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Caprock Chief

Caprock Chief

The Caprock Chief or Caprock Xpress was a proposed Amtrak inter-city rail service which would run from Fort Worth, Texas to Denver, Colorado, passing through the Texas Panhandle, which currently does not have passenger rail service of any kind. Initially proposed 2000-2001, the project has not yet seen significant progress and is unlikely to be implemented. "Caprock" is a geological term for a harder or more resistant rock type overlying a weaker or less resistant rock type, and lends its name to the Caprock Escarpment that defines the edge of the high plains of the Llano Estacado.

The proposed route of the Caprock Chief would follow the existing BNSF Railway, shown here as it climbs the Caprock Escarpment of the Llano Estacado between Southland and Post, Texas.
Caprock Chief
0 mi
Fort Worth
29 mi
47 km
98 mi
158 km
152 mi
245 km
189 mi
304 km
307 mi
494 km
350 mi
563 km
427 mi
687 km
550 mi
885 km
Boise City
684 mi
1101 km
La Junta
748 mi
1204 km
792 mi
1275 km
Colorado Springs
855 mi
1376 km
867 mi
1395 km


The train would run west from Fort Worth across northern Texas, then turn north to run through the Texas Panhandle and the western edge of Oklahoma before entering Colorado. It would serve the following communities:[1]

Both Fort Worth and Denver are served by long-distance trains (the Texas Eagle and California Zephyr, respectively), but there has not been single-train service between the two cities since the Texas Zephyr ended in 1967. As of 2010, any such trip would require changing trains in Illinois or California, a detour of over a thousand miles.

Fort Worth is also served by the Heartland Flyer, which connects it to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, while La Junta is a stop on the transcontinental Southwest Chief. None of the other proposed station stops have train service. In the past there have been proposals to re-route the existing Sunset Limited (Los AngelesOrlando) farther north to serve the Fort WorthSweetwater segment.[2]


The impetus for the route came from the Texas Association of Rail Passengers (TARP), which lobbied local governments to support the concept.[3] In late 2001 a visit by Amtrak officials to Lubbock produced discussion, but no commitment from the corporation.[4]

In early 2002 the Amarillo City Commission voted unanimously in favor of "a resolution supporting proposed Amtrak rail service expansion to provide a direct route through the Panhandle of Texas from Fort Worth, Texas to Denver, Colorado via the Caprock Chief line."[5] The Lubbock chamber of commerce also voiced its support for the route, with 92% of its members in favor.[6] Commenting on the proposal, representative Mac Thornberry warned that "Having Amtrak service through the Panhandle would be a good thing for our region...but it won't be easy. Our nation's rail infrastructure faces some serious challenges, and Amtrak is already heavily subsidized by the taxpayers. Any new routes will have to improve Amtrak's financial situation, rather than make it worse."[7]

By 2004 the president of the TARP acknowledged that the proposal was dead: "It's probably years off before this can be considered...We figure you've got to start talking about it at some point. It has to be an idea and you have to develop that idea."[8] The proposal reemerged in 2013–2014, when Amtrak contemplated re-routing the Southwest Chief via Amarillo. TARP officials expected that the change could make Amarillo a hub for train services. The Caprock Chief, with termini in Denver and Fort Worth, would allow passengers to transfer at Amarillo to increase ridership of the Southwest Chief.[9]

See also


  1. "Texans think about a new train". Destination: Freedom. National Corridors Initiative. 2 (36). September 10, 2001. Archived from the original on October 3, 2006. Retrieved 2008-05-13.
  2. Wilson, Anthony (August 9, 2001). "Amtrak ponders 'Caprock Chief'". Abilene Reporter-News. Archived from the original on 2011-06-14. Retrieved 2008-05-13.
  3. Albright, Max (September 7, 2001). "New Amtrak route proposed". Amarillo Globe-News. Retrieved 2008-05-14.
  4. Van Wagenen, Chris (November 8, 2001). "Lubbock has shot at Amtrak: Company official unwilling to rule out bringing rail service". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved 2008-05-14.
  5. "Minutes" (PDF). January 22, 2002. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 13, 2003. Retrieved 2008-05-13.
  6. Van Wagenen, Chris (August 2, 2001). "Lubbock officials backing plans for Amtrak rail service". Amarillo Globe-News. Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 2008-05-14.
  7. "Editorial: Caprock Chief has possibilities". Amarillo Globe-News. January 27, 2002. Retrieved 2008-05-14.
  8. Schwarz, George (June 25, 2004). "Passenger trains not an option for us". Amarillo Globe-News. Retrieved 2008-05-14.
  9. Nett, Walt. "Possible Amtrak route change revives Lubbock passenger rail hopes". Lubbick Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
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