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Cripple Creek & Victor Railway 7/18/2016

by Chris Guenzler

The four of us left the Rodeway Inn in Alamosa and started up Colorado Highway 17. About ten miles out of town, we were stopped once for five minutes and then another time for fifteen minutes for road construction. I had managed to get around all the construction crews and there was an open highway in front of me, but they stopped us and let all those construction vehicles roll by to their work site. Sometimes road construction like this really drives me crazy. We headed to Salida where I stopped to let Elizabeth photograph the steam engine there. After a stop at McDonald's for a bathroom break and other things, we then proceeded to Cripple Creek, arriving at the parking lot at 10:38 for the 10:40 AM train. Luckily the Cripple Creek isn't on Swiss Time, so we had time to buy our tickets, use the bathroom then board the train.

Rolling stock

As of the 2008 season, the railroad operates three coal-fired narrow gauge steam locomotives. Engine 1 is an 0-4-4-0 Orenstein & Koppel articulated mallet built in 1902. Engine 2 is a 0-4-0 Henschel built in 1936. Engine 3 is an 0-4-0 H. K. Porter tank built in 1927. Engine 4 is a W. G. Bagnall 0-4-4-0T, built in 1947. The 5th engine is a 1951 General Electric, four wheel, diesel-electric engine that was battery operated for underground mining at the Idarado Mine near Telluride, Colorado. The engine is currently being used by the railroad's track crew.

Rail gauges

Although the railroads that previously occupied the Cripple Creek & Victor's route were laid to 4 foot 8 1/2 inch in standard gauge and three foot narrow gauge, the current railroad is laid to a two foot narrow gauge. The current railroad started operations on June 28, 1967.

Track route

The track system begins at Bennett Avenue/5th Street going south out of Cripple Creek, goes past the old Midland Terminal Wye, then over a reconstructed train trestle, continues past historic mines and terminates very near the abandoned Anaconda mining camp. The return trip to Cripple Creek completes a total of four miles. The railroad does not actually terminate at Victor, Colorado, as the railroad's name implies.

Stations and depot

The Bull Hill Station in Cripple Creek was originally built at the Anaconda Mine in 1894 by the Midland Terminal Railway. However, it was moved to Bull Hill in 1912, east of the town of Victor. In 1968, the depot was moved to Cripple Creek

Our visit

We boarded the last car and once Robin returned, our train left the Cripple Creek depot.

Compania de Minerales & Metales SA 0-4-4-0 compound Mallet built by Orenstein & Koppel in Germany in 1902 for Guillermo Purcell in La Terminal, Mexico. It stayed with the company through various mergers and consolidations until 1964, when it was sold to John Birmingham in Boulder, Colorado, then becoming Cripple Creek & Victor 1.

Leaving the Cripple Creek depot behind as we start this unique trip, complete with narration about the historical places we will pass with good information given and all questions answered.

Leaving the Cripple Creek yards.

The Colorado Midland Railroad station built in 1894.

One of the old mines right next to the town.

The Number 2 engine took the 10:00 train out of town and the normal meeting procedure is that the train goes into the wye, stops to let those people photograph your train and then will wye and go back into Cripple Creek.

Views of the town of Cripple Creek, elevation 9,494'.

Looking back down the tracks toward Cripple Creek.

Heading out into the countryside.

Old gold mines along our route.

The beautiful countryside between Cripple Creek and Victor.

One of the many gold mines along our route this morning.

The train rounded a large curve revealing many things behind it.

Gold tailings.

Excess rock left over after the gold mining process.

The forest along the railroad.

Looking back at the western edge of Cripple Creek.

The new wye track that was not here on my previous visit. The gold company at Victor needed the land so they did a swap and the wye at Victor was removed and replaced by this wye here.

The hills around Cripple Creek were dotted by glory holes. These were miners who did not have any claim but would dig a hole and sometimes they would get lucky and find gold. They would then claim this property and work their hole until they ran out of gold.

The track crew who was raking excess ballast along the line this morning.

Somewhere in this rock wall is a gold vein.

Mines across the valley.

This valley runs all the way down to Canon City and it was here where we reached our most eastern point of our trip. From here we would reverse to the wye but first, much good information would be conveyed to the passengers.

There is a large gold mining operation near the town of Victor at the east end of our route. The engineer decided to have the passengers hear the unique echos that the whistle of the train could produce in this valley. He started with three and it echoed three times. He then blew the whistle four times which was fantastic. He then did five times which was even more fantastic. Then he set his own record by doing it six times and it was spectacular. I have never had as much fun listening to a train whistle echo before in my long life.

First, one more view of the valley. Now enjoy the ride back to Cripple Creek.

The views back to the wye. Now the trip around the wye.

The trip to the end of the wye.

The view from the end of the wye.

The engine starts around the west leg of the wye.

The U.S. Forest Service has tried to cap all the gold mines that animals and people could fall into.

The trip around the west leg of the wye. Now the trip back to the Cripple Creek wye.

This is the trip back to the Cripple Creek wye. We would now photograph the third train of the day.

The third train of the day leaves Cripple Creek, led by Hanseatische Kieswerke 0-4-0T 2 built by Henschel and Son in 1948. In 1967, it was sold to Arthur Seifert in Hilliard, Florida and then to Joe Pettingill in Estes Park, Colorado. It was bought by the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad in 1970.

Now we will wye our train on the Cripple Creek wye.

Views from the wyeing of our train on the Cripple Creek wye.

Returning from the wye we ran by the old gold mine near town.

Then by the old Colorado Midland Railroad station.

Finally we returned to the boarding area.

Cripple Creek & Victor Railway 0-4-0T 3 built by H.K. Porter in 1927 for the Compania de Minerales y Metales in South Africa. It was sold to Singing Rails, Incorporated in Boulder, Colorado in 1964 and moved to the Cripple Creek & Victor in 1971. This was the engine which pulled our train.

The train is being readied for its next trip. We walked down to Cripple Creek Candy and Variety store.

Elizabeth told us about this store which makes homemade fudge in thirty-five unique flavors including carrot cake and orange cream, as well as seasonal ones. I bought chocolate mint and Elizabeth bought carrot cake and chocolate mint.

The third train of the day is returning to Cripple Creek.

Our train running by our photo location as the fourth train of the day.

The Colorado Midland Railroad tunnel in which I was in once in a camper when my father drove through it. Next we head to Garden of the Gods.