A BRIEF HISTORY
THE COLORADO/NEW MEXICO PORTION
ATCHISON, TOPEKA & SANTA FE RAILROAD
As with most railroads of the era, the early Santa Fe put track down as quickly as possible to gain a foothold in the area. This meant that the grades and curvatures were not always the best.
The area modeled reflects those early times. The original main line is now the branch line. The old alignment has a 4.5 percent grade and several sharp curves. There is a long curving trestle along the line also. The railroad found Chromite, the mineral that makes chrome steel, at one place along the line and it became the location of M.Y. Akinbak Mine as a major shipper on the route. It is still in operation today and serves steel plants in the eastern and western U.S.
A little farther along the original line is Rainbow Canyon. This is where the large wooden trestle is located. The beautifully colored rocks of the South West can be seen close up in all of its splendor. In the old days the passenger trains all stopped on the trestle for the tourists to snap photos of the canyon. Today a tourist train still stops for photos to be taken.
The area also has had volcanic activity in the distant past. A survey team searching for routes around and through the mountains discovered some hot springs in the area. Once the trains were rolling over the route the Santa Fe went back to the hot springs for a closer look. It was determined the springs had curative effects. The railroad developed the springs as a year around resort, Lago Qumato, or Burnt Lake. The only way to get to the resort was and still is by rail.
The Santa Fe prospered and as funds became available the railroad began to improve the alignment and grades and double track the main line. An easier grade and alignment was found starting at Douglas Junction. This reduced the grade to 1.5 percent and eased the curvature. The town of Ruth was by-passed and a new town of Almost was founded, so named because it was almost to the summit. While grading the line near Almost coal was discovered. So Almost Mine began operations and the town of Almost became an important town along the line. In later years it was noticed that the coal was of very low sulfur content and the town is in a new "Boom" time. The slogan of the mine became " Almost Mine Home of Almost Clean Coal".
The new alignment by-passed Rainbow Canyon and Lago Qumato but, the resort was so well known the old trackage was kept in service as far as the resort. The Chromite mine and the resort are a major source of revenue. This justifies the branch remaining open. In fact today a daily train operates from Sharon Springs to Lago Qumato. To add flavor the train is an "Old Time" train pulled by a 2-6-2 steamer and old time coaches. The only way to the resort is still via rail. The steam train serves the resort for the tourists and a railcar (RDC) for workers and mail. A supply train makes regular trips to bring in supplies and materials for the servicing of the steam train.
The town of Sharon Springs grew to big city status with manufacturing and agriculture. The fertile valley produces a large quantity of vegetables. The Good Food Company has a large operation in town. The company slogan is world famous - "IF IT'S GOOD IT'S IN THE CAN!"
Sharon Springs is also a crew change and layover point along the transcontinental line of the Santa Fe. There is an engine house and refueling facility located here. Engines can be added to help get the trains over the mountains to the east. The refers are iced here on their way east. All passenger trains stop for service here too.
Sharon Springs is an interchange point with the Rio Grande Railroad from Denver. There is a daily passenger train also.
Today, the late1950's-early 1960's, the area modeled is a busy portion of the Santa Fe railroad. There are long freight trains and full-length passenger trains in a parade of action.