NG Circle Tour - 2010

August 21 - September 1


Trip Report

Day 8 - Saturday, August 28

The Denver & Rio Grande Railway

Salida, Poncha Jct, Mears Jct, Poncha Pass, Center, South Fork, Wasson, Monte Vista, Alamosa, Antonito, Chama


We left Salida around 0800 and highballed south to the San Luis Valley. We had a 10 AM "train" to catch in South Fork. I've been wanting to explore the Denver & Rio Grande Railway for a few years now, and was not disappointed. This little railroad is already something very special. If all goes well, it will be another major railroad attraction in Colorado. Don't miss it!!



Rock-retaining wall between

Poncha Jct and Mears Jct

Mears Jct - Looking south


Heading into the north end of the San Luis Valley

The lonely north end of the

 San Luis Valley

This is a very unusual cut.

Why not just go around?

There was an article in Trains Magazine a few years ago about the rail operations from Center, CO to Monte Vista. We were so close that I made a quick detour to get some shots.

2 more from Center, CO

Del Norte Depot


Coors Tank Cars stored

west of Del Norte

Water Tank at South Fork, CO

The South Fork Depot

MP 298.2


Looking west on the

main towards Creede

The South Fork Depot was once located in Hooper, CO on the D&RGW's "Valley Line"

Heading west from South Fork towards Wagon Wheel Gap,

Wasson, and Creede.

The Rio Grande


This is the original homestead

of Rio Grande Country





The first crossing of the Rio Grande

west of South Fork - MP 306


Michele - "Railfaness"




This area is more rugged than I expected it to be.



Wagon Wheel Gap Depot

MP 312.1

This is one really NEAT private residence!!!


Siding just east of Wagon Wheel Gap



Crossing the Rio Grande between

Wagon Wheel Gap and Wasson

After "parking" on the bridge, our conductor/motorman

Don Shank gave us the history of the railroad and a

detailed listing of current events, including the unfortunate situation

resulting in the removal of the railroad from Creede.

As the story goes... the underside of this rock once served as the local post office.  Residents would leave mail and packages here and anyone riding into town (Wagon Wheel Gap) would pick it up and take it to the post office.

At the east end of the siding, west of Wagon Wheel Gap, the remains of the branch into Creede are stored in the hopes that someday they can be put back where they belong.


Returning, we once again passed by the immaculately restored and maintained Wagon Wheel Gap Depot, now a private residence.

MP 312.1




On the return trip we

stopped for chow at the

Blue Creek Lodge.

The food was excellent!!

Really interesting spiral staircase inside the restaurant.


After lunch we all trundled back to the "Silver Streak"


Here's a shot of our "ride"


Approaching the through-truss bridge crossing the Rio Grande at MP 306, west of South Fork.

This bridge was moved from (I think) Utah to replace the original wood bridge at this location.


Old pile sticking out of a

fill west of South Fork

Heading east to South Fork


Note the rails to the right of the RoW. This is as far as the D&RGW upgraded the line before closing it.

Masonic Park - MP 302.8



The only "bear" we

saw on this trip

The original homestead for

the Rio Grande County.


Returning to South Fork

The beginning of what is

hoped to someday be a

dual gauge operation!



The MoW truck

was originally BNSF


The Silver Bullet.

In her first life, the Silver Bullet was a Spiker on the CNW. Mr. Shank and his crew have converted it into a pretty nifty contraption that is a real treat to ride.

Rear 3/4 view

of the Silver Bullet




Standard Gauge "Paper Wheels" on CCIC #21

Still in the shrink wrap after its delivery from the northeast coast, the 1901-built

Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company (CCIC) Private Car #21 awaits restoration to service.


The interior of the car has been wonderfully preserved.

It's museum quality!

Rear platform on CCIC #21

The original woodwork is truly something to behold!

DRGHF President Don Shank shows us how the fold-down beds work.

Close-up of the bed


The wicker furniture is original

I'm looking forward to the day when this gem of railroad history takes to the rails once again.

The indention at the top (left as sitting) side of this sofa is rumored to have been made by the "gluteus maximus" of President Taft


The shrink wrap makes entering and exiting the car a challenging and entertaining proposition...

... as Mr. Shank

demonstrates here.

These are original, standard gauge "paper wheels"



Looking east towards Del Norte, Monte Vista, and Alamosa

The "new" South Fork Depot, transplanted from Hooper, CO

Looking west from

east of South Fork

Former SP 7863 is just

east of South Fork

South Fork Water Tank


Quite a bit of equipment is stored

on a siding east of South Fork


After leaving South Fork some stormy weather moved in.


We beat the rain to Monte Vista where I took a few

 moments to explore the DRGHF collection of

standard and narrow gauge rolling stock.

The collection is rather large


Also stored here, and awaiting restoration, is FEC 4-6-2 #148



#148's tender

The running gear has

been rebuilt. All that is

left is the boiler.






Looking west towards

 Del Norte


SLRG Motive Power in

Alamosa Yard

FP10A #1100

ALCO 2-8-0 #20 (Former LS&I)


Alamosa once headquartered the final remnant (4th Division) of the once vast Rio Grande narrow gauge system. Sadly, in 1970, the narrow gauge third rail was lifted and the extensive steam repair shops were dismantled and removed.



La Jara, CO


D&RGW's Antonito Depot

There has been talk of restoring this depot and extending the C&T tracks to it so that passengers can interchange between the SG

Rio Grande Scenic trains and the NG C&T trains at this historic structure. Only time will tell if it happens...


Looking south towards Santa Fe. This is where the famed

"Chili Line" once originated.


489 resplendent in her green boiler paint, thanks to Russ Sperry and his motley crew!!

C&T's Antonito Depot

K37 #494

489 bringing her train around the loop. It sure was nice to smell the sweet fragrance of coal smoke again


That green paint is

pretty sweet!



Former East Broad Top

 hoppers in MOW service

489 heading for the house

Happiness is..., 484, 489, and #19

K36 #484


The original C&T

Antonito Depot

484 backing to the engine house




After watching the action in Antonito Yard, we continued

on to Chama... and went right into the storm we had

seen when we left South Fork.

I've seen the "Open Range" signs between La Manga Pass and Chama for years, but I've never been in the area at the right time to see cattle. Those signs weren't kidding...

Los Pinos Tank

Just before reaching Cumbres we cleared the storm and

found a rainbow... which made Michele happy.

There are two rainbows here.


The unsightly cones mark off the bus loading/unloading area. This is a necessary evil while the line is severed and trains are terminating at Cumbres Pass. Hopefully the trestle at Lobato will be repaired before too long.

Cumbres Pass

Cumbres Pass

Cumbres Pass Section House

Looking west towards Windy Point.

Because of the Lobato Trestle fire, no trains

have passed this way in many months.

Looking east from

the Section House

Car Inspector's House


K36 #488

#488 & RGS Goose #5 - The last time we saw the

Goose she was in Silverton. Unfortunately she

didn't/couldn't get to Cumbres by rail...

Parlour Car

The San Juan drumhead


DRGW #488 & RGS #5 settle in to spend the night on the pass.

A final look at the Section House as we depart for Chama.

Heading west towards Coxo


Coxo Crossing

Coxo Crossing looking east


More livestock

Near Dalton

The depressing sight of Lobato Trestle...


"Home" at last...

Passing this sign marked the completion our trip around the Narrow Gauge Circle that we had started 7 days previously!


Looking west towards Durango.

While I checked in at the Vista Del Rio, Michele got a few shots of the hummingbirds out front, near the office.


Around dusk we ventured out behind the lodge in

hopes of seeing a deer. We weren't disappointed!


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

Day 11

Day 12