Alamosa / Salida and the Valley Line by Richard Dorman w / dust jacket
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Alamosa / Salida and the Valley Line by Richard Dorman w / dust jacket
ALAMOSA / SALIDA AND THE VALLEY LINE by Richard L. Dorman
Hard Cover with Dust Jacket
Copyright 1991 FIRST edition
4th of 5 volumes.
The vast system of rail trackage developed by the Rio Grande is not more amazing in its initial growth than shown by a study of the Alamosa and Salida areas. General William Palmer and his cohorts envisioned a vast rail empire from Denver to El Paso and perhaps even beyond. Some evidence links plans all the way westward to California, to Mexico City southward in their strategy. They were hoping for a bridge connecting route to circumvent the Rockies somewhat and to provide access to the west coast. By interconnecting with the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad at Albuquerque going east and west, and the Texas and Pacific at El Paso going in the same direction would increase their railroad fortunes. The 1873 map included in this book seems to indicate less interest in the mining development in the adjacent Colorado mountains hut rather how to provide a gap service for the westward trend! Not one branch or rail line is projected into the heart of the Rockies even the notations on the map shows mining potential. but no projected trackage. The first real thrusts came as they penetrated through the Royal Gorge into Salida and over La Veta Pass into the San Luis Valley. Meager, early efforts to enter the country by horse, stages, or covered wagon soon exploded through rail accommodation, new towns and an insatiable appetite for prospecting. This direction changed the heads and thinking of the Rio Grande Railroad tycoons with now a chance at more potential business and less dependence on the continental railroads for traffic. This book, the fourth in "around-the-circle" exploration of the D&RG narrow gauge in Colorado covers some of their growth patterns. Richard Dorman presents more of this extensive collection of images depicting the narrow gauge growth around Alamosa and Salida.
Alamosa and Salida were and still are to a lesser degree two of the bulwarks of the narrow gauge Denver and Rio Grande railroad empire. Each facility maintained huge repair and storage complexes and provided nerve centers for their respective division points. Also, each had the standard gauge system sharing equipment and trackage along side the narrow gauge. Salida. the headquarters of the third Division maintained the lines predominantly to the west and the standard gauge main line west. Alamosa became the hub for the Fourth Division activities, mostly, outside of the long "branch to Durango and Silverton", for the tremendous mining thrusts in the San Juan mountains. Both shops could if called upon, provide full locomotive maintenance and could build a locomotive from the ground up. Needless to expound on the subject of dependance, each town relied upon the D&RG for almost total support, especially in the earlier years. After standard gauging much of their trackage in the 1890s, the D&RG relied upon Alamosa and Salida to be the headquarters for nearly all the slim gauge activities. Salida was a fascinating place. Not only did it have a large shop, several interesting roundhouses, but the total atmosphere including the hotel and station grouping made it totally unusual. Trains moving in and out of their various locations, maneuvering through complex switches only added to the unique quality of the railyard area. On many occasions standard gauge engines, usually a C-48, would be seen switching the narrow gauge can with an idler car. The large steam pipes on an overhead system to transport the steam to the shop areas added a quality of symbolic action to the integrated maintenance areas. Things seemed to happen in the Salida yards. Fast broad gauge passenger trains were moving east and west on the main line and the narrow gauge counterpart moving not as far or fast but nevertheless providing momentum around the depot nerve center. I visualize the depot activity as people from
other places travelling through or changing trains at the Salida station, not so much the local people hanging around the depot stove chatting. It wasn't a small town place! Transporting people and commodities happened in Salida! In contrast, Alamosa was down-scale from her northern counterpart. The standard gauge was less dominant, locally more or less around Alamosa. Trains terminated here. They did not continue on to another destination. Alamosa was a scatter and retrieve center for the railroad. The trackage went in all four directions but people and freight were shipped and returned in smaller portions. Passenger service to the Creede branch was a 2 or 3 car effort and the trains Nos. 315 and 316 to Durango were 4 to 5 cars maximum. The Santa Fe branch was a mixed consist and from Alamosa to points north via Walsenburg and Pueblo was a small train, at least as far as passenger traffic was concerned. Notwithstanding the above observations, Alamosa had its own uniqueness. A community togetherness seemed stronger than most. It has survived the almost total loss of the railroad and has even expanded from its wounds of lost benevolence, through the D&RG. Growth began with a full time enrollment College and Alamosans and the San Luis Valley maintained their ability to grow products from the earth. Today tourism and winter sports add to the fabric of the valley's other prime activities. It is surviving, well! Very little railroad action is found at the yards these days but the skeletons in the yards still standing indicate the bygone years of hustling steam engines. Both centers of the D&RG railway empires are far from demising, but a nostalgic air of the past is still very much present. Not so evident are the long abandoned sites of former rail depots and yards on spurs and branches pinwheeling around the larger destinations. Creston is still breathing and Cottonwood, the mine producer several miles south, is a stone hulk awaiting only interested hikers and history buffs. Orient is only ground disturbed long ago. When driving over La Veta Pass highway, Placer is just a wide place in the road. However, the stone depot at Veta Pass along with the depression in the earth of the former turntable are still evident. Del Nome's station still beckons to investigate as does Creede with a bonus of a museum intrigues! The remains of Creede are explorable and one could now easily continue on to Lake City with the new all weather road. Standard gauge tracks still ply through the weeds to South Fork and the Wagon Wheel station is there to photograph. Hiking they say is healthy and you can combine your athletic attributes with a history overtone and still see much of the old grade over the Valley line through to Poncha. Even the Marshall Pass grade is there, drivable, but the automobile has disfigured most of the nostalgic traces of old ties and the usual feeling a train once rode here! Alamosa and Salida for the buffs is still intact enough for a person to see the remnants of the rail empire. You might even see broad gauge freight with a whining diesel pulling her up grade above Salida. Alamosa still has a station as does La Jara and Antonito. If you get as far as Antonito you might as well ticket westward on the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad to Chama to see the depot and their new UTLX tank car exhibit.
This book will view the various trackage in and around the Third and Fourth Divisions besides the material on Salida and Alamosa. The connection. the valley line running north and south between Alamosa and Salida, even though quite sparse of activity does have an interesting history. We will look at the few pictures taken of these operations and wish more were available. The Creede branch was very active and to some extent still is as farm products and lumbering continue to be shipped. Gypsum products processed just south of Antonito maintain still the standard gauge tracks south from Alamosa. We take a look at the use of that branch both before and after the demise of the narrow gauge.
To round out activities north around Salida both the Monarch branch line and a start up the Marshall pass line is included with quite a few photographs. The Calumet branch and a look eastward to the towns of Canon City and Florence complete the rail line efforts of the D&RG, especially in the early years. Photos and information concerning Coal Creek. Westcliff, and the Rosita mining district are unfortunately not included in this study. I have covered quite a lengthy bit of the railroad empire of the Denver and Rio grande and some of the information of how it arrived at various locales. Perhaps this photo insight explains the far flung directions the system went, tried to maintain, and as time and circumstances changed slowly abandoned branch after branch.
INDEX To SUBJECTS
Northbound to Alamosa18
2 ALAMOSA/THE FOURTH DIVISION 25
A Variety of Steam59
3 LA VETA PASS/EASTERN ROUTE
4 THE CREEDE BRANCH/WEST89
Wagon Wheel Gap98
Creede: The End of the Line100
5 THE VALLEY LINE105
7 MONARCH TURN173
8 MARSHALL PASS189
9 EAST TO CANON CITY AND FLORENCE201
10 CALUMET BRANCH209I
11 WORK EQUIPMENT AT SALIDA 213
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