2007-12-05

Review: Colorado's Mountain Railroads

With winter comes a bit of a slowdown on the railroads of Colorado, and Colorado Railroads blog is no exception. Because there’s not much news besides the Christmas trains, I'm going to do some more product reviews. You’ve already seen the Gunnison DVD offered. Now to the books!

There is no shortage of books on Colorado railroads but if I had to pick books that would be the best to have in any railfan's collection, Colorado's Mountain Railroads by Robert A. LaMassena would be near the top of the list. Covering roughly 100 years of Colorado railroad history, this book is an exhaustive listing of any and all mountain roads laying a rail in the Centennial State.

Having appeared as separate volumes dating from 1963, LaMassena consolidated and revised his work and Sundance Publications Limited printed it in 1984. It is still the most valuable in researching obscure railroads in Colorado. For example, most railfans know the Rio Grande and possibly the Colorado Midland, but not many know about the Midland Terminal or its use of rail buses to help with passenger traffic after World War I. Likewise, not much coverage has been done of the larger, out-of-state roads including the Union Pacific, Missouri Pacific and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. Finally, every short line that laid rail (and even some that never did) get at least some treatment. Here’s a partial listing:
  • Colorado Central
  • Colorado Yule Marble Co., along with the Crystal River railroads.
  • Coors Brewing Co.
  • Denver, Boulder & Western
  • Denver, Lakewood & Golden
  • Denver Pacific
  • Denver & Santa Fe
  • Denver, Texas & Gulf
  • Dolores, Paradox & Grand Junction
  • Fairmount (yes, to the cemetery in Denver)
  • Gilpin
  • Golden Circle
  • Grand River Valley
  • Great Western (the sugar beet short line)
  • Kansas Pacific
  • Laramie, Hahn’s Peak & Pacific
  • London, South Park & Leadville
  • Magic Mountain (now Heritage Square in Golden)
  • Montezuma Lumber Co.
  • Northwestern Terminal Railway (Denver Union Terminal)
  • Pagosa Lumber Co.
  • Pueblo & Arkansas Valley
  • Rio Grande & Pagosa Springs
  • Routt Pinnacle Coal Co.
  • Salt Lake & Eastern
  • San Cristobal
  • San Luis Southern
  • Santa Fe Southern
  • Silverton Northern
  • Southern Colorado Power & Railway Co.
  • Stone Mountain Railroad & Quarry Co.
  • Texas, Santa Fe & Northern
  • Treasury Mountain
  • Uintah
  • Union Pacific, Denver & Gulf
  • Utah Central Railroad
  • Wasatch & Jordan Valley
I don’t think I’ve listed more than half the railroads covered. Some of them are simple interurbans and streetcar lines. Yet all of them contributed in a real way to Colorado and her vast network of high iron.

The photo illustrations are very illuminating as well. Rare photos abound including,
  • Balwin’s 2-6-6-2 narrow-gauge, single expansion Mallets made for Uintah’s sharp curves
  • Close-up shot of the Corkscrew Gulch turntable near the Red Mountain townsite
  • A triple stub switch on the Rio Grande Southern outside of Rico
  • A full color depiction of the travesty of RGS engine 42 painted like a circus train for the Magic Mountain railroad
  • D&RGW 821, a 2-6-0T used by the Salt Lake shops in 1923
  • Several pictures of Rio Grande’s affair with Fairbanks-Morse
  • Denver & Salt Lake’s true (double expansion) 2-6-6-0 Mallets
  • Colorado & Wyoming’s Ford truck with flanged wheels (a la RGS Galloping Goose)
This is one of the best books on Colorado railroads, period.



This review also appears in its abridged form on Amazon.com since 2014-Dec-05. - SW