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Trains have not rumbled across the Tennessee Pass Line’s bridge at Redcliff since 1997. A Texas-based freight mover has secured a lease to revive train traffic on the line, but an eastern Colorado land baron is contesting the plan. (Jason Blevins, The Colorado Sun)

The Rio Grande Pacific Corp., based in Fort Worth, Texas, has the lease to run trains on the long-dormant lines between Cañon City and Dotsero.

But it will be many years before passenger cars and tankers filled with the freight-mover’s crude oil traverse Tennessee Pass — and not just because costs to fix the line that last saw trains in 1997 will reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars. A billionaire grain and hemp baron on the Eastern Plains is girding to battle Rio Grande Pacific for the right to run trains on the historic Tennessee Pass Line.

Stefan Soloviev, heir to his father’s Manhattan high-rise real estate fortune and owner of more than 350,000 acres of farmland in Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico, has spent the past year pushing the federal Surface Transportation Board and local Colorado communities and agencies to support his bid to ship his grain on the Tennessee Pass line.

Tennessee Pass Line and surrounding rail lines. (Surface Transportation Board filing)

But on Dec. 31, Rio Grande Pacific Corp. announced it had secured a lease on the Union Pacific tracks. The Texas rail company is the planned operator of a proposed rail line in Utah that will connect mountainous oil fields to the national rail network, raising concerns that trains of crude could be traversing Tennessee Pass, Browns Canyon and the Royal Gorge.

The Rio Grande Pacific Corp.’s new subsidiary Colorado Midland & Pacific Railway Co. said this week it was launching a listening tour of communities along the 209-mile route to discuss possible passenger and freight service. And Soloviev, who last year urged the federal Surface Transportation Board to force Union Pacific to sell the long-dormant Tennessee Pass Line to his Colorado Pacific Railroad, which serves his sprawling empire of farmland on the plains, announced plans to protest the lease.

Read more from Jason Blevins, Colorado Sun.

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