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Colorado Narrow Gauge Circle Tour
Part 11B: Silver Plume to Georgetown - 2004 Photos

One of the busiest and one of the most interesting narrow gauge trips is the Georgetown Loop. Built as the Georgetown, Breckenridge and Leadville in 1882, headed to Leadville, it got a few miles past Silver Plume when the silver price crashed. It never went any farther. The rise from Georgetown to Silver Plume is nearly 600 feet in 2.1 miles, giving a 6% grade. This was not feasible so the railway made several loops over the valley to make the distance 4.5 miles and the grade only 2%.

The major structure is the Devil’s Gate Viaduct, 300 feet long, 95 feet high, on a continuous sharp curve, and a 2% grade. Numerous smaller trestles allowed the track to make three and a half complete circles while ascending the grade. The first passenger train ran in 1884 and the last in 1939. The viaduct was scrapped during World War II.

The Colorado Historical Society acquired the roadbed and Silver Plume Depot in 1972 and started running a narrow gauge tourist train in 1975. In 1982, the Boettcher Foundation provided funds to re-build the viaduct from the original plans. This was completed in 1984 and trains ran the full Loop to the town limits of Georgetown.

The city fathers didn’t want those smoky smelly trains in town so they prevented the train from reaching its logical destination, the Georgetown Depot. There is a locomotive on display at the depot (C&S #44) but Silver Plume has more and better stuff, so buy your souvenirs at Silver Plume.
 

The Georgetown Loop has a number of static cars on display at the Silver Plume Depot, including D&RGW caboose #0486 and one marked Georgetown Loop #0400. C&S caboose #1006 is on display in town and C&S 4–6–0 #60 as well. The town itself is very attractive so plan to spend some time here.

Prior to 2005, the railway had 3 Shays, numbers 8, 12, and 14 which hauled most of the trains. These are ex West Side Lumber Company locos. There were two rod locos, numbers 40 and 44 built by Baldwin, also not original C&S equipment. Two 54 ton GM diesels from US Gypsum arrived in 1994. My photos show the white and blue livery of 1994 as well as the 2004 black and orange paint job. The diesels were used only if a steamer died or needed help to get home.

A major dispute between the CHS (now History Colorado) and the railway operator erupted in 2004 resulting in the operator losing the contract to run the railway. However, the CHS lost their access to the locomotives described above – definitely a lose- lose scenario. CHS acquired one steamer from Coeur D’Alene, ID and it pulled the first 2005 train. Designated #12, it looked like a 2–6–0 Mogul but the CHS website photo is pretty muddy and it’s hard to tell.

At the time of this update in 2017, the Loop now goes by the name “Georgetown Loop Historic Mining and Railroad Park”, owned by History Colorado and
operated by Historic Rail Adventures LLC. They mention locomotive #9 and there is a You-tube video on their website. Otherwise there is no actual description or photos of the trains. If anyone can update this info please let me know. 

The following are my 2004 photos.

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View 1994 Photos

Websites of Interest
http://georgetownlooprr.com/

Continue to Part Twelve