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West Portal

The town of West Portal, obviously, acquired its’ name from the fact that it is located at the west end of the Moffat Tunnel. As a settlement it was created, as so many things were at the time, by the Railroad people. It was called Irvings Spur. It was the site considered the western end of the rail line over the hill. It was 30 miles from Newcomb (the Eastern end of the trip) to Irvings Spur.


Irvings, then West Portal. Railroad , then the tunnels. This scenario kept the area busy for thirty years. The railroaders, who knew that a tunnel was eminent. The timbermen who supplied the badly needed wood products to keep a growing country going. The city of Denver, anticipating the great need for water for future development of the state. These were all the players that kept West Portal going until the skiers took possession.

The railroad came to Irvings in 1905. With the coming of the railroad came also the timber men. Several sawmills sprung up around Arrow, a station three and a half miles up the hill from Irving’s Spur. From these newcomers came a pair of Brothers named Fleming. They established a sawmill at Irving’s right at the bend of the spur. The brothers sold the Mill to Billy Woods, probably the best known of all the timbermen in about 1913. Billy had operated several sawmills in the county but the best and most profitable and productive was the one at Irving’s(Later West Portal ). He kept and operated this mill until World War II and maybe beyond.

The City of Denver and its suburbs were going to need lots of water in the coming years. They constructed a tunnel to carry water from the western watershed , through James Peak and on to the eastern slope. This water is used to its maximum in the area today and, in dry years is hard pressed to supply the need. Indeed. the tunnel was a marvelous benefit to the Denver area, but the construction of same was of great benefit to the Fraser River Valley as well.

The bore for the water tunnel exactly paralleled the railroad tunnel. The water tunnel workers used to use the railroad tracks to enter and reach the place of construction in their tunnel. They had cut - throughs from one tunnel to the other and spaced at designated intervals. This made the construction of thw water tunnel faster and safer. Men were still hurt and some killed in this project but the number was greatly diminished.

All of the land in and around West Portal belonged, and does today, to the City of Denver and there were no individual land owners. Adolphs Tavern, which still remains today, was and is on a very long lease agreement. The ski operation is leased, as well. The ski people pay a percentage to the city of Denver, but the profit margin for the city is a ridiculously small amount. Winter Park has eclipsed West Portal, as well as Hideaway Park, but many Colorado natives still remember those lovely places and recall them affectionately.


Billy Woods

Sawmill owner


Tavern Owner



 Allisons (Mrs. Allison, Tuffy and Peggy)



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