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Colorado Narrow Gauge Circle Tour
Part 9: Leadville to Climax

The rush to get railways to Leadville in 1879 – 1880 pitted the Denver and Rio Grande against the Denver, South Park and Pacific. The D&RG won the race, but a joint trackage agreement allowed DSP&P to enter Leadville until they finished their own track in 1884. It took this long because of financial problems and the Alpine Tunnel construction.

The D&RG route to Leadville was more than 275 miles from Denver; the DSP&P was only 150, but the steep terrain meant that trains were only marginally faster in arriving at the Cloud City. The DSP&P was purchased by the Union Pacific and the railway was re-named the Denver, Leadville and Gunnison. A few years and a few mergers later, it became the Colorado and Southern. The last narrow gauge train to Denver on the C&S “High Line” was in 1937. In 1943, this line was converted to standard gauge and became part of the CB&Q/C&S complex serving mines in the area. The last molybdenum mine near Climax closed in 1982 and so did this portion of the C&S.

The Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad is privately owned by Stephanie and Kenneth Olsen, who set up this tourist train in 1987. It runs home-built excursion cars from Leadville to Talus Slope (nearly to Climax) using a 50 year old GP-9 to push the train up the hill on the old DSP&P right of way. It then leads the train quietly back down the hill to Leadville depot. It’s hard to believe that these sexy looking GP-9’s are actually antiques.

This tourist line is unique in Colorado in that it is still connected to mainline track and could become a common carrier if the mines re-open. The trip is over in less than 3 hours so there is time to get to Georgetown for an afternoon run. Photos are from 2004.

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Websites of Interest
http://www.leadville-train.com/

Continue to Part Ten