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• Leadville to Climax

See Also

• Tour Introduction
•
Golden CRM
•
Caρon City 
•
Alamosa D&RG
•
Chama C&TS
• Durango D&S
•
Dolores RGS
•
Cimarron D&RG
•
Leadville LC&S
•
Fairplay DSP&P
•
1994: GTL
•
2004: GTL
•
Pike’s Peak

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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 DSP&P route was Denver -- Como -- Boreas Pass -- Breckenridge -- Freemont Pass -- Leadville, crossing the Continental Divide twice.
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 1942, 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.

Six years later, the Leadville to Climax portion was purchased for a tourist operation. This deal included the Leadville depot and roundhouse, both of which were the original DSP&P buildings from the 1880'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 the sexy looking GP-9 is actually an antique.

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. However, Leadville is worth an overnight stay, just to walk and photograph the historic streets.



Photos are from 2004.

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Continue to Part Ten