The Pueblo Option

The route of the Southwest Chief, and all the famous Santa Fe trains that preceded it for a hundred years, followed a straight line from La Junta to Trinidad. Just 50 miles east of La Junta and 40 miles north of Trinidad is Colorado’s third largest metro area, Pueblo. Long ago, trains ran from Pueblo to the two nearby towns, connecting the city to the Chicago – Los Angeles main line.

Revival of such feeder trains is today not possible, but changing the route of the Southwest Chief makes sense. Adding Pueblo as a station stop would generate a significant number of new, fare-paying travelers — more than 15,000 annually, according to an economic study (see A Regional Economic Boon). Some would travel all the way to Chicago or L.A., while others would use the train to visit Santa Fe, Albuqueque, Kansas City, and other mid-points.

The route through Pueblo is not as direct as the current route, so would this significantly increase travel time? Not necessarily. With adequate track improvement, the train could move much faster than it now does.

A Pueblo stop would also link the Southwest Chief to Colorado’s primary transportation artery, I-25. Later, people could use restored Front Range rail to travel from Ft. Collins, Boulder, Denver, or Colorado Springs to Pueblo, then change to the interstate train.