Showing posts with label Leadville Colorado and Southern. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leadville Colorado and Southern. Show all posts

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Fall Colors Return to the Rails of Colorado

Kids are back in school. Football is rolling into stadiums. The summer heat is fading into a warm autumn. Pretty soon, we will see the first hints of fall colors in the only state with color in its name: Colorado.

As a photographer, I love and hate driving a car in the mountains. It's s beautiful and challenging and yet, there's no way for me to actually enjoy the beautiful vistas and dramatic, vibrant aspens. Taking a train is the best solution to let everyone enjoy the views while still keeping the parade of Rocky Mountain gold moving. If you haven't booked tickets for a train ride through the fall colors, you still have a chance. Here are a few options.

Farthest north in our list and therefore first to turn that glorious gold, the far-famed Loop is a fine addition to anyone's trip up Clear Creek. The aspens around Georgetown and Silver Plume are legendary, especially up the former grade of the Argentine Central. The only downside: the equally legendary traffic on I-70. Better on a weekday, ideally a Tuesday or Wednesday

If steam is not as big a deal for you, the LC&S has an opportunity for a trip to near-timberline. While aspens are not nearly as numerous, the opportunity for closeups and wildlife are increasing. The trip up the nice side of Fremont Pass is an enjoyable one. Were it able to go all the way to the summit, it would certainly rank among the best.

Steam and diesel both make the trek over La Veta Pass and aspen and buckbrush are available. Most of the climb is isolated from any road, allowing for a sense of true exploration and yet the standard gauge rails allow for full-size accommodations. Although most seats are under or behind glass, an open air car usually allows for great photo opportunities. A recent wildfire damaged the facilities at the summit of the pass, so what is there is brand new!

There is one narrow gauge railroad route that takes riders further and higher than the others: The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. Starting in Antonito, Colorado or Chama, New Mexico, the train climbs over Cumbres Pass from both directions daily, passing through stands of aspen on both sides of the state border it hopscotches, scraping every contour for every bit of grade needed to summit the pass. Several sections are rail isolated and the coal fired steam is every bit the railroad experience you hope for and a fall color paradise late in the season! There are plenty of reasons USA Today readers voted it the best scenic ride in the country!

There is only one line that has never stopped hauling passengers over its narrow gauge rails. Since 1882, the Denver & Rio Grande Western and now the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroads have taken passengers up the Rio de las Animas between the former milling town of Durango and the remote mining town of Silverton, Colorado. The deep chasms of the San Juan mountains still turn gold with aspens as if to match the Grande gold of the cars of the splendid little train. Stuffy coaches, open air gondolas or even the Silver Vista glass dome car still ply their trade and regularly rock over the rails as ever they did.

Honorable Mention: California Zephyr 
It may cut through the most amazing scenery on the entire Amtrak system, and aspens may run riot through every canyon, but until you can (legally) pry your Superliner window open for an unfiltered photo or plant a seat in the vestibule, the CalZ is not your ideal way to see the colors.⚒

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

POTD - BN Caboose Two Miles High

Photo of the Day: Mike Danneman
It is 1984, and the Climax local has just returned to the two-mile high city of Leadville under threat of rain from a July cloudburst overhead. Winter snows still cling to Mount Elbert above the covered hopper and Mount Massive (at far right), the two highest peaks in Colorado. The summer storm belies the fact that summer, if it comes at all, is far too brief at this altitude to make much of an impact. Nevertheless, as noted photographer Mike Danneman notes, this line survives as the Leadville, Colorado & Southern, a summer tourist railroad in business long after the neighboring Tennessee Pass Route has fallen silent.

The isolated segment of the Burlington Northern system, 150 rail miles from its nearest connection at Pueblo, is still generating revenue many decades after coming into the fold of Colorado & Southern as part of the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad. To get there, the DSP&P climbed from Como in South Park over the Continental Divide at Boreas Pass, down through Breckenridge and Frisco before heading up over Fremont Pass (and the Continental Divide, again). Such up and down, north and south wanderings are why they had such turbulent corporate histories and why Colorado narrow gauge railroads are so beloved. ⚒

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

POTD - Isolated in Leadville

The last remnant of the Denver, South Park and Pacific being operated today is the Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad. From 1899, it was part of the C&S consolidation of narrow gauge lines--the ones not associated with Rio Grande. In the 40s, the line was standard gauged, operating for a short time with 4 rails to prevent any service disruption. From the 40s to the 60s, C&S #641 moved cars from the Climax mine at the top of Fremont Pass down to the connection with Rio Grande outside Leadville. After 641 retired, she was put on display in Leadville while a Burlington Northern road switcher took over her duties.

Colorado & Southern standard gauge steamer rests outside the Leadville,
Colorado & Southern depot in Leadville, Colorado one hot day in August 1999
Photo: Jeff Jordan

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Colorado Day Quiz

A railroad question made it into the Colorado Day quiz offered by the Denver Post.

Spoiler warning: Stop reading unless you want some serious clues as to the answer.

Interesting enough, the Denver & Rio Grande pulled up the narrow gauge rails over this pass as they withdrew from the Blue River basin early on in its history. Few railfans realize that the Rio Grande reached all the way to Summit county, and did so by first going to Pueblo and then up the Arkansas all the way to its source. There would have been no Ski Train to Breckenridge however. Aside from the length of the trip, Breckenridge was still just a mining town and Copper Mountain was still just a hillside above non-descript Wheeler Junction. Nevermind the fact that skiing was relatively unknown in 1923 at the time Rio Grande abandoned the 36 miles of rails on the Blue River Extension.

One final hint: The pass is still reached by rail, although the trains don't quite reach it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cheyenne Frontier Days Special Train Tops Summer Weekend In Colorado

This is just a reminder to everyone about the activities tomorrow. Any time you're looking for updated information on Colorado railroads, be sure to drop by the Special Events Calendar.

First, we have the Cheyenne Frontier Days Special Train run by Union Pacific between Denver and Cheyenne. The train runs again tomorrow. While the tickets have been sold out, there's likely to be a spot or two open on the photo line. This will be the last scheduled run of UP steam on the Front Range this year, seeing that the 2008 State Fair Express is already canceled.

Second is the Colorado Railroad Museum's 4th annual Wine & Cheese Train. An historic narrow gauge passenger train powered by a steam or diesel locomotive will run at approximately 20-minute intervals between 10 am. and 4 p.m. on the museum grounds.

Third and last is the Colorado Wildflower Special on the Leadville, Colorado & Southern. The train is scheduled to leave the station at 10:00 a.m. The tickets run $40.00.

Have fun this weekend, and don't forget to check the weather!
Chris May's Photos of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Special

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

LC&S Owners Block EPA Pump Plan

The EPA's work to alleviate water pressure in the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel has just hit a potential snag. Leadville, Colorado & Southern co-owner Ken Olsen, also the Lake County Commissioner who originally warned of the potential disaster, is now demanding that the EPA compensate him for an easement of land needed to complete the relief project.
"They are just absurd in what they are wanting to do," said Stephanie Olsen who
co-owns the tourist train, Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad, with her
husband. "This is taking property without just compensation." Click here for more from
It's the opinion of this blog that unless the Olsen's want to become very unpopular for putting their interest above the community's, they should just let the EPA dig. It's one thing to make a point about landowner's rights, quite another to put the community at risk because you want a few bucks. The point has been made and they should let it go ahead. Or were Leadville's citizens not in that great a danger to begin with?