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Man Made Marvels in Colorado
Source: Colorado by the Numbers

Tesla and Nunn Electrify the World

It was in his laboratory in Colorado Springs that he worked from early 1899 to early 1900 to become the first and still only man to create man-made lightning. He used 40,000 feet or wire in a giant transformer to send millions of volts of electricity to a 30 inch copper ball atop an 80 foot wood tower.

Tesla in 1885 sold the patents for his alternating-current generating and transmission systems to George Westinghouse and the Westinghouse Electric Company. What followed was an epic business battle between Westinghouse and Thomas Edison (Tesla once worked for Edison) over the superiority of Tesla's alternating-current system and Edison's direct-current system. It took a banker and attorney in Telluride, Colo. to help settle the issue.

World's Highest Suspension Bridge

The Arkansas River, in its 1,450 mile journey from Colorado's Continental Divide to the Mississippi River, cuts a spectacular, 1,000 foot canyon through a massive granite upthrust at the base of the Rocky Mountains. The canyon, now called Royal Gorge, is an access point for travel in to the high mountains.

1,053 feet above the Arkansas River. 

Completed at a cost of $350,000

Each suspension cable weighs more than 300 tons. The bridge will support more than 2,000,000,000 tons. Total length of the bridge is 1,260 feet, its width is 18 feet.  The span of the bridge between towers is 880 feet. There is 1,000 tons of steel in the floor of the bridge, the deck consists of 1,292 planks, of which roughly 250 are replaced each year. Replacement cost of the bridge is estimated at more than $10,000,000.No major accidents or injuries were recorded.

More than 500,000 visitors a year, and has a 35 passenger aerial tramway and an incline railway.

First of the Great Irrigation Tunnels

A tunnel running from the Gunnison River at the bottom of fearsome Black Canyon, under Vernal Mesa and into the Uncompahgre Valley was first proposed by French gold miner and farmer F.C. Lauzon. 

Work began in 1901 with a 30, 582 feet long tunnel would deliver 1,300 cubic feet per second through the 10.5 foot by 11.f foot tunnel into a 15 mile canal before being deposited in the Uncompahgre River south of Montrose.

Work was slow and dangerous. Crews encountered soft conditions which required costly reinforcements fo the tunnel. Rugged fault zones spewed both hot and cold water. In 1906, the tunnel struck a huge underground water supply that flooded the tunnel with an extimated 25,000,000 gallons of water every 24 hours. With the water came deadly amounts of cardon dioxide. Construction halted while water was pumped out and a 680 foot ventilation shaft could be built to vent the tunnel. Later in 1906, a cave in killed 6 workers.

Pay for the workers averaged $2.36 per day.

Dams that have been built and added to the system include Taylor Park Dam, Blue Mesa Dam, Curecanti Dam, Crystal Dam and Ridgeway Reservoir. Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest body of water in Colorado and helps supply water to Arizona, California and other thirsty down-stream members of the Colorado River Compact.

Colorado Big Thompson Project

The largest of Colorado's several large-scale irrigation projects is the Colorado - Big Thompson Project.  A massive trans-basin project, the CBTP moves water from Colorado's Western Slope under the Continental Divide to provide supplemental water to 30 Front Range cities and towns. The roughly 230,000 acre-feet of water moved under the mountains each year also irrigate approximately 615,000 acres of fertile northeastern Colorado farmland.

Over an area of roughly 9, 750 square miles, the CBTP system is comprised of 35 miles of water tunnels, 95 miles of canals, 700 miles of electricity transmission lines and 12 reservoirs. The system collects water from the Upper Colorado River Basin in Grand County at evelations generally above 8,000 feet. Water is pumped from lower-elevation reservoirs such as Windy Gap and Lake Granby before gravity takes over at Grand Lake and the 13.1 miles Alva B. Adams tunnel under the Continental Divide.

As water travels down from the Adams Tunnel to the cities and farms at elevations around 5,000 feet, it is used to generate electricity. 5 power plants capture the water's energy on the way down and generate 670,000,000 kilowatt hours sold annually through the U.S. Department of Energy.

Reservoirs on the West Slope of the system include Willow Creek, Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain, Windy Gap and Green Mountain. Grand Lake is also utilized, but is a natural lake. On the east side, a series of reservoirs store water for use by municipalities and farmers. They include, Mary's Lake (a natural basin), Lake Estes, Pinewood Reservoir, Horsetooth Reservoir, Carter Lake and Boulder Reservoir.

Cost to end users was $1.50 per acre-foot when applications were first accepted in 1937 and 1938. One acre foot will supply one to two average urban households for one year.

Denver Water Collection System

With more than 1,000,000 customers, Denver Water provides water to roughly 25% of the state's population. Denver Water is not used for agricultural irrigation. Rather it is used for municipal purposes. Some 54% of the water delivered to residential customers is used for landscaping.

Almost all of Denver Water's supply come from mountain snowmelt. A vast collection system is Summit and Grand Counties on the Western Slope, and on the South Platte drainage system on the Front Range, draws snowmelt from roughly 4,000 square miles of winter snowpack.

Denver water maintains almost 657,000 acre feet of water storage in 13 reservoirs, the largest and most important being Dillon Reservoir, with a capacity of 254,036 acre feet.  Water for Dillion Reservoir is collected from the Blue River and its tributaries, then piped under the Continental Divide for use on the Front Range via the Harold D. Roberts Tunnel. At capacity, the tunnel can move 2,023 acre-feet of water a day, or 680,000,000 gallons. The water is deposited in the North Fork of the South Platter River where it become part of the multi-reservoir collection and storage system on the South Platte drainage.

The Moffatt Tunnel was another major engineering achievement in its day. It is the pilot bore of the famous railroad tunnel. At capacity, it can carry 1,280 cubic feet per second.

Denver Water was established in 1918. It is the oldest and largest water utility in the state. Reservoirs adding storage to the Denver Water system are:
Reservoir Capacity acre-feet
Dillon 254,0364
Eleven-mile 97,7791
Cheesman 76,0641
Gross 41,811
Antero 20,015
Marston 19,796
Ralston 10,749
Strontia Springs 7,863
Long Lakes 1,807
Platte Canyon 910
Soda Lakes 645
Williams Fork exchange 96,822
Wolford Mountain exchange 25,606

Denver Water trans-basin diversion tunnels:
Tunnel Length Capacity
Harold D. Roberts 23.3 miles 1,020 cubic feet/second
August P. Gumlick 2.9 miles 550 cubic feet/second
Vasquez 3 miles 550 cubic feet/second
Moffat 6.1 miles 1,280 cubic feet/second

Denver Water uses 2 canals to move water. The High Line Canal, carrying 600 cubic feet per second and City Ditch  at 86 cubic feet per second. Denver Water also used the energy to produce electricity at 5 different power plants; The Wiliams Dam and Power Plant generates 3 megawatts; Strontia Springs Dam, 1 megawatt; Foothills Treatment Plant, 3 megawatts; Dillon Dam, 1.7 megawatt; and Roberts Tunnel, 5.5 megawatts. 1 megawatt = 1 million watts.

3 treatment plants are used in the Denver Water System; Marston Treatment Plant and Moffat Treatment Plant each can treat 200,000,000 gallons per day. Foothills Treatment Plant can treat 270,000,000 gallons of water each day.

Eisenhower Tunnel

During the peak of construction, 1,140 workers were employed in 3 shifts, 24 hours a day, 6 days a week. The final cost of the first tunnel was $108,000,000, 91% of that coming from federal funds. 

From portal to portal, the length of the tunnel is 8,941 feet, or 1,693 miles. The shape of the tunnel vaires from a straight-leg horseshoe to an oval, the oval used where stress is greatest. The rough bore is at maximum 48 feet high, 40 feet wide. Vehicles travel through a finished section of only 16 ft. 4" by 26 ft. wide. The portion of the tunnel not dedicated to vehicles is dedicated to structure and ventilation. East portal elevation of the tunnel is 11,012 feet, the west portal is at 11,112 feet. The Continental Divide crosses over the roadway at 12,608 feet, 1,496 feet above. 

It is the highest vehicle tunnel in the world.

Construction statistics for the first bore were compiled by Colorado Department of Transportation:
Elevation in tunnel 524,00 cubic yards
Portal excavation 90,000 cubic yards
Other excavation 477,000 cubic yards
Concrete in tunnel lining 190, 000 cubic yards
Concrete in building 34,000 cubic yards
Steel reinforcing bars in tunnel 10,000 tons
Structural steel in tunnel 23,400 tons
Structural steel in buildings 2,600 tons
Reinforcing steel in buildings 2,100 tons

The Moffat Railroad Tunnel

David H. Moffat spent a lifetime pursuing his dream of building an efficient railroad route from Denver, through the Rocky  Mountains, and on to Salt Lake City and the Pacific. At one time reputed as the richest man in Colorado, he died penniless after sinking his entire fortune in his railroad dream. While he did succeed in building a spectacular route over the Continental Divide to Rollins Pass, the route never showed a profit due to harsh winter conditions. His dreamed-of tunnel wouldn't become a reality until more than a decade after his 1911 death.

Elevation of the East Portal is 9,198 feet, elevation of the West Portal is 9, 085. the elevation of the apex 9,239 feet. The slight gradients sloping down to each portal allow for natural drainage of the tunnel. At the apex, the tunnel is 2,400 feet below the Continental Divide.

In all, 28 workers were killed during construction of the tunnel, a safety record considered quite good.

The first train passed through the Moffat Tunnel carried lumber from the West Slope on Feb 24, 1928. Official opening ceremonies were held Feb 28, 1928. The ceremonty was broadcast nationwide on KOA radio.

The tunnel bore if 24 feet high, 18 feet wide. During construction, 750,000 cubic yards of rock were removed with the assistance of 2.500,000 tons of dynamite. That equates to 3,000,000,000 pounds of rock, enough to fill 1,600 freight trains of 40 cars each. More than 700 miles of blasting holes were drilled using 800,000 pounds of drill steel. Workers sharpened 1,500 drill bits every day. To shore up the tunnel, more than 11,000,000 board feet of timer was used, an amount equal to 2,000 miles of 1" by 12" plank. Workers were paid an average of $5.15 for an 8 hours shift.

Glenwood Canyon

Federal funds for Interstate 70 from Denver to Cove Fort, Utah, were authorized in 1962. It would take 32 years to finish this section, the last segment being a 12.5 mile stretch through Glenwood Canyon.

By the 1960s, the canyon had become a focal point for preservation and environmental groups. Some, such as the Sierra Club, vowed to block construction of the interstate through the canyon. The effort even drew the attention of celebrities from nearby Aspen. Singer John Denver, became a vocal opponent of the construction project.

A Citizen's Advisory Council was established to liasion with the public and provide critical review of the contruction process. While time consuming, the final design reached nver-before-seen levels of environmental sensitivity and architectural design. The project garnered international attention for its efforts to preserve the beauty and ecosystem of the canyon. Once the final design had been completed, engineers spent an additonal 800,000 hours developing the construction techniques that would have the least amount of environmental impact in the canyon.

Construction started in April 1980. Approximately 500 workers were employed on a daily basis by various contractors associated with the project. To build the 30 bridges and 6.5 miles of viaduct found in the canyon, a 350 foot, 8 legged gantry was used to allow overhead construction once abutments and piers were placed. Several portions of viaduct or bridges were put in place simply to allow wildlife unfettered access to the river. More than 20 miles of retaining walls need to be built, some are 40 feet high. An estimated 150,000 trees and shrubs were planted in a revegetation effort. Where rock walls were blasted during construction, the scarred portions were artifically stained to match the patina of surrounding weathered rock.

Each of the 4 rest areas employ the latest in environmental engineering. The buildings are heated with passive solar technology. The septic system convert human waste to fertilizer in all but the Bair Ranch area.

Opening ceremonies were held on Oct 14, 1992. Final cost of teh project was $90,348,000, 90% of that from federal funds. Three workers killed during construction. Materials used included 1.62,000,000,000 pounds of concrete, 30,000,000 pounds of reinforcing steel and 30,000,000 pounds of structural steel.

Shoshone Dam and Power Plant

Work started on the Shoshone Dam, power plant and a bridge across the river at Shoshone Falls in 1906. Up to 1,000 workers toiled on the $3,000,000 project. The dam is roughly 8 miles from the west entrance to Glenwood Canyon.

The concrete diversion dam still stops the flow of the river, diverting water through a 12 foot high by 16 foot wide, 2.7 miles tunnel through the north canyon wall to the downstream power plant. At the power plant, the water falls 287 feet from the tunnel to turbines near river level. When the powe plant opened in 1909, it had a production rating of 14.4 megawatts. The water, after returning the twin 9,000 horsepower turbines, re-enters the river channel. When power is being produced, the stretch of river between the dam and the power plant to this day runs almost dry.

World's Longest Conveyor System

At $500,000,000, the Henderson Mine and Mill is the largest privately financed consruction project in Colorado. It is owned by Climax Molybdenum Co., a subsidiary of Phleps Dodge Corp.

Development of Henderson Mine began in 1967 when exploration revealed 300,000,000 tons of molybdenum rich ore about 50 miles west of Denver near the southeast flank of Berthoud Pass at the base of Jones Pass. The mine is in Clear Creek County, but the mill is 60 highway miles away in Grand County.

Moving ore from mine to mill for more than 20 years involved a 9,6 mile railroad tunnel (the longest railroad tunnel in North America. Another 5 miles of surface rail connected the mine to the mill. Replacing the railroad tunnel in 2002 is another engineering marvel. Rather than rail cars, the ore now is transported the 15 miles to the mill via a massive conveyor system. The ore travels 1 mile on a conveyor from the crusher ot the old railroad tunnel. From there is is transferred to a 10 mile conveyor that runs through the old tunnel. This conveyor is the longest single-flight conveyor in the world. Another 4 mile overland conveyor then transports the ore to the mill. Climax Molybdenum supplies the following data concerning the 10 mile conveyor, known as Production  Conveyor 2.

Length 55,195 feet
Lift 1,556 feet
Belt Width 48 inches
Speed 1,200 feet per minute max
Capacity 2,500 tons per hour
Installed Power 11,000 hp

Pueblo's Transportation Technology Center

The Transportation Technology Center outside Pueblo, Colo. is a rail transit test facility owned by the U.S. Department of Transportation and operated by the Transportation Technology Center. The center is home to 48 miles of test track, divided into 3 primary testing programs.

The Railroad Test Track if a 13.5 mile oval track used for testing trains at speeds up to 125 miles per hour.

The Facilty for Accelerated Service Testing is a 4.8 miles loop dedicated to testing rail components and cars under high axle loads.

The Transit Test Track is a 9.1 mile oval with overhead electrical and third-rail electrical used for testing rapid transit vehicles at speeds up to 80 miles per hour.





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