Saturday, December 22, 2018

A NEW C&S water tower?!

If you told me that a new C&S water tower was to be built in Como in 2019 (roughly 80 years after it came down), I would have politely chuckled at you. 

Believe it or not, I just saw on the South Park Rail Society's Facebook page the following picture and post: "The preliminary design work for the replica Como water tower is complete. We will be starting the permit process shortly. With luck construction could begin this summer."

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Changing Face of the East Portal of Alpine Tunnel

I have visited the east portal of the Alpine Tunnel a handful of times over the last nearly 3 decades.  Each time I notice that the rock around and above the portal are strikingly different.  My visit in 2018, though, showed the most dramatic changes of all.  I decided to compile various photos of the east portal from construction to the current time to show the changes that have taken place.

It is sad, knowing that we seem to have lost sight of the arch entirely at the east portal.  However, maybe some hardy soul will someday dig another hole and find it.

In the meantime, enjoy this video.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Replica of the Hancock Depot in Fairplay?

Back in 2003, when my wife and I drove through Fairplay, we passed what appeared to be a depot.  From the condition of the building, I surmised that it must be a recreation, albeit one that looked very much like a South Park depot.  It housed a business, a bank, if I recall.

Recently, I came across a photo of this structure online.  The website is titled Stourbridge Lion's Travel Log and is run by a couple named Darren and Lisa where they chronicle their railroad journeys through the world.

In one of their trips, they visit Colorado and include the following photo:


The caption given for this photo reads, "Our next stop is to get a photo of the Replica Depot in Fairplay, CO of the DSP&P (Handcock)."

I have no idea how they got the information that this was a replica specifically of the Hancock depot.  It certainly does look like it, though, as the following photo demonstrates.
The Narrow Gauge Circle

Does anyone know the background of this replica depot?

It appears that the replica depot was being used as a real estate office (this may have been true when I saw it in the early 2000s-I don't recall for sure the bank idea).

According to Rocky Mountain Dream Homes it "sold for $272,000 on Nov 2, 2018."  The description from this site is as follows: "Best commercial location in the heart of Fairplay - styled to look like an old train depot, complete with ticket office, covered porches and vaulted ceilings - brand new roof and wood floors in south side office. Lower level features a 3/4 bath, mini-kitchen, large open space and three storage rooms. Zoned Town Center possible new ventures include residence, commercial, etc. Parking on both sides of the building and the lot extends to the back alley. Could be sold as is, office furnishings."

Below are a few interior shots.  Many more can be found here.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Train to the East Portal of Alpine Tunnel in Train-Time video

I've come across a number of online videos of the ride to the west portal of the Alpine Tunnel, but never the eastern approach, probably due to the fact that you can't drive the stretch between Hancock and the tunnel.  I really wanted to fill this gap, first for myself, because I love this side of the pass with its undisturbed grade, and also for others who haven't had the chance to see the stunning scenery and the courageous engineering of the railroad.

I got ahold of a GoPro and a chest attachment in order to make this happen.  Walking with my family (and sometimes carrying one member of it-you will see her red raincoat-covered arm occasionally) I filmed the entire length from Hancock to the east portal.

This video was filmed in July 2018.  I chose to speed up the footage to mirror the same time (30 minutes) that it took a train to travel the same distance according the C&S's schedule of October 1910.

The Denver, South Park & Pacific/Colorado & Southern line from Hancock to the east portal of the Alpine Tunnel, the highest tunnel in the world in 1881 when completed, was abandoned in 1910 in part because this stretch of railroad on the eastern side of the tunnel was so costly to maintain due to the difficulty of clearing snow from this side of the mountain.

I know it's a long video, but every bit of this route is a marvel.  I'm working on a shorter "highlight" version as well that will also incorporate still photos, including those of the interpretive signs that are posted along the way.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A Tale of Two Tunnels: Where the rails to the Alpine Tunnel ended up

When the rails from Quartz to roughly a mile below Alpine Tunnel's west portal were finally pulled 13 years after trains stopped running, they were all piled up at the former Quartz townsite.  What became of these discarded rails?  Apparently, they went off to help another tunnel.

Author's collection
In September of 1923, the Denver & Salt Lake Railroad began construction of its own tunnel that, like the Alpine Tunnel, would pierce the Continental Divide.  Roughly one month after work commenced, a note was printed in the Pitkin Miner of October 5th that read, "Two cars of rails were loaded at Quartz last week and shipped to Denver.  They are to be used in the construction of the Moffat Tunnel."

So, these rails started out their life serving a Colorado mountain tunnel and went on to do the same in their second life.

A Documentary History of the South Park Line: Vol. 5: The Gunnison District, Part II by Daniel W. Edwards, 2016.  Page 165.
"Facts About the Moffatt Tunnel" Steamboat Pilot, 24 March 1926. From Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Another angle on BN selling the Leadville-Climax route

Photo by Mike Condren
So why did the Burlington Northern basically give away the former C&S Leadville to Climax route to a Leadville couple, Ken and Stephanie Olsen, and not just scrap it?  This previous post looked at one reason, given by Ed Quillen in 2003 in the Colorado Central Magazine.  There it was explained that Amax, owner of the Climax Molybdenum mine, desperately wanted to keep the rail line in case it might need it again.  Using their corporate muscle, they basically threatened the BN not to junk it.

In Leadville Today, though, a 2013 article by Kathy Bedell explains some further reasons for selling an entire rail line with equipment for $10.  In the late 1980’s the EPA was looking for a way to “make its mark” in an attempt to gain a cabinet position in the government.  It chose Leadville, a place with lots of residue from mining, as the place to target.

In the words of Bedell, “The words contamination and remediation had BN looking for a way out-desperately.  They needed to unload the dormant railroad line or face the possibility of [a] very expensive ‘clean up.’”

Bedell also points out that BN’s chief officer was not from a railroad background and was trying to shed unprofitable lines.  This comment may betray Bedell’s lack of experience with railroads as many railroad officials have sought to shed unprofitable lines.

As the saying goes, it appears that ‘the stars aligned’ for Ken and Stephanie Olsen, in a surprisingly inexpensive way, to fulfill their desire to contribute to the Leadville community.

"The Leadville Train: 25 Years of Family Tradition!" by Kathy Bedell.  Leadville Today, 25 August 2013.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Last Mason Bogie

Many of us who love the Denver, South Park & Pacific have enjoyed the photos of the 23 DSP&P Mason Bogies.  Sadly, all have been lost to the scrapper.  I was surprised to find on a recent school field trip with our kids that there is actually one remaining Mason Bogie left in the world...and it's in operation!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sherrod Loop 2018 video

When the DSP&P/C&S right-of-way from Pitkin to the west portal of Alpine Tunnel was converted for auto traffic, they bypassed the Sherrod Loop (or Curve) leaving the grade undisturbed all these years.   Some time ago, the United States Forest Service laid some track on the beginning, straight segment of the curve.  I think this must have been started either some time in the 1990s or early 2000s.  When I was at Sherrod in 2003 some of the rails were not yet spiked down.

The first stretch of the videos was shot with a GoPro mounted on our ATV as we travel from the site of Woodstock to the start of Sherrod Loop.  I wish I could have gotten aerial shots of the location with the drone I brought, but time limitations with our rental made this unfeasible.  Instead I took screen videos of Google Earth traversing the loop's terrain.  At the end, I walk the relaid track.  Pardon the bounce as I was using a traditional camera.  Should've used the GoPro!  Hindsight :)

Balloon Loops

It is easy to forget that the concept of the balloon loop (or switchback, though not in the traditional railroad sense) was an engineering innovation in scaling mountains.  It involved the concept of a route doubling back on itself, thereby gaining more distance in which to continue to gain more elevation.  Sherrod Loop allowed the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad (later, Colorado & Southern Railway) to gain elevation on its way to the Alpine Tunnel in Colorado.  After going upgrade along the mountain for many miles, passing Alpine Pass, the railroad makes a sharp turn, completely reversing it's direction, allowing it to continue the climb higher and higher to the summit and tunnel.

A Water Tank at Sherrod?

I was not aware that there was a water tank at Sherrod, but on the narrow gauge discussion forum it was pointed out that Colorado Rail Annual #31 says:
Sherrod MP 163.8
A wooden tank, 16' x 12', was constructed in 1898. Water was gravity-fed from a spring higher up the mountain.
One person posted this photo of what he surmised to be the base of this tank:

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Why wasn't Klondike Kate labeled for the C&S?

I love the DSP&P and have an affinity towards it.  Yet, the Colorado & Southern holds a particular spot in my esteem.  Maybe it's because I most enjoy the twilight era of the road when dirty C&S engines with ridgeway stacks rumbled along on trackage desperately in need of maintenance.

So, when Klondike Kate, the restored locomotive now in use in Como, was lettered this summer, I assumed she would carry classic C&S markings.  I was surprised, then, to see photos of her tender marked "DSP&P" and carrying the number "4."  I was not disappointed, mind you.  An operating locomotive in Como is a sight I never thought to behold in 2018!  Still, I was a little puzzled that the C&S name was passed up.

Photo 2018 Kurt Maechner

Then I happened on a discussion that held the answer for the lettering choice.  Apparently, "Colorado & Southern", as a corporate name is "still owned and registered" thereby taking it out of the running for an official name for the new railway.  The Leadville tourist route, by comparison, got around this by adding the "Leadville" to their Leadville, Colorado & Southern railroad.

The name "Denver, South Park & Pacific," however, is not owned or registered and so was available.  Jerry Huck explains, "When the South Park Rail Society was initially formed, we realized that we would need an operating name for the railroad. As Stewart said, Colorado and Southern was not available in any form however Denver South Park and Pacific was available as the Denver South Park and Pacific Railway company. Which is the registered official name of the new railroad in Como so there is some legitimacy for #4 to carry that lettering."

And, quite honestly, it makes a lot of sense for a locomotive inside South Park itself to carry a name that enshrined the "SP" in the center of its title.

As relates to her number, several others on the forum pointed out that the DSP&P had a few locomotives recorded as #4.  One was the mason bogie named the "Breckenridge."  Another named loco, the "Fairplay," was also numbered 4.

All in all, while I'd love to see "Colorado & Southern" gracing the side of a locomotive tender in Como, I'm still delighted to see the DSP&P rising from the ashes and steaming to work from her stone stable once again.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Riding the C&S grade through Pitkin, Colorado 2018

This is a mixture of photos and video of Pitkin, Colorado from 2018 alongside early 1900's photos.  Pitkin, founded in 1879 was the first mining camp to the west of the Continental Divide.  The Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad tunneled through the Divide in the early 1880s, eventually traveling straight through the center of Pitkin, where extensive railroad facilities existed to feed and service hungry engines after surviving the mountain trek on their way to Gunnison or preparing for their assault on the range on their way to Denver.  Eventually, the DSP&P would become the Colorado & Southern Railway.

The C&S would abandon the tunnel in 1910 leaving Pitkin stranded from rail service.  Trackage from Gunnison in the west to Pitkin would be given to the Denver & Rio Grande who operated the stub line into the 1930s before finally pulling the rails.

Photos 1 & 2: H.L. Curtiss Photo - James Ehrenberger Collection
Photo 3: Pitkin Historical and Community Association
Map: C&S 1918 ICC Valuation Map - Colorado Railroad Museum
All the above from: Tom and Denise Klinger's South Park's Gunnison Division Memories & Then Some, 2012

Railroad audio is from: Sounds of Steam Locomotives No. 3: Colorado Narrow Gauge Stack Music. "Three Little Engines and 33 Cars."

Sunday, September 23, 2018

One Mile from East Portal of the Alpine Tunnel

I have been wanting to try out using a drone, so this summer I rented one and used it in a couple of different spots near the Alpine Tunnel.

The video below is a mix of drone footage and photos.  This shows a portion of the grade just after it exits from roughly 2 miles of wooded right-of-way and begins to cling to the mountainside before reaching the eastern portal of the tunnel.  I've always loved this section of the roadbed.  I, of course, love the western side of the pass too, but because the east side was never converted for auto traffic, you can feel the narrow-ness of the grade a bit more.  This was one of my first uses of a drone so please pardon the jerky motion of parts of the video.

Historical photos:
1. James Ehernberger Colleciton
2. Tom Miller Collection

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Ride the C&S over Rocky Point: 2018 video

Imagine riding the Colorado & Southern Railway upgrade from Como, over the summit of Boreas Pass on the way to Breckenridge, Colorado.  Here I walked one of the few portions of the right-of-way that was not turned into an auto road.  This spot, between Como and the summit of the pass, was called Rocky Point.  It demonstrates the incredible beauty and inherent danger of narrow gauge railroading.  A short piece of restored track graces the spot.  I have heard that groups will occasionally ride a push car over this little stretch.  This was one of my first uses of a GoPro, so please forgive the rocking motion of the footage.

Audio is from: Sounds of Steam Locomotives No. 3: Colorado Narrow Gauge Stack Music. "Three Little Engines and 33 Cars."

Friday, September 7, 2018

Rocky Point photos

The DSP&P crossed the mountains from Como to Breckinridge on its way to Leadville via Boreas Pass.  Sometime after abandonment, the roadbed was converted to a dirt auto road.  At one spot, called Rocky Point, the auto road leaves the original train roadbed for a short stretch to avoid rock work used by the railroad since it was too narrow for two-way auto traffic.  At this spot, a short stretch of narrow gauge track was relaid on the protected, original right-of-way.  Below are the photos I took as my family explored this little gem. 

On an little pamphlet that I picked up many years ago it states: "Here a stretch of original railroad grade remains unaltered due to expensive rockwork required to widen it for auto travel.  (A few back-East rail passengers probably got a little green around the gills as those narrow gauge cars swayed around this sharp turn.)"

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Other, Other Palisade

When most of us think of a palisade, we think of THE palisades-the rock retaining walls built on the upper portion of the grade leading to the west portal of Alpine Tunnel.  Some of us also might think of a very similar palisade at Ohio Pass.  This one was part of an uncompleted grade of the DSP&P.  However, there is another one without the fame of the others.

Tom and Denise Klinger point out in South Park's Gunnison Division Memories & Then Some that "About 1.3 miles upgrade from the Midway tank [on the route to the Alpine Tunnel], there is a small palisade."  In the 1880's photo below you can see a small consist posing for a portrait.  On our ride up the grade this past July, I was doubtful of being able to locate this spot, especially since the Klingers state that the "location was most difficult to locate and duplicate in 2011.  Trees have grown around the palisade and the earthen embankment has all but disappeared."  However, I wondered if there had been some clearing of trees as the spot in 2018 was now not too difficult to find.  I was able to climb down the downgrade embankment with a minor amount of sliding and "Be careful's" from my wife.

In retrospect, I wished I had planned the shot and tried to mimic the same level of the camera to get a before and after shot, but I'm too far down the embankment.

If one looks closely, I think the stones can be matched up between the two photos.  It appears that the top corner stone (close to the photographer) is now missing.  The two stones downgrade from this one are identifiable as well as the thinner stones beneath them.  I have a hard time identifying others, especially due to the differing angles.

Ed and Nancy Bathke Collection

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Split Rock 1880s-2018

We returned not too long ago from our family trip to Colorado.  I amassed great quantities of photos of videos of C&S sites and will share them as I have the chance to process them.  Here is the first one I had the chance to work on: a before and after of Split Rock near the palisades. 

Here my daughter and I attempted to recreate in 2018 a photo from what I think would be the late 1800s.  The original photographer must have been up just a little higher than I was.  I can line up the mountains and the rock cliffs perfectly, but then "split rock" is a bit off.  I have fades where I line up the mountains and some others where I line up the split rock. Historical photo from the James Ozment collection.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

How Come, Why, and How Mac Poor Wrote 'DSP&P'

Some of you may have read my summary of the following article in the latest Bogies and the Loop, but for those of you who would like the full details, The Denver Westerners graciously gave me permission to scan and share this 1965 edition of their Roundup publication with an essay by Mac Poor, author of the foundational Denver, South Park & Pacific, chronicling his journey in writing his book.  (the Westerners did request that it not be published in print anywhere without their permission)

One little curiosity found towards the end of the article is Mac's resistance to providing a reprint or second edition.  As much as I respect Poor, I'm sure glad that his view was overruled in 1976!  Otherwise many of us would never own a copy of his definitive book.

By the way, when you click on any of the pages below it will enlarge in your screen.  Hopefully, that will make the text easier to read.

Monday, July 16, 2018

A Replica of the McGees Depot?

In preparation for my family’s trip to Colorado I was reading through sections of Robert K. Bain’s meticulous guide called Tracing the Denver South Park & Pacific. My curiosity was piqued when reading about McGees where Bain notes that a replica depot was built there and “is said to be on the site of the original depot. It is now a railroad-oriented Bed & Breakfast.”

Curious to know more I looked it up and discovered the Trout City Berth and Breakfast. I assumed that this was just another kitschy type spot (and some of it is), but upon reading further it became clear that the owners were much more exacting than I guessed.

After acquiring the site of the former McGees depot in 1987, Irene and Juel Kjeldsen, according to Colorado Central Magazine article, accessed plans and blueprints from the Colorado Railroad Museum in order to create several accurate DSP&P replicas including of course the depot, but also a handcart, a Pullman sleeping car, a caboose, and a model of a Mason-Bogie. The sleeping car and caboose were “mounted on trucks (the wheel assemblies) brought back from a narrow-gauge logging line in Oregon and set in place where the original DSP&P rails ran through the property.”

In addition to replicas, “the main room of the depot is filled with railroad memorabilia found on the property as well as maps, photos, an authentic telegraph set, framed correspondence between McFarland and his supervisor, and a poignant entry in his personal journal concerning the death of his wife.”

Of course, the depot's express purpose right now is accommodations, and the article below gives more detail regarding what is provided. As of this writing I wasn’t able to find a website (though it does appear on this site with lists of caboose lodging through the US) and considering that my main source of information was from a 1998 article, I can only guess that it is still in operation. The phone number listed in the article is 710-395-8433.


Tracing the Denver South Park & Pacific: A detailed, mile-by-mile guide for tracing the roadbed of this legendary narrow gauge railroad by Robert K. Bain. 1994.

“Berth and Breakfast at restored railroad station” by Clint Driscoll. Colorado Central Magazine, 1 August 1998.

All the photos, except the first one are from this link on a real estate site.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Rolling Rock Curve Then and Now

I have always loved the before and after photos from Then and Now Colorado.  This is the first video I've seen with the man behind the photos doing a short explanation of a location, in this case Rolling Rock Curve, along with lining up several photos of the site in DSP&P days.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Help needed for Como!

Below is a Facebook post
"As many of you know, The Operations in Como were cut short due to fire concerns last week,

"However the brief operations on Saturday revealed we do not have nearly enough capacity to accommodate the turnout of supporters wanting to ride the new line. With Boreas Pass Railroad day rapidly approaching we need to address the capacity issue . Luckily we were able to lease 2 Rider boxcars from the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic railroad. The cars are currently in storage at the Georgetown Loop Railroad but we need to move them to Como ASAP and prep them for operation by Boreas Pass Railroad Days on August 18th. Unfortunately our loss of an operating day and the costs of moving gondola #4319 to Como have left us short of funds to move these two boxcars to the Como yard. The estimated cost to move them is $3000.00 I know money is tight and while Como may not be as "Exciting" as a T-12 or or some other equally worthwhile projects we could really use your financial support . I hope you will consider a donation to help with the moving expenses.This is the link to our fundraiser.

"Here are the cars that, With your help, will soon be calling Como home."