Facebook Page

The Georgetown Loop Railroad 7/8/2009

by Chris Guenzler

I woke up at the La Quinta Inn in Denver and after a quick breakfast at the hotel, I walked to the Enterprise Car Rental Office on Broadway Downtown Denver getting there at 7:10 AM. They helped me even though they don't open until 7:30 AM. I drove out with a 2009 Chevy Silver Aveo Ltd and stopped by the La Quinta Inn to pick up my luggage and headed west on Interstate 70 about 45 miles through a tunnel and grades both up and down. I exited at Silver Plume and parked the car before walking towards the Georgetown Loop Railroad. I had always wanted to ride this railroad and cross the Devil's Gate Bridge.

A Brief History

By the year 1879 Georgetown became known as the "Silver Queen of Colorado" when news of large silver strikes spread across the region from Leadville as one of the greatest silver strikes to date. Financier Jay Gould strives to have the Colorado Central be the first rail line to reach Leadville. The track to reach Leadville from Georgetown is an obstacle due to narrowing of the valley west of the city and an area where the average grade is over 6 percent (too steep for most trains). UP chief engineer, Jacob Blickensderfer, devises a system of curves and bridges, reducing the average grade to 3 percent. The plan includes three hairpin turns, four bridges and a 30-degree horseshoe curve from Georgetown to Silver Plume. In 1884 the first trains arrive in Silver Plume. The Georgetown, Breckenridge and Leadville Railroad line ends permanently a few miles past Silver Plume. In 1938 the last of the trains run from Denver to Silver Plume. The line from Idaho Springs to Silver Plume is abandoned and the Georgetown Loop dismantled, ending a colorful era of railroad history. In 1959 the centennial celebration of the discovery of gold in Georgetown and the surrounding areas is formed under the leadership of James Grafton Rogers, chair of the Colorado Historical Society's board of directors. Almost 100 acres of mining claims and mills are donated, including the Lebanon-Everett mines. The Society begins a program of land acquisition and lease with plans to eventually reconstruct the entire length of the Georgetown Loop. In 1973 construction of the rail line begins after the Union Pacific donates the track and ties for the reconstruction of the Georgetown Loop. Rolling stock is gathered and bridges set in place. 1975 was the first operating season of the new Georgetown Loop operates on a small portion of completed track. By 1977 the line slowly lengthens from Silver Plume and tracks reach the upper end of Devil's Gate. In 1982 a $1 million grant from the Boettcher Foundation, in honor of E. Warren Willard, a former partner of Boettcher & Company and a member of the Colorado Historical Society's board of directors, finances the final segment of the railroad's reconstruction, the Devil's Gate High Bridge. On August 1, 1984: Governor Richard D. Lamm dedicates the Devil's Gate High Bridge, and the entire reconstruction of the Georgetown Loop is complete and open for visitors along the entire route. In 1985 the historic Silver Plume Depot is restored and in 1986 the Silver Plume Engine House is completed to service locomotives. From 1987 to the present additional visitor amenities have been added, including hiking trails and restrooms, and new loading platforms. At the Silver Plume Depot, a new car building interprets and displays rolling stock and other railroad-related exhibits.

A look around Silver Plume.

Looking from the end of track east.

D&RGW 3582 Box Car.

D&RGW 5702 Stock Car.

D&RGW 824 Gondola.

D&RGW 153 Refrigerator Car.

Colorado & Southern Tender.

Georgetown Loop Railroad 209 Argentine.

D&RGW 04953 Sleeper.

GE Diesel Class S 50/50-16E735 built January 1948.

D&RGW 0586 Caboose.

Georgetown Loop Railroad Tender for C&S 12.

Georgetown Loop Railroad 1203 started life on the Plaster City Narrow Gauge Railroad in Imperial County.

Georgetown Loop Railroad 21.

Georgetown Loop Railroad 2-6-0 12 under restoration.

I saw work being performed while I was there.

The Silver Plume Station.

Silver Plume 9178 Feet Above Sea Level

The Station Train Bulletin.

Silver Plume was 53.9 Miles from Denver.

Georgetown Loop Railroad 228 Silver Queen.

Georgetown Loop Railroad 282 Clear Creek.

Argentine Central Railroad Marker. I picked up my ticket for this morning's train ride at 9:45 AM.

The Georgetown Loop Railroad 1203 has left the shop area to head our train.

It went past the switch at the station then came forward and headed for the train.

It is now at the switch and will back onto our train.

It moved forward and coupled up to our train. Our train consisted of Engine 1203, Open Cars 718 and 746, Coaches 3748 and 2219, Open Cars 1089, 1157 and 705 and Coach 3038.

Georgetown Loop Railroad Open Car 746.

The former mines on the mountain side across the valley.

At 9:30 AM they boarded the train with me being the first passenger to board this morning.

The train left the Silver plume Station a few minutes late this morning.

Our train left the yard.

Interstate 70 rides on the hillside taking just two miles to connect Silver Plume and Georgetown. The railroad used to do it in 4 miles.

Clear Creek that the train will cross four times going down the grade.

More equipment stored in a siding down the grade from Silver Plume.

The train's route cuts right between the trees.

Our train will take many curves as it drops down the grade towards Georgetown.

This shot looking down the train.

The train route through cuts and trees.

Our train dropped down across the Big Fill.

We are now headed back in the direction of Silver Plume.

Clear Creek.

The bridge across Clear Creek.

Passing by rocks and plants as we drop down the grade.

Clear Creek.

The old Turntable Bridge.

Lebanon Silver Mine Station and the bridge across Clear Creek.

The slope is steep as the railroad clings to the mountain side.

Part of the Lebanon Silver Mine Experience for the passengers who took the tour will be picked up by the next train heading down.

The siding at the old Hall Tunnel siding where the great Alpine Tunnel, 1650 feet in length once was located.

Old remains from the facilities of long ago.

View looking down.

The train crossing the Devil's Gate Viaduct.

The Devil's Gate Viaduct.

The train now heading the other way after making the 180 degree turn on the viaduct.

View through the trees of the Devil's Gate Viaduct.

Crossing Clear Creek.

Clear Creek. Moments later our train has arrived at the Georgetown Station which is just west of the Devil's Gate Viaduct. There is a large group of passengers waiting to board our train for their trip to Silver Plume.

Click here for Part 2 of this story