In the summer of 1953, time was running out for railroading on most of Rio Grande’s intense narrow gauge network in southwestern Colorado. Though dieselization was nearly complete for most Class 1 railroads across America, here in Narrow Gauge country, steam remained king until the fire was dropped on the last engine after operations came to a standing halt. Pentrex takes you back to this place and time through a priceless collection of carefully restored vintage films. Our journey begins with a look at dual gauge activity in the Salida Yard, located alongside the meandering Arkansas River.
A standard gauge class C41 2-8-0 is seen along with several L131 2-8-8-2 articulateds at the coaling tower. Narrow gauge K27 #453 is also earning its keep. In addition, there are views of Salida’s classic 20-stall roundhouse and car shop. We take a brief but scenic drive over Marshall Pass Road as we explore the more than 10,000-foot high Pass. Next we work our way to Gunnison where we encounter C16 #268, which is emerging from the roundhouse and gets turned manually on the turntable. The 2-8-2 is being prepared to take a freight to Sapinero. We chase the train through rocky canyons and open prairies and catch switching operations in Sapinero. Then watch as raw steam power tackles 4.5 percent grades and unique double switchbacks on the Monarch Branch.
Today, with the exception of two tourist lines, the narrow gauge empire is little more than a memory. However, you can still relive that fascinating era once again with Pentrex’s Colorado Narrow Gauge in the 1950s!