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TS18: Remarkable Raton!

Written by: Gary Dolzall.

Santa Fe’s historic and rugged Raton Pass route is coming soon to Train Simulator!

Raton Pass stands among America’s most historic, rugged, and famed railroad mountain crossings – and soon, Santa Fe’s legendary Raton Pass route will be coming to Train Simulator!

Created through the Dovetail Games Partner Programme by noted developer Jonathan Lewis and Milepost Simulations (creators of Train Simulator routes including Canadian Mountain Passes, the Peace River route, and Clear Creek Narrow Gauge), the upcoming Raton Pass route will re-create the early 1990s when Raton Pass was host to Santa Fe warbonnet diesels totting coal and intermodals as well as the stylish Superliner-equipped Amtrak Southwest Chief.

Located in the great American West astride the Colorado-New Mexico border and along the slopes of the hauntingly rugged and remote Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Raton Pass beckoned the railroad builders of the nineteenth century, with both the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe of Cyrus Holliday and the Denver & Rio Grande seeking the pass as a route from Colorado toward the southwest. It was the AT&SF {Santa Fe) that gained control of the pass, and Holliday’s railroad constructed its line over Raton Pass from Trinidad Colorado to Raton, New Mexico in 1878-79. The Santa Fe was destined, of course, to build onward to California and become one of America’s greatest, most successful, and most beloved railroads.

Building and operating a railroad through and over Raton Pass was no simple task. To climb from the Colorado plains (at an elevation of approximately 5,700 feet), Santa Fe’s steel artery followed the path of Raton Creek and required steep grades (up to 3.7 per cent) to reach an elevation of 7,588 feet (the highest point on the entire AT&SF) at the 2,041-foot-long Raton Tunnel. Due to the line’s tough grades, in 1907 the Santa Fe opened its “Belen Cutoff,” which provided an alternative longer but less-steep route (via Amarillo, Texas). The Belen Cutoff became AT&SF’s preferred route for freights, but Raton Pass continued to host many of the railroad’s legendary passenger trains, including, with its inaugural in 1937, the renowned Chicago-Los Angeles Super Chief. Into the latter years of the twentieth century, Raton continued to host passenger services (including, beginning in 1974, Amtrak’s Southwest Chief) as well as select Santa Fe freights, including priority intermodals that with high horsepower-to-tonnage ratios could make good time over Raton’s daunting grades.

Remarkably, extreme tonnage returned to Raton Pass in the early 1990s when unit coal trains were operated between mines in York Canyon (south and west of the pass) to Midwest power plants. And it is this remarkable period – the early 1990s – that the upcoming Raton Pass route will bring to vibrant life. This new Train Simulator route will put you to work handling Santa Fe manifest, intermodal, and heavy coal tonnage – and put you at the throttle of Amtrak’s elegant, Superliner-equipped Southwest Chief.

As masterfully developed by Milepost Simulations, the Raton Pass route will extend from the Colorado plains at Hoehne’s, then to Trinidad where the rugged climb over Raton Pass begins. With steep grades, tight curves, and a mix of single and double track, the path through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to Raton, New Mexico promises both challenging and memorable railroading. South of Raton, the upcoming routes continues to Hebron, New Mexico, and offers a total of approximately mainline 45 route miles as well as yard and interchange facilities.

The upcoming Raton Pass route will provide a superb selection of locomotives and rolling stock. Santa Fe motive power will include two General Electric 4,000-horsepower “Dash 8” locomotives clad in Santa Fe’s famed silver-and-red “Warbonnet” livery: For fast-paced intermodal and manifest duty, the route will include AT&SF’s four-axle (B-B) GE B40-8W, and to haul heavy unit coal trains, Santa Fe’s six-axle C40-8W is included. To power the Amtrak Southwest Chief, Amtrak’s unique GE B32-8WH (Dash 8-32BWH), a locomotive that frequently served on the Southwest Chief in the early 1990s, is included. A complete Amtrak Superliner consist is also featured, including an all-new Amtrak Material Handling Car (MHC). And the route also will provide a fine selection of freight rolling stock, including distinctive articulated “spine car” piggyback flats! Note: The Raton Pass route will be available worldwide. Due to licensing restrictions, Santa Fe markings will appear only on content distributed to U. S. customers.

As the time approaches for the release of Train Simulator’s captivating Raton Pass route, we’ll further explore this remarkable line’s history, impressive features, and challenging operations here at Dovetail Live, so stay tuned! – Gary Dolzall

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Rugged, remarkable – and legendary – Santa Fe’s Raton Pass route is coming soon to Train Simulator! Set in the early 1990s, the route hosts AT&SF’s famed “Warbonnet” diesels totting freight, coal, and intermodals, as well as Amtrak’s Superliner-equipped Southwest Chief. Above Gallinas, Colorado on the steep eastern slope of Raton Pass, a quartet of Santa Fe GE B40-8Ws are twisting upgrade with a priority intermodal. Screenshots by Gary Dolzall.

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The upcoming Train Simulator Raton Pass route will feature two stations served by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief. Amtrak Train 3 – the westbound Southwest Chief – arrives at Raton’s Mission Revival-style station built in 1903 (above), while a Santa Fe manifest rolls past Trinidad’s more contemporary 1960s-built station (below).

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Raton, New Mexico marks the west end of the pass and a Santa Fe manifest with “Warbonnet” clad AT&SF GE B40-8Ws is departing the town of Raton with the climb of the challenging west slope ahead (above). At the summit of Raton Pass, eastbound Santa Fe B40-8W 552 emerges from the east portal of 2,041-foot-long Raton Tunnel, which stands at the New Mexico-Colorado state border (below).

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Raton Pass was the route of many of Santa Fe’s most famous passenger trains, including the Super Chief. Following the creation of Amtrak, the Super Chief was succeeded first by the Southwest Limited and then the Southwest Chief, which continues to ply the route today. During the early 1990s, the Southwest Chief was regularly powered by Amtrak’s flashy GE B32-8WH (Dash 8-32BWH) diesels and Amtrak’s westbound Southwest Chief is passing through Wootton, Colorado and is about to dive into Raton Tunnel.

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Coal traffic moving between York Canyon and the Midwest was a captivating fixture on Raton Pass in the 1990s, and a trio of husky but beautiful AT&SF GE C40-8Ws rolls beneath a signature Santa Fe signal at Jansen, Colorado (above), then moments later swing across the Purgatoire River (below) on the east slope of the upcoming Train Simulator Raton Pass route.

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Approaching Trinidad, Amtrak’s westbound Southwest Chief clatters across the diamonds of the crossing with the Colorado & Southern (above), then meets a Santa Fe eastbound coal train waiting for clearance at Trinidad Yard (below).

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The upcoming Train Simulator Raton Pass route includes approximately 45 mainline route miles and in addition to the rugged crossing of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, features some plains-country fast (up to 75 mph) running. East of Trinidad on the Colorado high plains, Santa Fe C40-8 946 hustles between classic Santa Fe semaphore signals (above), and rolls through a sweeping curve with a long train of York Canyon coal (below).

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Assigned lots of horsepower to tame the grades of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe’s premier transcontinental intermodal trains on occasion utilized Raton Pass rather than the longer route via the Belen Cutoff. Raton Pass stands among America’s most historic and famous railroad mountain crossings – and soon, through the craftsmanship of Milepost Simulations, Santa Fe’s legendary Raton Pass route will be coming to Train Simulator!

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