Narrow Gauge Then and now by Gildersleeve and Huxtable
Narrow Gauge Then and now by Gildersleeve and Huxtable
Narrow Gauge Then and now by Gildersleeve and Huxtable
Narrow Gauge Then and now by Gildersleeve and Huxtable
Narrow Gauge Then and now by Gildersleeve and Huxtable

Narrow Gauge Then and now by Gildersleeve and Huxtable

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Narrow Gauge Then and now by Gildersleeve and Huxtable
 
Narrow Gaugeand now by Tom Gildersleeve and Nils Huxtable
Soft cover  Reflections from the lights on some photos.
Copyright 1993
48 pages
INTRODUCTION
The 1950s represented a tumultuous decade for American railroads, one which saw a revolutionary change from steam to diesel. By the autumn of 1960, the Rio Grande narrow gauge (3 feet between rails instead of the standard 4 feet 8''h inches) was by far the most extensive steam operation left in the United States, with 22 locomotives on the roster, and 293 route miles of spectacular mountain railroad. It was a railroad that traced its direct lineage to the late 1870s and early 1880s, when General William Jackson Palmer founded a narrow gauge empire to tap the mineral and agricultural wealth of the region. At its peak, the network included over 1800 route miles in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.
The narrow gauge concept was based on the assumption that lines could be constructed and operated for a fraction of the cost of a standard gauge railroad, especially in the mountainous districts typical of this area. Unfortunately, this premise ignored the one major disadvantage of narrow gauge - lack of interchangeability with other railroads, most of which were standard gauge. Consequently, all of the more important lines of the Rio Grande were gradually standard gauged; only the marginal operations were left unconverted.
Serving local mines, farms and ranches, these marginal lines continued to survive for another half century. Finally, during the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Rio Grande made a concerted effort to abandon them. By 1956, only the 200-mile San Juan extension between Alamosa and Durango, plus the Farmington and Silverton branches, remained, and those only because an oil and natural gas discovery in the area around Farmington, New Mexico, had intervened to give the railroad an economic reason to survive. This gave the San Juan extension a reprieve from abandonment for over a decade, just barely enough time to allow the nation to discover some of its historical heritage and preserve it. Today, thanks to that reprieve, we still have the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.  


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