SP/SSW How the Moffat Tunnel ended the SP

Tony Burzio Feb 3, 2019

  1. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

    Many years ago, a man named Philip Anschutz owned a company the ran fiber optic cables along railroads, primarily along the SP Sunset Route. One year, he decided to run a fiber link from Denver to Salt Lake City along the Moffat Route of the DRGW. To his dismay, the Moffat tunnel commission told him that only a railroad could use the tunnel. Since fiber bandwidth was a huge money maker, he bought the D&RGW to secure access. One additional perk to owning a railroad was you got to play golf with other industry leaders, and when he met the head of UP, he realized the man was very full of himself. Researching the UP, Anschutz quickly realized that UP had a huge Achilles Heel, their railroad doesn’t actually make it to Chicago, it stops in the middle of nowhere, Omaha Nebraska. UP relied on a friendly connection with the CNW to make it the rest of the way. UP also had lore about how they had outsmarted the SP in Salt Lake, cutting off their connection when they bought the WP. Anschutz knew he had the perfect sting. First, he called the CNW and asked, “do you want to make a huge amount of money?” They said yes. So, they started the plan. First, UP would never be afraid of the DRGW, so they bought the SP. Next, they started a taconite-coal backhaul with CNW and SP, then gave Trains Magazine an exclusive story. To add spice, SP took one track off of the Donner Pass Route, and used the track to add double track to part of the Sunset Route, all to make it appear that SP and CNW were going to use the sunset-CNW and become friendly, if not merge completely. The head of UP saw what was happening, it was a flip of their SP gambit, and it could destroy the UP! Frothing at the mouth, UP bought both the DRGW/SP and the CNW, then tore those railroads apart, destroying their corporate offices and papers so the railroads could never be recreated by the Feds to threaten UP again. This threw the country into a crisis as UP melted down, but UP was safe so they didn’t care. Oddly enough, Anschutz and the CNW executives made a mint off the deal, and Anschutz was even elected to the UP board. Perfect sting!
    BoxcabE50 and Kurt Moose like this.
  2. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

    What does Anschutz do in UP now?
  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Wow. Never looked at it this way. It all does seem quite plausible.
    Kurt Moose likes this.
  4. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    Anschutz was an astute investor in his prime, with gains in energy, sports and real estate, as well as in railroading. His vision is indeed quite extraordinary. The SP was a rather beaten down property when he acquired it and I'll bet the selling price was favorable.
  5. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

    In a very special way, the SP was doomed the day the D&RG ran out of money to build all the way to Creede.

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