Colorado Narrow Gauge Circle Tour
9: Leadville to Climax
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.
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
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.
are from 2004.
to Part Ten