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Colorado and the Georgetown Loop Railroad 7/2/2021



by Chris Guenzler



Elizabeth and I woke up and after our morning rituals, we went to the Village Inn where I had a waffle and bacon and Elizabeth had French Toast with bananas and strawberries. We stopped by Walmart for batteries and film for Elizabeth before we left Grand Junction and headed to our first stop in Silt. On the way we spotted something and exited at West Rifle.





Savage Railnet SW-1200 1361 orginally Canadian National 1361 at West Rifle. Elizabeth drove the rest of the way to Silt.







The Silt Denver and Rio Grande Western station built in 1920, now used as a garage, but still had "Silt" on the end of the building. From here we drove into Glenwood Springs where we purchased a new charging cord for my phone which we inadvertently left in Panguitch. I drove us down to Carbondale.







The Carbondale Denver and Rio Grande station which is the American Legion Hall. We continued our depot hunting up to Redstone where we did not find the depot as it no longer exists but did find a few other things of interest.





The Redstone Coke Oven Historic District is located at the intersection of State Highway 133 and Chair Mountain Stables Road outside Redstone, Colorado. It consists of the remaining coke ovens built at the end of the 19th century by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. In 1990, it was recognized as a historic district and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Two hundred were built, because the coal in the surrounding mountains was ideal for refining into coke. At their peak, they were producing almost 6 million tons a year. The development was the beginning of the modern settlement of Redstone. There are very few coke ovens of their type remaining in the West; the ovens are themselves the only remnant of the sizable coking operation in the area, the largest at the time in Colorado. Within ten years of their construction, the ovens fell into disuse when the mines closed. Their support steel was removed during the scrap metal drives of World War II, and later they were used as living space by hippies who moved into Redstone. The possibility that some might be demolished to build a gas station eventually led Pitkin County to acquire the land in the mid-2000s, and since then some have been restored.





The Redstone Depot board at Elk Park across the highway from the Redstone Coke Ovens.





History of Redstone.





West Elk Byway Map. From here I drove us back to Glenwood Springs and we found a place to park.









The Glenwood Springs Denver and Rio Grande Western station, built in 1904, which is the Amtrak stop for the California Zephyr.





The ticket office from the top floor looking down into the station. We then drove to Georgetown for the 3:50 train. We stopped for petrol at the Exxon station before driving the rest of the way to our train's boarding location.

Georgetown Loop Railroad History

The Georgetown Loop Railroad is a 3 foot narrow gauge heritage railroad located in the Rocky Mountains in Clear Creek County, Colorado, in the United States. The railroad operates summer tourist trains between the communities of Georgetown and Silver Plume, a distance of 2 miles. The railroad route is 4.5 miles long and ascends an elevation of 640 feet through mountainous terrain along with trestles, cuts, fills, and a grand loop.

The Georgetown Loop Railroad was one of Colorado's first visitor attractions. This spectacular stretch of 3 foot narrow gauge railroad was completed in 1884 and considered an engineering marvel for its time. The thriving mining towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume lie 2 miles apart in the steep, narrow canyon of Clear Creek in the Rocky Mountains west of Denver. Engineers designed a corkscrew route that traveled nearly twice that distance to connect them, slowly gaining more than 600 feet in elevation. The route included horseshoe curves, grades of up to 4%, and four bridges across Clear Creek, including the massive Devil's Gate High Bridge.

The Georgetown, Breckenridge and Leadville Railroad had been formed in 1881 under the Union Pacific Railroad. The Loop portion of the line was the crowning segment of the line, crossing the top of the gorge on a 95-foot high trestle.

Originally part of the larger line of the Colorado Central Railroad constructed in the 1870s and 1880s, in the wake of the Colorado Gold Rush, this line was also used extensively during the silver boom of the 1880s to haul silver ore from the mines at Silver Plume. In 1893, the Colorado and Southern Railway took over the line and operated it for passengers and freight until 1938. The line was later dismantled, but was restored in the 1980s to operate during summer months as a tourist railroad, carrying passengers using historic 3 foot narrow gauge steam locomotives.

Reopening

In 1959, the centennial year of the discovery of gold in Georgetown, the Georgetown Loop Historic Mining & Railroad Park was formed by the Colorado Historical Society. The Colorado Historical Society's chairman negotiated a donation of mining claims and mills, and nearly 100 acres of land.

Interest in restoration of the Loop segment as a tourist attraction in the 1970s led to reopening of the segment. Rail line construction began in 1973 with track and ties donated by the Union Pacific Railroad, and a new high bridge was built. The 3-mile restored segment, opened on March 10, 1984, is at the upper end of the historic Colorado Central main line up Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden. The Georgetown Loop Railroad climbs approximately 640 feet between the two towns using 3 miles of track. Passengers can board the train at depots located in Silver Plume and Devils Gate three quater of a mile west of Georgetown.

The train ride includes an optional walking tour of the Lebanon Silver Mine, located at the halfway point on the railroad, where visitors can walk 500 feet into a mine tunnel bored in the 1870s, with guides pointing out once-rich veins of silver and relating the history of the mine.

Our Visit

Elizabeth, my lovely wife, went and got the tickets while I hiked over to get the train coming across the high bridge.













The earlier train returning across the high bridge which we had seen leaving in Silver Plume as we drove down, so we know that we would be riding behind another new steam engine for both of us - the Georgetown Loop 2-8-0 111. As I started walking back, I felt drops coming out of the sky and picked up my pace, returning to the car where Elizabeth had just left so I called to her and she waited. We crossed the road in and managed to get underneath the covered waiting area when the heavens opened, it poured down rain like we had not yet seen on this trip and it even hailed. Elizabeth had her umbrella and we boarded during this deluge and took seats in the rear covered open air car and Elizabeth pulled two plastic bags which we sat since the benches were soaked from all that rain. She always carries extra bags in her handbag because you never know when things like that are going to come in handy. The train left about five minutes late after waiting for a few late arrivals. The rain stopped and the sun started to shine like any of my previous trips.





The trip started by backing underneath the high bridge as all trips do.





Being in the last car made sure we went underneath the high bridge as not all the forward cars got than honor. I have yet to have a trip where I have not been underneath the bridge.





We came back underneath the bridge and went by the loading location as the 111 started working up the grade.





Crossing Clear Creek.





The engine could be seen at very few points along the trip as it climbed the grade to Silver Plume.











The 111 handled the train beautifully crossing the Devil's Gate high bridge.





The view looking toward the boarding area.





The view of the high bridge which we had just crossed.





Denver and Rio Grande Western stock car 5702.





Denver and Rio Grande Western box car 3582.





Denver and Rio Grande Western refrigerator car 153.





Georgetown Loop maintenance-of-way box car 08308. These four cars are located at Hall's Tunnel siding.







The workmanship of the building of these cuts can be seen by everyone on board the train.





The bridge of Clear Creek at Milepost 52.67.





The 111 was out of sight as we went across the high fill. The train ran the rest of the way to Silver Plume.





Georgetown Loop 2-6-2 12, originally Kahului Railroad 2-6-2 12 in Hawai'i, not an active locomotive at the moment.





Georgetown Loop Railroad GE 44-tonner 21, ex. Rocky Mountain Steel Mills, nee Colorado Fuel and Iron 21 at Silver Plume.





Georgetown Loop 50 ton switcher 9911, ex. Sims Metal 9911, exxx. McHugh Locomotive and Equipment, nee Niagara Mohawk Power 1.





Georgetown Loop 50 ton switcher 140, nee US Gypsum 1403.





Georgetown Loop 80 ton switcher 1934, originally United States Army 1934. We were allowed off the train for ten minutes at Silver Plume so I made a beeline to the museum.





Narrow gauge Plymouth switcher.





Colorado and Southern Railway coach 70 built in 1896 undergoing restoration by Historic Rail Adventures, LLC, the owner of Georgetown Loop Railroad, for the City of Idaho Springs, where the coach had been on display with Colorado & Southern 2-8-0 60 at Harold Anderson Park.





Both of the engines I once saw as a Boy Scout on the US Gypsum railroad in southern California at Split Mountain where they load the trains for Plaster City.





Georgetown Loop 50 ton switcher 130, nee US Gypsum 1303.





Georgetown Loop 50 ton switcher 140, nee US Gypsum 1403. While all this was going on, 111 was taking on 500 gallons of water.





I reboarded the train and with the engine coming around the train, I was at the back door to get a good picture of the 111.













111 returned to the front of the train to take us back to Georgetown.





We left Silver Plume.





The 111's number plate on the front of the locomotive.





The train crossing the high fill.





You can see the high bridge even from this location on the railroad.





The view we had of the locomotive as it travelled down the grade.





Clear Creek looking downstream.





Clear Creek looking upstream.





My lovely wife with Clear Creek behind her enjoying her third ride on this railroad. This was my fifth time and one I would do again in a heartbeat.





Down through the forest we went.















The train crossing the Devil's Gate high bridge.





The train crossing the access road.





Our train approaching the final crossing of Clear Creek. While the trip started off horribly, causing Elizabeth to almost not want to go, it turned out to be a great trip aboard the Georgetown Loop Railroad. Elizabeth went shopping for pins while I waited for the train to cross the high bridge on its way back to Silver Plume as it had done last July when we caught the whole train crossing the bridge. The train left the station but then backed into the siding. I saw a crew member placing a derail on the track behind the last car. After a while, Elizabeth returned with a Georgetown Railroad pin for me (she already had one herself) and then we waited. Finally, the engine left the train and started and its trip back to Silver Plume.





Georgtown Loop Railroad 2-8-0 111 running above the parking lot on the way to the high bridge.











Georgetown Loop 111 crossing the Devil's Gate high bridge solo, a first for me. After that, we drove into Georgetown to finally find the depot and with the assistance of the photograph from Dynamic Depots website, we found it because of the stone chimney.





The Colorado and Southern Georgetown station. We left Georgetown just as it started to rain again. This time, though, the rain was even heavier than before so as we drove on Interstate 70, we saw some very good drivers and one horrible driver who appeared drunk, so Elizabeth got by him and we just drove very carefully the rest of the way until the rain stopped. We went to Lakewood and had dinner at Denny's before we checked in to the Baymont Inn and Suites where we did our usual things and wrote this story.



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