Monday, September 5, 2011

Denver and Rio Grande Western.... remainders of the great days of railroading (8)

After 1870, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad built an extensive network of 3 foot narrow gauge lines in Southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. In 1929, the railroad operated 805 miles of track and had 91 steam engines. They even operated a long distance passenger train from Alamosa to Durango, the "San Juan". The coaches had reclining seats and there was a parlor/dining car. The first part of the line to Antonito was three tracks, so it could be used by narrow gauge and standard trains. The Rio Grande Southern additionally operated 174 miles with 13 engines in 1929.
In 1967, the Rio Grande stopped operation except of the branch from Durango to Silverton, which was "embarrasingly" successful. The weekly train started to be used by tourists and they even had to built new cars in 1964. In 1979 this operation was bought by Charles Bradshaw, who continues to operate it.
Whereas the Silverton line is quite commercial and touristy, the other part of the line from Chama to Antonito, preserved by the states of Colorado and New Mexico and operated by the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railway is a step back in time.

You are free to wander around, admire the historic depot and the wide selection of material standing around in Chama.

There is one daily pair of trains and with 64 miles, it is probably the longest daily operated steam train run remaining in the world.
The boiler of one of these rotary snow plows exploded on the similar Rio Grande Southern.
The original wood coaling tower is still used

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