Wednesday, March 1, 2023

1978 C&S News (1) Mountains near Alpine Tunnel named for Poor & Helmers

A wealth of railfan history exists in the archives of the Rocky Mountain Rail Report, the newsletter of the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club started in 1939.  Here is some miscellaneous South Park Line/C&S-related news from the 1978 editions.   



(C&S Denver shops)

THE OLD C&S SHOPS at 7th Street in Denver are being demolished. The brick structures date back to the turn of the century. 

C&S Denver roundhouse

(Poor, Helmers mtn. Alpine Tunnel)


In recognition of the many years of labor, love and dedication to the preservation and documenting of the history of the Denver South Park & Pacific Railroad by Mac Poor and Dow Helmers, the United States Board of Geographic Names in Reston, Virginia has officially named two mountain peaks in the vicinity of the Alpine Tunnel in their honor. Mac and Dow were two of Colorado's most dedicated railroad historians, as well as fondly remembered club members. 

Mount Poor

Both peaks are located 28 miles east-northeast of Gunnison in the Sawatch Range in Chaffee and Gunnison Counties, at one of the most historic rail crossings of the Continental Divide. Mt. Poor, named after Mac C. Poor (1902-1972), is 12,440 feet in elevation and has the Alpine Tunnel on its northwest slope. Mac authored the book DENVER SOUTH PARK & PACIFIC and co-authored the PICTORIAL SUPPLEMENT TO DENVER SOUTH PARK & PACIFIC, two of the most thoroughly researched, in-depth studies ever done on the railroad. His years of effort brought a part of Colorado's narrow gauge history into the reach of those of us who could not explore the DSP&P on our own, or who simply were not cognizant of the colorful rail history in the mountains west of Denver. 

Mt. Helmers is named after Dow Helmers (1906-1976), and has an elevation of 12,858 feet. Alpine Tunnel is located on its northeast slope. Dow was, of course, an author and historian of the DSP&P, with his most popular work being HISTORIC ALPINE TUNNEL. He was an enthusiastic supporter for the preservation of the Gunnison region's rail history, and was a driving force in preserving what was left at the west portal of the Alpine Tunnel so that others could enjoy a part of the past. 

The naming of these two peaks is rather an unusual event in that they had never been previously named. Most naming of peaks is usually the result of a change from one designation to another. These names became official on February 9, 1978. A great deal of thanks is due all who actively promoted this most appropriate form of recognition to these two individuals

[ed. Below are some views of Alpine Tunnel and Mount Poor and Mount Helmers]


(C&S Denver shops)

ONLY A MEMORY - Scattered debris and neatly stacked piles of salvaged bricks are all that remain where the main C&S shop building stood at 7th Street in Denver. Five stalls of the roundhouse remain, the building being used by a private industry. 



"A DAY IN THE LIFE OF 641 and 


For the June program, Ron Ruhoff will present two of his "Photo musical Adventures"that are sure to bring back many a fond memory. The movie, "A DAY IN THE LIFE OF 641" depicts steam locomotive No. 641 on its daily freight run over the Colorado & Southern Railroad from Leadville to Climax. This branch was one of the last regular steam operations in the U.S., and at an elevation of over two miles. The second program, "A C.&S.-G.W. EXCURSION," shows a Rocky Mountain Railroad Club excursion on freight-only lines north of Denver. A C.&S. steamer takes the train from Denver to Longmont, the Great Western 91 completes the journey over the sugar beet lines of northeastern Colorado. 

Ron's reputation as a top photographer of the west, his long interests in railroads, and his talents at combining photos with music are well known and a clue to how fine the evening's entertainment should be! 

[Ed. C&S 2-8-0 641 operated the formerly narrow gauge Climax to Leadville route until 1962.  This was the last operating leg of the South Park Line, standard gauged in 1943]


As could have been predicted, Ron Ruhoff didn't disappoint a soul at the June meeting with his "double headed" 16 mm programs "A C&S-GW EXCURSION" and "A DAY IN THE LIFE OF 641." The full day's activities with a Rocky Mountain Railroad Club steam excursion north from Denver on the C&S and the GW was depicted from the moment the engine pulled out of the roundhouse in Denver until it disappeared into the twilight in an outstanding sunset scene at the end of the day. The sole C&S steam locomotive at Leadville was shown in the second program as it began its daily routine of making up a train in Leadville under a backdrop of snow-covered mountain peaks. With its consist assembled, the train climbed along the mountainside to Climax. After completing its chores at the highest point reached in the U.S. by an adhesion railroad, it turned around and returned to Leadville at the end of the same day. Both movies were accompanied by symphonic music, expertly coordinated to enhance the moods of the various sequences. Our thanks to Ron for presenting his record of some memorable Colorado railroad history. 

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