To Santa Fe By Narrow Gauge the D&RG Chili Line SC

To Santa Fe By Narrow Gauge the D&RG Chili Line SC

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To Santa Fe By Narrow Gauge the D&RG Chili Line SC
 
To Santa Fe By Narrow Gauge the D&RG Chili Line Soft Cover Reprinted from the Colorado Rail Annual special Chili Line issue    56 Pages
SANTA FE! The end of the trail. El Ciudad Real de la Santa Fe, "Royal City of the Holy Faith," capital of the Territory of New Mexico, founded in the hazy past of Imperial Spain about the year 1610. Yet, in the 1880s this centuries-old capital of a territory of the United States was still considered part of the western frontier, a rough-and-tumble town in one of the last two territories in the continental United States to achieve statehood, and that not until 1912.
There is a vast railroad system that has appropriated the name of that town. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe made it the stated objective of their corporate title. Unlike many railroads that failed to achieve their objective, they reached it, left it on a branch track, and hustled on to the Pacific that, unlike most western railroads, had been omitted from their corporate title.
But there was another railroad to reach the city of Santa Fe during the 1880s, and that was the narrow gauge line of the Denver and Rio Grande. Its tracks are now long gone from the valley of the Great River. The grade slowly washes back into the adobe soil from which it was formed. And yet, it had left its indelible mark on the land. "Everyone missed the line," wrote Oliver LaFarge long after it was gone:
The whistle of the northbound train as it came around the cliffs near Otowi was the signal for San Ildefonso and Santa Clara Indians and the Spanish - Americans near by to leave their fields and go to lunch. As one Indian told me, once the train stopped running, they would either have to buy watches or go back to the ways of their ancestors and plant sticks in the ground to tell them when it was noon . . . In a very real sense it was part of the valley, part of the local community all the way north from Santa Fe.
This now-vanished line of narrow gauge railroad was the inspiration of a man named William Jackson Palmer. Former army colonel in the Civil War, former railroad surveyor for the government, "General" Palmer organized a Colorado company
in 1870 called the Denver and Rio Grande Railway. It was unique in two respects. It was the first railroad in the nation to adopt the narrow track gauge of three feet, in imitation of the Festiniog Railway of Wales. And it was projected as a north-south trunk line connecting Denver and Mexico City, in contrast to every other major western railroad to date which had been projected on east-west lines.
Knowledge of the territory between the capital of Colorado Territory and the City of Mexico was scant, and on early maps of the D&RG the projected line followed fanciful paths around fanciful mountain ranges in a land few men knew. But in New Mexico, the general idea focused on following the river of the railroad's corporate title through Albuquerque to El Paso del Norte, with perhaps a branch north of Albuquerque to Santa Fe. For the Mexican portion of his route, Palmer incorporated a firm called the Ferrocarril Nacional Mexicano (Mexican National Railroad) to build a narrow gauge line connecting the D&RG with the City of Mexico.

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