Photo Gallery September, 2005 Georgetown Loop

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Georgetown Loop Railroad
Silver Plume, CO
Middle School Team Field Trip.

"Hey Dad, one day planes, the next day TRAINS!"

The Georgetown Loop Railroad is a joint venture between the Colorado Historical Society (CHS) and the Railstar Corporation. The three mile line, noted for being one of the engineering marvels of railroading, runs between Georgetown and Silver Plume. It recreates the historic era of railroad excursions and tourism that Georgetown experienced in the late 1880's and early 1900's.
The narrow-gauge railroad sits alongside Interstate 70 in Clear Creek Canyon. The CHS has several drop bottom narrow-gauge gondolas manufactured by the Rio Grande American Car & Foundry in 1904. These freight cars were used to transport bulk cargo including rock, ore, coal, and scrap metal. The gondolas were modified by the CHS for passenger car use on excursion tours. Solid floors replaced drop doors and bench seats were installed along the sides.
"Here we are enjoying a quiet early lunch and a steam locomotive comes lumbering by with his bell clanging!"

In 1859, George Griffith discovered gold near Clear Creek just outside of Idaho Springs. The news traveled quickly and a small and growing settlement began, known as "George’s Town." Silver was found in 1864 causing Georgetown to boom. In 1868, the Colorado legislature designated Georgetown the county seat of Clear Creek County.
"Excuse me, pardon me, excuse me..."

Soon after the Lebanon Silver Mine became operational, the town of Silver Plume was founded in 1870. In 1877, Jay Gould, who controlled the Union Pacific, completed the rail line extension from Black Hawk through Idaho Springs and into Georgetown, which became known as the "Silver Queen of Colorado." In 1879, a large silver strike in Leadville caused Gould to begin plans to extend the line over the mountains to Leadville.
While the first trains arrived in Silver Plume in 1884, a competing railroad, the Denver & Rio Grande, completed a southern route to Leadville, causing Gould's interest in pushing the his rail line over the mountains to wane, resulting in the Geogetown, Breckenridge, & Leadville Railroad ending permanently in Silver Plume.
The first depot serving Silver Plume was nothing more than a railroad car parked in the yard. A permanent depot was precut in Denver's Union Pacific shops and shipped in pieces to Silver Plume where it was assembled in late 1884. Abandoned when the Georgetown Loop shut down in 1938, the Silver Plume Depot was acquired in 1968 by the CHS and completely restored in 1985.
During the late 1880's and into the early 1900's, the Georgetown Loop became a center for tourism. During the height of its popularity, seven trains a day ran the 50 mile trek from Denver to Silver Plume. The $3 roundtrip ticket became a "must see" as guidebooks, pamphlets, and postcards displayed images of the steep canyons and scenic mountain peaks accessible by train.

In 1906, a rail line was completed from Silver Plume to the Belmont Mine with its ice crystal formations and the peak view of the Rockies from above 14,000 feet. The tourist route was called "Gray’s Peak Special" and was billed as the highest railroad trip in North America. In 1907, a second tourist connection was completed from Silver Plume in the form of a 46-minute roundtrip tour on a gondola ride rising over 3,000 feet. The Sunrise Peak Arial contained 26 gondolas and was a major attraction.

"Behind me is the building where they store the locomotive. See the open door?"

The rail yard boasted a water tank, section house, freight and coal sheds, engine house, and car repair shop. The advent of the automobile began impacting the railroad revenue in the early 1910's. By 1921, the Gray's Peak Special and Sunrise Peak Arial had closed and only one train a day ran from Denver to Silver Plume. In 1938, the last train left Silver Plume and the line was abandoned.
"All Aboard!"

In 1959, the centennial of the discovery of gold in Georgetown, the CHS began a program of land acquisition and lease with plans to eventually reconstruct the entire length of the Georgetown Loop. The Loop operated its first season in 1975 on a small portion of completed track. In 1978, the Lebanon Silver Mine, between Georgetown and Silver Plume, opened for public tours.
"Rock, paper, scissors?"

The engineer and fireman discuss the impact of having to add two more cars to accommodate our large school group. Normally, they pull four cars. Today they'll be pulling six!

The Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia built narrow-gauge steam locomotive No. 12 in 1929. In the 1950s, it was the last steam engine still in use by the Kahului Railroad Company, hauling sugar cane, pineapples and other freight in Hawaii. It made its last run in 1966 and was brought to the mainland in 1967. After undergoing refurbishing, No. 12 began serving the Georgetown Loop in 2005.

"Here we go! Wow, the whistle is LOUD when you're only 10' away from it! Cover your ears!"
"Check out the Hula Doll on top of the headlamp! She constantly shakes with the motion of the engine! And she's covered in SOOT!!!"
"Here comes one of the four bridges we'll go over as we criss-cross back and forth across Clear Creek!"
"You can almost hear the water, except for the steam engine rumbling as we head downhill!"
"Oh yeah, what a gorgeous day for a train ride!"
"Look way down there and you can see the green roof of the Devil's Gate Depot!"
"Over Clear Creek again!"
"Here comes the Devil's Gate High Bridge!"
"Oh, man, that's a long way down!"
"Around another bend..."
"...and across Clear Creek again!"
"We've reached the Devil's Gate Depot at the edge of Georgetown!"

"Okay folks, you can stretch your legs and visit the gift shop or hang on to your seat, if you have a good one, as we'll be taking on more passengers."

"Stretch your legs, Bubby, I'll save our seats, which will be perfect for the ride back to Silver Plume!"
"Time to unhitch No. 12 from the back of the train and move it to the front for the trip back!"
"Nice and easy now..."
"...okay we've cleared the track switch."
"A quick turn and we'll be ready to move to the passing track!"
"Hop on board!"
"Here he comes a chuggin' by!"
"Hey there!"
"Hey folks!"
"Okay, Dad, he's hitched to the front and we're ready to go!"
"Hold on, we're going backwards toward the Devil's Gate High Bridge...he's going to take us under it to complete the loop!"
William Henry Jackson's 1901 photograph shows a train on the high bridge. The trestle was a marvel of invention in the American West. Built to span the narrowest point of the valley above Georgetown, it was the place where the track made its loop 75 feet above the lower track and 95 feet above the waters of Clear Creek.
Begun by the Clark Reeves Company, the bridge was eventually erected and completed by the Phoenix Bridge Company of Pennsylvania. Problems with misplaced columns and incorrect riveting caused a Union Pacific engineer to refuse the bridge and demand that it be rebuilt. Within weeks, the errors were corrected and the bridge was completed in early 1884.
The 300 foot bridge was built on an 18˝ degree curve rising on a 2% grade and resting on four iron towers with granite piers. In 1939, a year after the Georgetown Loop was abandoned, the bridge was dismantled and sold for $650 in scrap.
In 1982, a $1 million dollar grant from the Boettcher Foundation financed the reconstruction of the bridge.
Adhering to the historical authenticity of the 1884 design, modifications to meet current safety standards included increasing the diameter of the tower legs and tension rods and the substitution of concrete piers for stone.
In 1984, the bridge's centennial year, the Governor of Colorado dedicated the new bridge completing the reconstruction of the Georgetown Loop and opening its entire route to visitors.
The Devil's Gate High Bridge is one of four bridges, three hairpin turns, and a 30 degree horseshoe curve between Georgetown and Silver Plume. With an elevation rise of 640 feet between the two towns that are only a couple of miles apart, the creative track path reduced the grade from 6%, which was too steep for most trains, to 2%.
"So long, Devil's Gate!"
"Wow, it's a beautiful view sitting in the rear car watching the scenery and tracks disappear."
"Here we go...over the Devil's Gate High Bridge!"
"Man, No. 12 is really puffing to put on a show!"
"Whoa, Dad, he's really cranking out the smoke!"
"I'm glad we're not in the front cars!"
"Check out the lower track and Clear Creek below!"
"And how about the view up the valley!"
"Okay, Bubby, you could say this made my day!"
"So long, high bridge!"
"Wow, that was cool!"
"WAY COOL!!!"
"So long, Lebanon Silver Mine side tracks!"
"Here we go around horseshoe curve! Look at the black smoke billowing out!"
"So long, horseshoe curve!"
"The changing aspens look like runs of gold veins on the mountain side!"
"We're arriving back at Silver Plume!"
"Man, I can't believe our awesome ride is almost over!"
"What a perfect day!"
The End.