David Halliday Moffat
When Otto Mears convinced David Moffat to finance the Chesapeake Beach Railway, the two had shared many profitable joint ventures in mining and land speculation out west. However, the financial losses that forced Mears and other managers to resign in 1902 left Moffat with the necessity of propping up the company to try to save his own investments. He put in place new management and in 1905 successfully sued for the debts the railway owed him, thus becoming owner of both the Railway and Chesapeake Beach resort. After Moffat’s sudden death in 1911, the trustees of his estate continued to oversee operations until the railway was abandoned in 1935.
David Halliday Moffat was born in Washingtonville, New York in 1839. He left home at age twelve to become a messenger for the New York National Exchange Bank, and continued in banking jobs as he moved westward. By the age of twenty, Moffat had become a millionaire through real estate speculation in Omaha but lost his fortune when the market went bust.
In 1860 he moved to Denver and opened a prosperous book and stationery store with D.G. Woolworth. In the space of a few years, Moffat was appointed Denver’s postmaster and a Western Union agent, and became the adjutant general for the Colorado Territory militia under Governor John Evans. By mid-1860s Moffat started his life-long career at the First National Bank in Denver, eventually becoming its president.
When the Union Pacific’s transcontinental railroad bypassed Denver, Moffat and others funded the construction of his first railroad, the Denver Pacific Railroad (DP) to Cheyenne, Wyoming, completed in 1870. In 1872, Moffat and Governor Evans organized the Denver & South Park Railroad to the silver mines of Leadville. Moffat helped finance and build the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad and the Boulder Valley Railroad. He also began investing in the mines the railroads served.
His most notable railroad came to be called the Moffat Road. In 1904, Moffat started building the Denver Northwestern & Pacific Railroad – the highest standard gauge railroad ever built in the United States. The railroad went from Utah Junction (Denver) over Rollins Pass (11,660 feet above sea level) and terminated in Craig, Colorado. Moffat originally planned the railroad to go all the way to Salt Lake City, but after he died in 1911 and the financing evaporated, it went no further. The Moffat Road was intended to put Denver on a transcontinental railroad, a long-held dream of Moffat’s, but that didn’t happen until 1928 when the Moffat Tunnel was finished. Today, Union Pacific freight trains and Amtrak passenger trains still use the Moffat Road. (click here to return to the Founders & Vision page)