Narrow Gauge Trains

Most railroads throughout the world are built at Standard Gauge, where the rails are spaced four feet eight and a half inches apart It is easy to build, the loading gauge allows for more space for passengers and freight to be carried, and how your speeds can be achieved with a smoother ride But track there was this wide didn’t always fit wherever it went Some places had to be reached with tolerances and budgets so tight, that the frames of standard rolling stock could snap in half in a corner So to bring rail service into the nooks and crannies of civilization, the rails were simply moved closer together This is what’s called, the Narrow Gauge As we are going to find out on this transcontinental journey, each one has a unique personality that suits the purpose they were built for No two railroads are the same, just like the space they serve Narrow gauge’s advantages for ushered in by those who knew that size didn’t matter especially when establishing rail service just as effectively and as efficiently as their wider brethren. one of these visionaries was george mansfield an entrepreneur living in massachusetts in the 1870s On one of his voyages across the Atlantic, he observed the network of narrow gauge routes in the UK, particularly the Ffestiniog Railway in Wales This line was built with a very specific track gauge of 1 foot, 11 and 5/8 inches at the time when there was no set standards for how wide the trains could be In Wales alone, there were as many as five different track gauges all built under the premise that despite their size they could still carry on with their jobs of moving slate Mansfield was impressed by their efficiency, and so declared the place for these kinds of trains back home in America His business plan would settle down in Maine in 1879 with the Sandy River Railroad, which would eventually expand up to a hundred and twelve miles of track at its peak The reorganized Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad will be the largest two foot gauge railroad in the state accompanied by a half-dozen other similarly spaced lines specifically set in Maine They would be the narrowest common carriers of their time operating with every function of the big standard gauge lines for the same purposes and with the same operating procedures Unlike their standard gauge brethren, they couldn’t easily adapt to progress The automobiles and the Great Depression dealt the finishing blows to this niche market of railroads, with the mighty Sandy River being abandoned in 1935 The last remaining of these lines would go in 1941, and would not resurface in Maine for nearly fifty years Since the late 1980s budding groups of railroad enthusiasts have blossomed into bands of volunteers who dedicate their time and effort to resurrect the state’s forgotten heritage piece by piece One such non-profit group is working to reincarnate the original Wiscasset Waterville and Farmington Railway, on a section of the original Road bed, and with some of the original equipment Compared to the old Sandy River Line the WW&F was the second largest of the main two footers at roughly 33 miles of track So far, the group has relayed two and a half miles worth between Alma and top of the mountain with plans to extend by another mile northward The route is currently played up and down the mountain with Oh for

44 knee number 9 the last survivor of four separate main two footers She began life in 1891 as sandy river number five Then became number six with the Rangeley Lakes merger then was sold to the Kennebec central and REE number two for then was adopted by the WWF as number nine and served the pike until its downfall in 1933 Instead of the scrapyard though Number nine was taken into refuge by private owner Frank Ramsdale whose family hid her away in a barn in Connecticut for well over fifty years Upon her return home in 1995 a thorough restoration was undertaken to bring her back to health Which included a new boiler and a new frame? The finished product isn’t necessarily a replica But it does leave us with an operating steam locomotive while the original boiler and frames are on display for visitors to examine and learn from For being so dedicated to preserving the past few places are just as committed to staying relevant in the future in addition to new add-ons a new trackage that WWF is currently engaged in a fundraising effort to build a new boiler for sibling number 10 and for building a brand new locomotive from scratch number 11 The so called campaign 21 has so far risen over one hundred thousand dollars to building new boilers for each of these engines in addition to growing enthusiasm and Encouraging more people that become members to join the fun in the face of adversity that most historic organizations face Railroading is one of the few industries where? enthusiasm fuels itself The main two footers may have been that they’re whist common carriers up their time and they’re Comparatively short lifespans would leave some call these to be desired Yet the appeal for these little trains is unmatched today as the seemingly Twilight charm rubs off on the preservation industry At the end of the day though, these are not toys Most narrow-gauge spikes were comfortable with the rail spaced three feet apart allowing for more space to carry passengers and freight Yet there was no actual set standard for how narrow the rails could be as there were a dozen different variations of width These lines were secluded to the region they served so interchangeability was not essential as long as they delivered the ghost of the customer Moving freight and passengers is the whole point of having a railroad after all There are very few places though for the different gauges of track Interchanged with one another especially at places where the destination is to nowhere in particular One of these dwellings done. It stirred in northwestern Indiana where some local steam buffs got together to show off the restored farm equipment This parcel of land would become home to a sawmill an electric plant Stationary steamers and not one but three loops of railroad track each at different widths Since 1969 the trains of the Heston steam museum have been taking guests on a leisurely ride through 155 acres of hills and forests The narrow gauge equipment comes from various walks of life sawmills factories switching yards amusement parks and zoos this oh for OH Tank Engine for example was built in Czechoslovakia in 1940 with a two passenger cars for the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago Couple together though the conscious makes for a very nice ride They both operate on two foot gauge track with the outside rail being able to accommodate three foot gauge locomotives and cars Which also operate at various times throughout the year? This is what’s known as dual gauge Operating alongside the so called sled engage are even slimmer gauges

Also encircling the campus is a 14 inch gauge loop of track for miniature trains This five inch scale 464 Hudson was built to carry guests around an amusement park And then there is the even smaller half-inch scale pike where the rails are spaced seven and a half inches apart But the passengers are just barely able to fit on board They may look even more toy like than the main two feathers, but they still have the look and function of the real thing The Heston steam museum is fulfilling a vital role in preserving the essence of steam power with and without rails Size is never an issue when it comes to educating and engaging people in this technology But having the little trains operating as common carriers in flat land like this may seem like an economical oddity At one time there were dozens of narrow gauge spikes across the Midwestern states But as the transportation industry became standardized with the passage of time It was not uncommon for these little Pike’s to be absorbed by standard gauge systems. Some of which still uses the right of ways They cleared by simply widening the gauge a little Here in the Great Plains narrow gauge railroad Inge was very much a niche market and one that became superseded rather swiftly by its competition Here in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado though, the lure of the narrow gauge takes on a life of its own in 1872 governor John, evans chartered one of the territory’s most prolific rail lines in a bid to penetrate the territory’s mineral belt deep in the rockies the denver south park and pacific was band estate by 335 miles the most narrow gauge track in all of Colorado Its existence was spurred by a mining boom in the town of Leadville with more potential found in Gunnison And so we’re both accessed via two paths across the Continental Divide Such a grandiose venture would be supported financially First by the Union Pacific and later the Burlington route on a network that would last miss slim gage form until the late 1930s Remnants of the South Park are scattered along the old route Most of it has been reclaimed by Nature but some select spots are meticulously being nursed back to health The most visible sign of progress is in the town of Como which is still home to the original Depot Railroad hotel, and it’s 1882 vintage stone roundhouse in 2017. They were joined by a newcomer With help in a relatively new South Park rail society the round house now houses an active steam locomotive This is Klondike Kate a diminutive 262 prairie type Having served Gillen gently in the Yukon Territory from 1912 to 1952 She moved down south between tourist railroads over the years before finally settling down here in operation She is now headlining a new charge to breathe new life back into this world railroad town With plans to relay track on the original roadbed. It’s a very unique endeavor but is one that is not unheard of The Irwin’s does is a slim gage lines that looped and switchback their way through the canyons and mountains operating with varying degrees of success While most standard gauge lines could only watch from afar at the profits being reaped or to laugh at their follies Few went as far as taking their claims with their own narrow paths The Colorado and southern was one of two which held its own network running due west into Clear Creek Canyon to Leadville and Silver Plume In addition to the tight curves and steep grades the most effective way for the railroad to gain altitude

Was to loop the track over itself when the Georgetown loop opened in 1884 It became a public curiosity that inspired tourists to come from far and wide to watch the trains pass over themselves The Steel Bridge stood until 1940 when the line was abandoned and the bridge was dismantled for scrap So in 1984 1 million dollars was raised and the bridge was put back This exact replica of the bridge is still in use by the Georgetown Loop Railroad Which operates the remaining three miles worth of the original route from Silver Plume? Much like the original line the loop is a ninety five foot tall draw for sightseers Which at its peak is still traversed by rail six times a day seven days a week Steam and diesel are both in operation here with to a doe consolidation number 111 Hailing from Central America and plenty capable of handling to climb through the Clear Creek Canyon This is one of the few places where the locomotive stack talk speaks for itself Only one other standard gauge railroad has faked their claims in these mountains They didn’t have the most miles of track nor did they have the same engineering wonders But one could easily make the argument that they were the most dedicated The Denver and Rio Grande Began life as a narrow gauge pike and came to maintain a complete circular route Around the Rocky Mountains that interchange would a standard gauge network? At its peak it branched as far south as Santa Fe New Mexico and dug deep into the veins of valuable minerals in the San Juan Mountains and virtually every other mountain range in between The most daunting of these lines formed a lower spine of the entire network known as the San Juan extension It ran with dual gauge track south from Alamosa Branched away from the standard gauge at Antonito and would cross the border between, Colorado and New Mexico 11 times in order to get the best possible route through the mountains a Path they took would also creep along the ledges of the Toltec Gorge and crest Cumbre has passed at ten thousand 15 feet above sea level When completed in August of 1881 The extension snaked for nearly 200 miles to the self established railroad town of Durango from here feeder lines branched out to the farms at Farmington, New Mexico

To forest around Pagosa Springs and most prominently of all to the silver mines around Silverton It would only take the railroad nine months to reach the booming metropolis in the midst of a mining boom It would be the pride of purpose for the narrow gauge network At its peak over 40 mines and three short line routes sent the flowing mass of silver down the branch to the smelters at Durango Which would refine the metal into currencies which the San Juan extension would carry back to the standard gauge network for distribution throughout the country For our route filled quickly and on the cheap to get as much money out of the region as they could It was built surprisingly with standard gauge measurements while there were actual Propositions to widen the gauge if business picked up It was actually a stealth tactic for the Rio Grande to keep competing railroads for building in and encroaching on their business By narrowing the gauge the Rio Grande would establish the premise that the region could be sufficiently searched by rail But not worth going through the expense to build their route and exploit a monopoly that could wither up in a few short years Following World War two it was becoming clear that the railroad real competition Was the car as the roads improved cars and trucks could travel at less cost and much faster a greater convenience Making the narrow gauge very antiquated Gradually, the unprofitable segments of his network were torn up The whole network would have been gone within 20 years had it not been for two important factors In the early 50s Hollywood discovered the photogenic magic of the San Juan Mountains And filled many western themed movies around railroad towns like Durango movies like ticket to tomahawk filled on the Rio Grande Silverton branch helped to reinstate the majesty of these mountains and Inspired film audiences from all over the world to come via highway to see them for themselves The Rio Grande began operating special excursions for these tourists who made the 45 mile route into a worldwide phenomenon The legacy is kept up by the Durango and Silverton narrow gauge railroad Which operates as many as three trains a day over some of the most rugged parts of the mountains? To this day the Train is still the best and only way to see the full splendor of the San Juan Mountains The rest of the Rio Grande Network doesn’t seem to have the same historic and scenic charm as the Silverton branch which led to the San Juan extensions inevitable filing for abandonment that Too is thwarted by a different kind of boom With fresh reserves of crude oil discovered in the Four Corners region there was only one way for the oil companies to state their claims For ten years the San Juan extension was pulsing with activity 24/7 all year round transporting pipe sections and assorted supplies to the end of track at Farmington, New Mexico When the work was done so was the railroad which operated this last revenue freight train in August of 1968 This would also be the last ever steam-powered freight train on a class-one railroad in the entire country a Short time later a case had been made between the states of Colorado and New Mexico with a railroad crossed the border 11 times a Commission was set up to take ownership of the most scenic 64 miles of track between Chama, New Mexico and Antonito Colorado which would be the longest and highest Taurus railroad in the country The highlights of today’s Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad Includes cresting the highest active railroad summit at ten thousand 15 feet and the narrow ledge along the Toltec Gorge Every other mile in between is threaded with some of the most varied scenery in the southwest between rolling prairies in the east and Pine Laden forested mountains in the West

As for motive power both Kimbrough’s and durango depend on the K 36 and K 28 classes of 280 to Mikado’s which have been playing these very rails for well over 90 years 50 years after their builders abandoned them both segments of the Rio Grande narrow-gauge empire are living at standards They could not have envisioned For attract gays to help close frontiers some of the paths. They left behind are some of America’s most overlooked treasures To make standard-gauge viable here would have been impossible Whether it was by topography or economics, none of these routes would have accommodated for a wider track gauge This track gauge may not be as economically practical as its aim to engage brethren For the legacy left behind by all. These pikes leaves its followers wanting for more They haven’t become obsolete as Many of them have found a new purpose in an ever-changing world that retained its fondness for the good old days It is by the dedication of volunteers Historians entrepreneurs and their customers that ensure the little trains viability for decades to come As far as reconnecting the present when its past goes as advantages can best be seen within the deep crevices of civilization often the last place to look To access some of the most overlooked wonders of the world both natural and man-made The only way to get there is on the narrow gauge