Divide. The expected six month construction period expanded to nearly two years due to the difficulties of working at 11,500 feet, and the poor quality of the local rock. The tunnel was used from 1882 to 1910.
In 1996, the tunnel and thirteen miles of the rail bed was declared a National Historic District. It stretches from Hancock in Chaffee County to Quartz in Gunnison County. Hancock is a ghost town reduced to foundations and rubbish. Please remember that it is illegal to take any historical artifact. The collapsed tunnel portal is a three-mile hike or bike from Hancock. There are interpretive signs but no standing buildings.
The west portal is also sealed by landslides. Much of the station complex is still present, although in ruins. The engine house has tumbled-down rock walls. Railroad fan groups have rebuilt the turn-table support structure. The station house is in good repair.
Regular passenger cars can get to the interpretive site on the west and Hancock on the east, although high-clearance and four-wheel drive do make both trips easier. It takes 4-5 hours to travel between the portals over Monarch, Cottonwood, Tin Cup or Hancock Pass. Located near Pitkin Colorado.
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