RTD C LINE
By Steve Bulota
line operates between Union Station and Mineral Ave.
Monday thru Friday. It encompasses the
Central Platte Valley Spur, which it shares
E line. It
joins the original Central Corridor at the Colfax Avenue
Service began on April 5, 2002.
Initially, C trains operated seven days a week, but ran
to Mineral Ave. only during peak hours and
sporting events. At all other times, C service
operated to I-25/Broadway. On May 3, 2003, C
trains began operating to Mineral Ave. at all times.
With the opening of the Southeast Corridor on November
17, 2006, regular weekend C service was discontinued
except for certain sporting events, when trains operate
from two hours before the event until one hour after the
event has concluded.
Put-in trains commence
loading passengers at 10th
The C line normally operates two-car
trains except before, during and after sporting events,
when three-car trains are used.
Let’s board a southbound C train at
Union Station. Prior to being retrofitted,
100-series cars were marked “Mineral” and
the flip sign displayed a C on an orange background.
The electronic signs will alternately display, “C Line,”
Union Station/Lower Downtown (LoDo)/Coors
Two tracks with
both center and outside platforms.
Doors open on both sides on
both tracks. Four-car trains can be accommodated.
Street Free MallRide shuttle buses pull up right next to
the outside boarding area on the east side.
Although the light rail station has a lengthy name, it
is announced as, and trains are marked simply, “Union
Station”. Tickets purchased from machines are
marked, “LoDo”. Coors Field, the home of National
League’s Colorado Rockies baseball team since 1995, is
only three blocks away at 20th
and Blake Streets. The center boarding area has
two canopies while the outside northbound boarding area
includes a full-length canopy. Both tracks are
embedded in concrete along the entire length of the
station and remain so until the line joins the
Consolidated Freight Corridor. The light rail station is
behind Union Station between 16th
Streets, and is accessed on foot from Wewatta and 16th
Streets or via an existing underpass from the depot.
This tunnel passes beneath the active Amtrak station
tracks and platform, and light rail passengers emerge
onto a covered walkway. The station access stairs
are the same ones which once led to Track 9 while Amtrak
trains use Tracks 1 and 2. There is room between
the light rail station and the Amtrak platform for
future lines coming in from the north, and although
several older platforms have been removed at track
level, the platform stairways leading to the underpass
are still in place. ADA accessibility to and from
the underpass is provided by a concrete ramp to the
light rail station and by elevator to the depot.
Union Station is Denver’s historic
railroad depot, on the National Register
of Historic Landmarks, and is planned to become the
major transportation hub downtown. RTD acquired
the building and surrounding property from private
owners in 2000 for $50 million, with the city of Denver
pitching in to cover the cost. Located at 17th
and Wynkoop Streets, it was originally built in 1881 in
the Romanesque style, replacing several separate
railroad stations. After a fire damaged the
original station, it was rebuilt in 1894.
Increased passenger traffic resulted in the construction
of the present waiting room in 1914. The original
wings on either side were retained and today feature
restaurants. This imposing waiting room was built
in the neoclassical Beaux Arts style similar to New
York’s Grand Central Terminal. At one time, Union
Station was owned and served by six different railroads,
both standard and narrow gauge: The Chicago,
Burlington & Quincy; Colorado & Southern; Denver & Rio
Grande Western; Union Pacific; Chicago, Rock Island and
Pacific; and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. At one
time, as many as 80 daily trains served Union Station.
Today, only Amtrak’s California Zephyr makes two daily
departures, and during the winter months, a special Ski
Train makes one daily trip to Winter Park.
The light rail tracks extend two blocks
past the station and end at bumper posts just before 19th
Street. Only a single reverse crossover switch is
included. Northbound trains continue onto the
layup track after discharging passengers, then reverse
direction while switching to the southbound track.
Leaving Union Station, the line turns
northwest onto 16th
Street, crossing Wewatta Street at the same time, and
Street for one block to Delgany Street and the
Millennium Bridge, where it turns southwest and runs
parallel to the Consolidated Rail freight line.
Our train passes a southbound-northbound crossover
switch, crosses over 15th
Street, crosses Cherry Creek and unlike the original
line it passes beneath Speer Blvd. instead of crossing
it at grade. Moffat Station, a railroad depot used
before Union Station was built, can be seen to the right
Street where the overhead wire changes over to catenary.
The southbound track splits into two tracks just past
the Speer Blvd. viaduct before the
Pepsi Center/Six Flags Elitch Gardens
station. Our train takes the center track.
Flags Elitch Gardens
Three tracks with two center platforms plus an outside
northbound platform. Doors open on both sides on
the northbound track and only to the left on both
southbound tracks even though the center track has ADA
strips on both sides. Southbound trains normally
use the center track. The outer third track
permits expanded service during sporting events.
The northbound and center track rails are embedded in
concrete. There are no canopies on the boarding
area between the two southbound tracks except for a
small canopy over the ADA ramp. The northbound ADA
ramp extends straight ahead while the southbound ramp on
the boarding area between the northbound and center
tracks doubles back. The ADA ramp on the boarding area
shared by the two southbound tracks extends straight
ahead, and a walkway leads back to the boarding area.
This boarding area is shorter and narrower than the
other one, and the walkway from the ADA ramp is right
against the center track with a railing directly across
from the ADA ramp on the opposite boarding area.
This prevents passenger entry or exit from a train on
the center track unless the train only pulls up as far
as the end of the railing. As its name suggests,
this station serves both venues flanking the line on
either side and the entrance is at the northern end.
It is reached on foot directly from the Pepsi Center and
by an ADA accessible-by-elevator pedestrian bridge from
Six Flags Elitch Gardens. The Pepsi Center is the
home of the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado
Avalanche. It opened in October of 1999, replacing
McNichols Sports Arena. Six Flags Elitch Gardens
moved to their new South Platte River Valley location in
1995 from their former site at 38th
Ave. and Tennyson St. Thanks to this spur line;
Denver has revived a once-popular feature on many street
railway systems in this country – trolley or light rail
service to an amusement park. The Denver Tramway
Company once offered streetcar service to Lakeside
Amusement Park as well as Elitch Gardens at their former
location. Six Flags sold their interest in Elitch
Gardens in 2006 and the park has reverted to its former
name; however, the station is still announced as, Pepsi
Center-Six Flags Elitch Gardens.
The two southbound
tracks merge after leaving the station. A
southbound to northbound crossover switch follows.
Beyond the switch, the line curves to the south in a
gentle arc along the South Platte River, still parallel
to the Consolidated Freight corridor. It leaves
the freight corridor and turns sharply east just before
the Invesco Field
Invesco Field at
Two tracks, embedded in concrete, with both center and
wide outside platforms to facilitate loading and
unloading of football fans. Doors open on both
sides in both directions. The ADA ramps are on the
outside boarding areas and both double back. The
center boarding area has two canopies and the outer
southbound boarding area has one, as do both ADA ramps.
There is an open plaza beyond the outer southbound
boarding area. It features twin flagpoles and five
decorative footballs. Unlike any other station in
the system, the platforms are physically fenced off and
have turnstiles for crowd control. Invesco Field
is the home of the NFL’s Denver Broncos. Located
adjacent to the site of the old Mile High Stadium which
it replaced, Invesco Field opened in August of 2001 and
is west of the station, a short walk under I-25 and via
footbridge across the South Platte River.
Demolition of Mile High Stadium was completed in 2002
and interestingly enough, its steel was recycled into
track rails for the Southeast Corridor.
The line turns southeast, passes beneath
the Auraria Parkway viaduct and aligns with 5th
St., crossing Walnut Street at a gate-protected grade
crossing. Our train passes a reverse crossover
switch on the straightaway parallel to 5th
St, at which point the catenary changes back to overhead
wire. Just before the
Auraria West Campus
station, the line turns east, aligning with the Burnham
Freight Yard lead track, and crosses 5th
Street at another gate-protected grade crossing.
The proposed West Corridor
would branch off in this vicinity.
Auraria West Campus
Two tracks, center platform
plus an outside northbound platform. Doors open
only to the left on southbound trains and on both sides
on northbound trains. This station serves the
western side of the Auraria campus and is so named to
distinguish it from the
Colfax-Auraria station on the
original line. It begins immediately past the
grade crossing at 5th
St. The center boarding area has one canopy near
the southern end. The northbound ADA ramp is on
the outer boarding area. It ramps slightly
downward away from the edge, then turns right and ramps
straight back. The southbound ramp doubles back.
Leaving Auraria West, the line turns
south and remains adjacent to the yard lead to W. Colfax
Ave., where it joins the
lines at a three-way at-grade
junction and crosses Curtis St. at an existing
gate-protected grade crossing. An additional
signal and gate were installed east of the light rail
tracks. A normally-unused turnout branches off to
the left, permitting southbound trains to go downtown.
train continues straight ahead beneath the Colfax Ave.
viaduct to the next stop, 10th
This station is approached on
foot from the east; doors open only to the left. The
southbound track rails have exposed ties. The Buckhorn
Exchange, Denver’s original steakhouse dating from 1893,
is located on the northeast corner of 10th
Ave. and Osage St., a mere stone’s throw from the
station. There are no bus transfers and no parking is
available. There is a canopy at each end with circular
herald boards, and the southbound ADA ramp extends
straight back with the walkway folding back to the
South of this station, our train
passes access switches to the Mariposa storage yard and
maintenance facility directly adjacent to and east of
the line, as well as the only physical track connection
to the outside world – a single crossover switch from
the adjacent industrial freight track. It is used
primarily for delivery of new equipment. The Mariposa
facility was remodeled after the Elati yard and
maintenance facility opened. Heavy repairs are performed
at Mariposa now. After passing beneath 6th
Ave., our train climbs a ramp onto a concrete flyover
and crosses over Santa Fe Drive and Kalamath Street as
well as 1st
Avenues. After descending from the flyover, our train
passes a gate-protected grade crossing at Bayaud Ave.,
then crosses over Alameda Ave. This east-west artery was
depressed many years ago, and three railroad overpasses
accommodated the numerous freight tracks at this
location. The easternmost bridge, the widest of the
three, is no longer used, and light rail trains utilize
the middle bridge.
Two tracks, center
Doors open only to the left. The
southbound ADA ramp extends straight ahead and the
walkway leads back to the boarding area. southbound
track rails have exposed ties. The station is south of
Alameda Ave. and parallel to Cherokee St., and has the
same layout as 10th
& Osage. Transfers are available to the #3 Alameda Ave.
and #52 buses. The Park’n’Ride lot at this station has
been expanded several times.
Just after leaving Alameda Ave, the
freight tracks of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe
Railroad, formerly the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe
along with the Denver and Rio Grande Railroads, align
with the light rail line and run adjacent on the west
side of it. At the same time, the southbound track
splits into two tracks. Our train takes the newer outer
track and passes beneath I-25, where the two original
tracks spread apart north of the single crossover switch
just before the Broadway
I-25 & Broadway Three
tracks with platforms between each track.
Originally built as a
two-track station, it was expanded in 2003 to
accommodate additional trains branching off onto the
Southeast Corridor immediately to the south. Each track
was assigned a number when the Southeast Corridor
opened. The third track and additional platform were
added west of the existing facility, and southbound
trains began using the new track on February 2, 2004.
trains normally use the new outer third track, or Track
trains use the original southbound track or Track 2, now
in the middle. The northbound track is used by all
trains and is now designated as Track 1. Doors open only
to the left. The southbound ADA ramp on the center
loading area doubles back. Each ADA ramp has its own
canopy. The new southbound track has exposed ties while
the current middle track is now embedded in concrete
after having exposed ties when the line first opened.
This station is approached on foot from the east and is
situated just to the north of the former Gates Rubber
Company factory. It was the original southern terminus
of the line for all trains, and later for C/Orange and
D/Green trains marked "I-25/Broadway" until all trains
were through routed to Mineral Ave. in May of 2003. Some
AM rush hour trains from Mineral Ave. bypass this
station. Although train destination signs and station
herald boards say I-25/Broadway, recorded announcements
refer to this station as simply, Broadway. This is a
major transfer station, with numerous bus transfers
available along with 1,004 parking spaces. A long canopy
extends along almost the entire length of the station on
the outside of the northbound track, instead of the
center boarding area. It has a circular roof with herald
boards towards the northern end, not in the exact
center. A former Denver Tramways streetcar, minus its
trucks and sporting an "Englewood" sign, served as a
waiting room just south of the station on the east side
for a number of years. It was removed during
construction of the Southeast Corridor and not put back.
After leaving the I-25/Broadway
lines turn off to the left at grade. There is a
connection that permits southbound
trains on the middle track to continue on to Mineral
Ave, if needed. Short turn trains continue south to a
new layup track before reversing direction. Track work
south of the station was altered during construction of
the Southeast Corridor. The original layup track was
removed and relocated further south. It is accessed from
the middle track at Broadway. Short turn trains switch
to this track after leaving Broadway. The two new tracks
merge with the southbound track just north of
Mississippi Ave. Our train proceeds south past the Gates
plant, crossing over Mississippi Ave. first and then
Iowa Ave. It then ramps up and crosses over an
industrial siding via flyover just to the north of the
station. At this point, the tracks are now adjacent to
Santa Fe Drive (US 85), with the BNSF tracks in between.
The industrial siding continues south, running adjacent
to the light rail line on the east side and ending just
beyond the Evans station. It used to continue to the
site of the now-demolished General Iron Works facility
at 601 W. Bates Ave. Ground was broken for the $35
million, 125,000 square foot Elati maintenance facility
for LRVs at this site on July 30, 2002. It was dedicated
on June 17, 2004 and began functioning as the main
facility in January of 2005. It can accommodate 18 cars
inside while 100 cars can be stored outdoors. Normal
maintenance and light repairs are carried out at the
Elati facility while the original Mariposa facility is
used for heavy repairs.
Two tracks, center
Doors open only to the left. This station
is immediately south of the
Evans Ave. viaduct and parallel to Delaware Street. It
has one canopy in the middle of the boarding area with
herald boards at each end and one above each ADA ramp.
The southbound ADA ramp doubles back. The station
entrance is at the northern end, with a pedestrian
walkway providing access from the east. A unique feature
at this station is a gate-protected pedestrian crossing
at the industrial siding. Ties are exposed on both
tracks except where the walkway crosses the northbound
track. Both ADA ramps are encased in brown brick, as are
all lamp and fence posts. Transfers are available to the
#21 Evans Ave. and 58 Ltd buses. Parking is available
for 98 cars.
To be built.
After leaving Evans Ave., our train
passes the Elati maintenance facility and crosses over
Dartmouth Ave. and Little Dry Creek before entering the
Englewood station. The former ATSF Englewood depot can
be seen off to the left, at the corner of Dartmouth Ave.
and Inca St.
Two tracks, center
platform. Doors open only to the left. The southbound
ADA ramp doubles back. southbound track rails have
exposed ties. This station is directly adjacent to the
new Englewood Civic Center north of Hampden Ave. (US
285). Its unique angular green painted canopies are
arranged in the same manner as Evans Ave. and feature a
raised center and bold "ENGLEWOOD lettering similar to
that on the original ATSF Englewood depot. Both end
canopies feature "Northbound" and "Southbound" signs at
the appropriate track. Cinderella City, the largest
shopping mall west of the Mississippi River when it
first opened, formerly occupied this redeveloped site.
The boarding area is accessed from the east in several
ways: via arch bridge from the bus transfer area
directly below (passengers have a choice of stairs or
elevator); via ADA ramp from the Park’n’Ride lot north
and east of the station; or directly from the Civic
Center parking lot. A combined total of 910 parking
spaces are available. Bus transfers are available to the
0 Broadway, 12 Downing, 27 Yale, and 51 local routes;
36X and 59X express routes, and regional route U.
Our train crosses over Hampden Ave.
and proceeds in a straight line to the Oxford Ave.
station, passing a crossover switch midway between
stations. This is the shortest distance between stations
on the Southwest Corridor, about 0.9 miles.
Doors open only to the left.
The southbound ADA ramp doubles back. This station is
located immediately north of
Oxford Ave. and has the same canopy arrangement as Evans
Ave. The station entrance is at the northern end, and a
ramp provides passenger access from the east. Except for
a concrete crosswalk across the northbound track, the
ties are exposed on both tracks. There is no parking
available at this station; however, customers may park
at Red & Jerry’s across Santa Fe Drive. A transfer is
available to the #51 bus.
South of Oxford Ave. at Tufts Ave,
the tracks ramp up onto the Tufts flyover, crossing over
and trading places with the BNSF freight tracks. In
other words, the light rail line is now west of the
freight tracks. A freight spur branches off before the
flyover and remains on the west side of the light rail
line. At the same time, Santa Fe Drive swings away from
the tracks, and Rio Grande Street takes its place. The
retaining walls of the flyover’s approach ramps feature
an outline of the Rocky Mountains, highlighted by a
two-tone beige and maroon paint scheme. The abutment
walls were painted blue in 2002 and artwork entitled
"Universal Travel" was installed to mask protruding
pipes that were added after a torrential downpour in
August of 2000 caused damage to the bridge. The
abutments buckled outward, and concrete was pumped in
through threaded pipes to strengthen the structure.
South of the flyover, both the light rail and freight
tracks cross Big Dry Creek on new bridges while the
freight spur utilizes the original bridge once used by
the BNSF tracks. This spur splits and merges from one
track to two to one across Belleview Ave. and to two
again before ending at Crestline Ave.
The light rail and BNSF freight
tracks cross over Belleview Ave., then descend at Berry
Ave. into an open cut known as the Littleton Depression.
Completed in 1988, this cut extends southwesterly
through downtown Littleton to Ridge Rd. Thanks to a 1981
referendum, it was built wide enough to accommodate a
transit line in addition to the freight tracks. The
original red wooden ATSF Littleton depot, now an art
gallery, is visible to the left at Powers Ave.
center platform with an additional outside platform on
the southbound side. Doors open on both sides. The
southbound ADA ramp and canopy are on the outer boarding
area. This station is in the open cut at the
intersection of Alamo and Prince Streets near Arapahoe
Community College, and is elevated several feet higher
than the BNSF freight tracks. Its canopies are laid out
in the same manner as the Evans and Oxford stations
except for the southbound ADA canopy mentioned above.
The southbound track rails are embedded in concrete
along the entire length of the station. Parking is
available for 261 cars. The former Denver & Rio Grande
Railroad’s Littleton train depot, complete with original
"Littleton" signs (one of which includes distances to
Denver and Ogden, UT), is cleverly incorporated as a
station house, blending past and present together. Built
of Castle Rock sandstone, the remodeled depot features a
waiting area with vintage photographs and an espresso
bar. It was physically moved from its former location at
Powers Ave. (and directly across from the ATSF depot),
now an overflow parking lot with 100 spaces. A concrete
ramp provides ADA accessibility from the parking lot to
the boarding area, and a mural depicting Littleton
through the seasons adorns the retaining wall along the
ramp below the depot. Station appointments and ADA ramps
are encased in the same sandstone as the depot, and both
ramps double back. Transfers are available to local bus
routes 29, 36, 59, 60, 66 and 67, and limited routes 29
Ltd. and 36 Ltd.
The light rail tracks descend south of
the station until they are level with the BNSF tracks.
Near Prince St., our train passes a reverse crossover
switch. At Ridge Rd., it emerges from the open cut and
realigns with Santa Fe Drive, running adjacent to it to
There is an additional crossover switch just before the
station. On rare occasions, southbound trains will be
switched over to the northbound track at this point.
two side platforms. Doors open
only to the platforms. This is the southern terminus of
the line, and is located just north of Mineral Ave.
Trains operating to this station are marked "Mineral"
while station signs, maps, and announcements refer to it
as "Littleton/Mineral". The station entrance is at the
southern end and is accessed either by ramp from the
north sidewalk along Mineral Ave. or by footbridge
across Santa Fe Drive from the 1,227-space Park ‘n’ Ride
lot. Except for a concrete crosswalk from the pedestrian
bridge, both tracks have exposed ties. The southbound
area has only a small canopy above the ADA ramp which
doubles back. All passengers must leave the train at
this point. Frequently the operator will allow
passengers to exit via the front set of doors onto the
ADA ramp to speed unloading from southbound trains. Like
I-25/Broadway, this is a major bus transfer station. The
two tracks merge just south of the station before
Mineral Ave., and the southbound track crosses over
Mineral Ave. on the bridge once used by the western BNSF
freight track before it was shifted eastward. There is
room for a second light rail bridge that will most
likely be added when the line is extended further south
to Lucent Technologies Boulevard. RTD currently owns
additional ROW as far south as C-470, one mile away. The
single track splits into two tracks once again past the
bridge and the two tracks continue for several hundred
yards before ending at bumper posts. Trains are laid up
at this point.
From this point, all
lines share the same tracks as far as Broadway, where
lines branch off onto the Southeast Corridor. The
line shares trackage with the
D line all
the way to Mineral Ave. Running time from Union
Station to Mineral Ave. is 26 minutes, according to
RTD’s printed schedule.