G.E. Nordell's CO, NM & UT Railroads Pages
Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad

twin posters for Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad for 1938-39 winter season                   short histories

route & stations

equipment rosters

reading material

films & other media

image gallery


                  poster for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Scenic Line showing the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel

The narrow-gauge Denver & Rio Grande Railway began in 1870, converted the mainline to standard gauge circa 1890, and merged with the Rio Grande Western in 1901 - becoming the Denver & Rio Grande Western; D&RGW purchased the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1988 (which ended the D&RGW identity). Several stretches of the D&RG and D&RGW routes operate today as tourist/heritage railroads, with several dozen steam locomotives preserved and in regular use.

early-style Denver & Rio Grande Railroad herald              old-style Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad logo              modern-style b&w Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad herald
narrow-gauge Denver & Rio Grande Railroad [1870-1901]
Utah-based Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway [1880-1889]
Rio Grande Western Railway [1889-1901]
Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad [1901 merger-1988 S.P. merger]

The Denver & Rio Grande Railway began as a narrow-gauge line in 1870, incorporated by Gen. William Jackson Palmer, Dr. William Bell, and three others. Construction began southward from Denver toward Pueblo, Colorado. Competition with AT&SF flared into outright warfare by armed thugs from 1877-1880; AT&SF filed in Boston federal court and were eventually granted rights to Raton Pass. So D&RG overpaid for rights to the Royal Gorge of the Arkansas River; AT&SF also tried to prevent construction there - this became known as the Royal Gorge War. The D&RG also built west from Pueblo in 1874 and thru the Gorge, reaching Salida and Leadville in 1880. A branch over Marshall Pass reached Gunnison in August 1881 and continued thru Black Canyon to Cimarron, Montrose, and Delta, finally connecting with the Utah-based D&RGW at Grand Junction in March 1883.

By late 1880, D&RG owners Palmer and Bell started another company in Utah called the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway, and in mid-1881 began construction from Salt Lake City toward Colorado; the two lines connected in March 1883 at Grand Junction, Colorado. Financial troubles on the D&RG forced reorganization, then foreclosure and sale in July 1886; the new company was called the Denver and Rio Grande Rail-road.
Colorado railroad tycoon David H. Moffat [1839-1911] was elected to the board of D&RG in 1885, then elected president in 1887. The line from Pueblo to Leadville was converted to dual-gauge (three rails, enabling both 3-foot narrow-gauge and wider standard-gauge traffic) in 1887; narrow-gauge branch lines were constructed to Crested Butte, Lake City, Ouray, and Somerset. Moffat oversaw construction of new track from Glenwood to Grand Junction, then standard-gauged the route from Pueblo to Grand Junction, and also built the Tennessee Pass Tunnel [elev. 10,242; replaced 1945]. Problems with the economy and bondholders' lack of faith in management caused Moffat to resign in 1891.

The D&RGW in Utah was renamed Rio Grande Western Railway in 1889; Palmer continued to run the company until 1901, when the RGW merged with the D&RG; the company's assets were consolidated in 1908. Speculators from the Western Pacific Railroad in California weakened the RGW, and bankruptcy of the Western Pacific forced D&RG into receivership in 1918 and reorganization as the D&RGW in 1920-21. Mining traffic went up and down, but passenger traffic declined in the 1930s and then the trackage and rolling stock became valuable as scrap for the approaching war in Europe, and the narrow-gauge rails of the Rocky Mountains had largely disappeared by the 1950s. The line to Chama, New Mexico was saved in a joint effort by Colorado and New Mexico in 1970, now operated as the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. The D&RGW sold off the 45-mile narrow-gauge Durango to Silverton branch in 1981, now thriving as year-round heritage operation Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

D&RGW purchased the Southern Pacific Railway in 1988, but the decision was made to use the S.P.R.R. identity, and the D&RGW identity was dropped.
The S.P.R.R. merged into the Union Pacific in 1996, at which time the S.P.R.R. identity was also dropped. Two companies purchased the twelve-mile route
thru Royal Gorge in 1998, operating both a year-round freight line and a summertime steam-powered tourist operation.

no official D&RGW website • Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad entry at Wikipedia

Rio Grande Gunnison Railway Company [1892-1908]
Colorado banker & railroad tycoon David H. Moffat [1839-1911] proposed a rail line thru the Rio Grande Canyon from Wagon Wheel Gap to the silver boom town
of Creede (where Moffat owned mining properties); when the D&RG declined to partner with Moffat, Moffat built it with his own money. Silver shipments declined but were replaced by steady shipments of lead and zinc; the line was quite profitable, and Moffat sold it to the D&RG at a large profit, probably in 1908.

Denver and Rio Grande Railroad tourist line [est. 2000]
Denver and Rio Grande Railroad [est. 2000]
Tourist railroad in South Fork, Colorado that operates two motorcars on the old D&RGW railroad line for 11 miles to Wagon Wheel Gap,
with an available hour-long 7-mile extension to the wye at Wason Ranch south of Creede; operates Memorial Day thru October.
official website • no entry at Wikipedia

Denver & Rio Grande Historical Foundation {fansite?}, 20 North Broadway in Monte Vista, Colorado

This non-profit modern D&RGRR owns the 21.6 miles of former D&RGW railbed from South Fork to Creede, Colorado and operates two motorcars
– the ten-passenger 'Silver Streak' speeder  click here for photograph (in a new window) and a four-passenger former mail truck speeder  click here for photograph (in a new window)
along eleven miles and back, in season. In March 2005, an assortment of standard gauge relics were delivered to the train yard at Monte Vista, Colorado:
F.E.C Railway 2-6-2 steam locomotive #148, three D&RGW box cars, two D&RGW flangers, a D&RGW gondola, D&RGW caboose #01423, and two flat cars.

1920 ALCO-built Florida East Coast Railway 2-6-2 Pacific steam locomotive #148 was sold in the 1940s to United States Sugar Company in Florida, and saw service in the 1970s on the Whippany River tourist railroad in New Jersey. Decrepit by the 1980s; sold & moved to Traverse City, Michigan (restoration begun & halted); arrived in Colorado with complete tender, full boiler & mechanism, stripped cab; restoration of locomotive #148 is scheduled to complete in 2016.
click here for photograph as U.S. Sugar #148, circa 1950 (in a new window)       click here for photograph of F.E.C. locomotive #148 as delivered to Colorado in 2005 (in a new window)

D&RG / D&RGW Routes and Stations

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad [built 1880; incorp. 1974]
The D&RG and the D&RGW grew over 100 years time, so the information here will be shown in sections;
the acquisition of/by Southern Pacific will be covered elsewhere.

The official stations or water stops are (moving westward): [MP345, elev. 7871].


Antonito, Colorado
Eastern terminus of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR, with station, gift shop, equipment repair shops, and lots of parked rolling stock;
the Rio Grande Scenic RR operates steam tourist trains from Alamosa to Antonito on Summer weekends.
Whistle Stop Guest House [built 1950s, open 5/2013], 306 W. Eighth Street in Antonito, Colorado
Antonito [CO] Merchants Assn.

Osier, Colorado
Toltec Gorge Catering, Inc. operates the lunchroom buffet at Osier
Osier, Colorado entry at Wikipedia

D&RG / D&RGW Equipment Rosters
D&RG/D&RGW Steam Locomotive Roster
D&RG/D&RGW Diesel Locomotive Roster

D&RG / D&RGW Narrow-Gauge Locomotive Roster

1883ng T-12 4-6-0#168D&RG to 1924, D&RGW 1924 to 1933 retirement; donated to Colorado Springs in 1938; on stationary display in Antlers Park to 2015; moved to C&TSRR Antonito Yards for restoration  click here for photograph (in a new window)slated for restoration
1903ng K-27 2-8-2 Mikado#463D&RG 1909-24, D&RGW 1924-1955, Gene Autry Ranch 1955-94, to C&TS in 1994; restored at Chama 2009-2016returned to service May 2016
1903ng K-27 2-8-2 Mikado#464D&RG 1909-24, D&RGW 1924-1962, Knotts Berry Farm RR 1973-?, Huckleberry RR 1981-todayoperating daily (in season) {video 20:28}
1925 ng K-36 2-8-2 Mikado#483D&RGW 1925-1970, C&TS 1970-todayon display at Chama
1925 ng K-36 2-8-2 Mikado#484D&RGW 1925-1970, C&TS 1970-todayoperating daily (in season)
1925 ng K-36 2-8-2 Mikado#487D&RGW 1925-1970, C&TS 1970-todayoperating daily (in season)
1925 ng K-36 2-8-2 Mikado#488D&RGW 1925-1970, C&TS 1970-todayoperating daily (in season)
1925 ng K-36 2-8-2 Mikado#489D&RGW 1925-1962, C&TS 1970-today {rebuilt 2008}operating daily (in season)

D&RG / D&RGW Standard-Gauge Locomotive Roster

19032-8-2 Mikado#000D&RG 1909-24, D&RGW 1924-on display

Other D&RG / D&RGW Equipment

Reading Material

Steam in the Rockies D&RGW Roster book by Cornelius W. Hauck & Robert W. Richardson  
"Steam In The Rockies: A Denver Rio Grande Steam Locomotive Roster" [1963]
by Cornelius W. Hauck & Robert W. Richardson

Colorado Railroad Museum 12x9¾ hardcover [1963] out of print/used
Denver and Rio Grande Western / Rebel of the Rockies book by Robert G. Athearn  "The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad: Rebel of The Rockies" [1962]
by Robert G. Athearn

Univ Nebraska Press 9¼x6 pb [6/77] for $30.87
Univ Nebraska Press hardcover [1962] out of print/used
Rio Grande Glory Days book by Gilbert A. Lathrop  "Rio Grande Glory Days" [1976] by Gilbert A. Lathrop
Combination of autobiography and author's stories previously published in Railroad Magazine; author's father was a locomotive driver based in Cimarron, Colorado, and third-generation railroader Gilbert became a roundhouse boy, fireman, brakeman & conducter on the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, and was also an engine foreman on the Western Pacific RR during World War II.
Golden West Books hardcover [1976] out of print/many used
Trails Among the Columbine Colorado High Country anthology edited by Russ Collman  "Trails Among The Columbine: A Colorado High Country Anthology" [1987]
Edited by Russ Collman

The 19-mile Monarch Branch of the narrow-gauge D&RG (later D&RGW) Railroad connected the Colorado mining towns of Salida, Poncha Springs, Maysville, Garfield & Monarch.
Sundance Publns hardcover [1994] out of print/used
Sundance Publns hardcover [1989] out of print/used
Sundance Publns 11x8¾ hardcover [1987] out of print/used
The Chili Line D&RGW in Santa Fe, New Mexico art by John Winfield  "The Chili Line and Santa Fe, The City Different" [1996]
Compiled by Richard L. Dorman

self-publd hardcover [1996] out of print/scarce
self-publd hardcover [1996] out of print/scarce
Chasing the Narrow Gauge / Denver & Rio Grande Western book by Robert W. Richardson  "Chasing the Narrow Gauge, Volume 2: Rio Grande (D&RGW)" [2005]
by Robert W. Richardson

Takes a close look at D&RGW's Silverton-Durango, Farmington, Third Division, and Valley Line branches
Heimburger House Publng 12¼x9¼ hardcover [5/2005] for $53.15
Rio Grande Narrow Gauge in Color book by Thomas A. Brunner  
"Rio Grande Narrow Gauge In Color, Volume 1, 1947-1959: Empire, Contraction, and Railfan Discovery" [2005] by Thomas A. Brunner
Morning Sun Books 11x8½ hardcover [2005] out of print/used
Rescue of The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad book by Will Bagley  "Always A Cowboy: Judge Wilson McCarthy and The Rescue of The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad" [2008] by Will Bagley
Utah State Univ Press hardcover [5/2008] for $26.56
Rio Grande, Crest of the Continent book by Chuck Conway  "Rio Grande: Crest of The Continent" [2011]
by Chuck Conway

White River Prodns 9x12 hardcover [2011] third party sales
via Amazon for $84.89
Silver Rails Railroads of Leadville, Colorado book by Christopher James  "Silver Rails: The Railroads of Leadville, Colorado" [2015]
by Christopher James

Sierra Grande Press 8½x11½ hardcover [2015] out of print/used
The story of Leadville's three railroads: the Denver & Rio Grande, the Colorado Midland, and the Denver, South Park & Pacific; 400+ b/w and color images, 18 route maps, 7 historic maps, bibliography, comprehensive indexofficial book site

http://www.amazon.com/Grande-Narrow-Edited-Donald-Heimburger/dp/B006NSQLTM/ sold out

Films & TV, Other Media

"The White Desert"  silent feature film
[M.G.M. May 1925]
The White Desert 1925 silent feature film  "This photo-drama was produced at tremendous cost and at a terrible risk of life." Filmed on location at Rollins Pass in the Colorado Rocky Mountains; the supervisor of the work gang pushing the digging of a railbed and tunnels over the Continental Divide wants speed, so he demands the use of dynamite. As predicted by the crew, the dynamite eventually causes an avalanche, which half-buries the camp and blocks arrival of supplies. Directed by Reginald Barker; adapted by Monte M. Katterjohn & Gordon Rigby from the 1922 novel by Courtney Ryley Cooper; starring Claire Windsor, Pat O'Malley, Robert Frazer, Frank Currier, William Eugene, Roy Laidlaw, Sôjin, Priscilla Bonner, Snitz Edwards, Milton Ross & Matthew Betz
video/DVD/Blu-ray not available • full credits at IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia
still photo of the rotary plow rescue train from "The White Desert" 1925 silent feature  adapted from Denver author Courtney Ryley Cooper's
novel "The White Desert" [Musson Book Co. 1922]

Fili-Quarian Classics 11x8½ pb [7/2010] for $9.99
1st World Publng 8½x5½ hardcover [10/2008] for $24.95

"Desert Empire" [Universal Pictures Commercial Dept. 1948]
Desert Empire theatrical promo film for D&RGW Railroad  Half-hour travelogue film by the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad filled with Utah history and scenery from the 1940s; featuring D&RGW trains {D&RGW 4-8-4 locomotive #1803}, Arches Monument, 'enough coal to supply the United States for 250 years', farming & irrigation, copper mining, Black Rock Beach, salt beds, and a Salt Lake Tabernacle organ recital • Produced by Robert M. Connell for the D&RGW Railroad; directed by Carlton T. Sills; narrated by Don Wilson
Quality Information Publrs b&w DVD [2009] for $10.99 + s/h via Amazon third party
Quality Information Publrs b&w DVD [2009] for $10.99 + s/h via Amazon third party
not listed at IMDb • watch full movie [29:40] online at YouTube

"Denver & Rio Grande" [Paramount May 1952]
Denver & Rio Grande  Filmed in Technicolor™ on the D&RGW line near Durango, Colorado; a fictional account of the 'Royal Gorge War' between the D&RGW and AT&SF railroads, circa 1878-80. Directed by Byron Haskin; written by Frank Gruber; starring Edmond O'Brien, Sterling Hayden, Dean Jagger, Kasey Rogers, Lyle Bettger, J. Carrol Naish, Zasu Pitts, Paul Fix, Tom Powers, Robert Barrat, Don Haggerty & James Burke
Olive Films color Blu-ray [5/2012] for $22.28
Olive Films color DVD [5/2012] for $17.93
Paramount color VHS [11/98] for $1.99 {sic}
full credits at IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia

'Rotary On The D&RGW Narrow Gauge' on DVD  "Rotary On The Rio Grande Narrow Gauge" [indep 2009]
70-minute color video of D&RGW rotary #OM which was fired up in the winters of 1975 and 1976 on the Cumbres & Toltec; class K-37 steam locomotive #492 and class K-36 steam locomotives #483 & 487 work hard to clear the line.
Written & directed by Emery Gulash
Green Frog Prodns DVD [8/2009] for $19.95

"Denver & Rio Grande Multimedia Adventure Kit" [2005]
Denver & Rio Grande Multimedia Adventure Kit on DVD by from Sandia Software  Railfan and software artist and netrepreneur Tom Holtman has devised a very thorough history of the D&RGW and its subsidiaries, in the form of a multimedia DVD. The Ghost Depot / RG website contains a mere sampling of the over 3,000 photos, dozens of maps, hours of videos, and tons of other material assembled by him and for sale thru his Sandia Software company, which is based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
multimedia DVD for $99.95 + s/h via Yahoo! Shopping

Image Gallery

double-header steam with D&RGW/C&TSRR locomotives #484 & #487 [both K-36 class, built in 1925], circa 2009

Railroad Links
Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad entry at Wikipedia

Rio Grande Modeling & Historical Society [est. 2001] based in Colorado Springs
D&RGW webring on Bravenet has 40+ member sites (2014)
Nathan D. Holmes's D&RGW history fansite

American Railroads Pages at Spirit of America Bookstore
Railroad Film Festival Pages at Spirit of America Bookstore
'Railroads in Fiction' Pages at Spirit of America Bookstore
'Non-Fiction Books About Railroads' Pages at Spirit of America Bookstore

here on the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Page

top of page   •   short histories   •   routes & stations   •   equipment rosters   •

reading material   •   films & other media   •   image gallery   •   links


Carson & Colorado / Nevada & California / Southern Pacific Narrow-Gauge Railroads [1880-1960] Page
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad [est. 1970] in New Mexico & Colorado Page
Florida East Coast Railway [est. 1885] Page
Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad [1876-1942] in California Page
Sierra Railway [est. 1897] in California Page
Virginia & Truckee Railroad [1869-1950, rebuilt 1972 & 2006] in Nevada Page

Travel U.S.A. / Railroad Museums Page

G.E. Nordell's Arizona Travel / Railroad Links
G.E. Nordell's California Travel / Railroad Links Page
G.E. Nordell's Colorado Travel / Railroads Links Pages
G.E. Nordell's New Mexico Travel / Railroads Links Page
G.E. Nordell's Nevada Travel / Railroads Links Page
G.E. Nordell's Utah Travel / Railroads Links Page

Arizona Travel & Business Links Pages
California Travel & Business Links Pages
Colorado Travel & Business Links Pages
The Dakotas Travel & Business Links Page
Florida Travel & Business Links Page
Idaho Travel & Business Links Page
Kansas Travel & Business Links Page
Montana Travel & Business Links Page
Nebraska Travel & Business Links Page
Nevada Travel & Business Links Page
New Mexico Travel & Business Links Pages
New York State Travel & Business Links Pages
Oklahoma Travel & Business Links Page
Oregon Travel & Business Links Page
Texas Travel & Business Links Pages
Utah Travel & Business Links Page
Washington State Travel Links Pages
Wyoming Travel & Business Links Pages

G.E. Nordell's Main USA Travel & Business Links Index Page

Visiting this webpage from outside the U.S.A.? It is possible to make purchases from these coded Amazon (USA) links
via other Amazon sites: just follow these instructions.

Online sales in association with  browse books about tourist railroads {1,100+ titles} at Amazon

top of this page      back to G.E. Nordell's homepage