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Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad records

Collection Summary   

Title Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad records
Dates (Inclusive) 1921-1964
Dates (Bulk) 1951-1964
Creator Alva F. Lyons compiled the files.
Abstract This collection contains selected historically significant documents regarding the operations of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad near Durango, Colorado.
Unique ID M018
Quantity .8 linear shelf feet, in 2 document boxes

Historical Note 
The original Denver and Rio Grande Railway, popularly known as "The Western" was created by General Palmer in 1870 with the goal of reaching Mexico. In 1871, Denver and Rio Grande (D&RG) began constructing a line that ran south out of Denver intended to reach the Rio Grande River. In 1881, D&RG converted its line between Denver and Pueblo from strictly narrow gauge to a three-rail track, which allowed both narrow and standard gauge trains to use the same track.

As mining increased in 1881, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway (AT&SF) line constructed a standard gauge mainline, parallel to D&RG's mainline between Denver and Pueblo. The new competition between D&RG and AT&SF incited D&RG to build several long sidings along its main line and to grant trackage rights to Missouri Pacific trains running between Pueblo and Denver. Because AT&SF had a strong business in the south, D&RG decided to turn west and cross over the Continental Divide rather than continue toward the Rio Grande. The line reached Salida in August of 1880. In 1881, an extension crossed over the Continental Divide at Tennessee Pass at an elevation of 10,445 feet. Until recently, this was the highest pass of any Class 1 main line in the continental United States.

From its first organization, the Western was meant to be a subsidiary company of D&RG. A lease contract of 40 years agreeing to such terms was authorized on April 3, 1882 and was finalized on May 26, 1883. The lease involved approximately 470 miles of track from Salt Lake City to the Colorado boundary, and served as an important factor in shifting the axis to east-west. However, in March of 1886 the Western released D&RG from its bond guarantee obligations, and foreclosure occurred August 1st, with General Palmer resuming control of the Western from D&RG’s Frederick Lovejoy.

In 1889, the Denver and Rio Grande Railway and the Colorado Midland Railway merged to form the Rio Grande Junction Railway Company. In 1918, an operating agreement was reached which split ownership of the D&RG and AT&SF tracks and creating the Joint Line, which continues to operate between Denver and Pueblo. Between 1910 and 1921, corporate reorganization occurred, forming the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. The Joint Line continues double track operation from Crews to Bragdon, where the Rio Grande and Santa Fe go their separate ways.

Works Cited:
The Ghost Depot
Athearn, Robert G. Rebel of the Rockies: A History of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. 1962.
Wilson, O. Meredith. The Denver and Rio Grande Project, 1870-1901.1982.

The folders and boxes are numbered consecutively. Arrangement within each series is chronological by the date of the creation of the document.

Scope & Contents   
This collection contains selected historically significant documents regarding the operations of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad near Durango, Colorado. Most of this information is not congruent with other similar records. Items such as the scale tickets and agents stubs are examples of what would have been collected at a specific moment of time, not throughout the entire time span of operation. The clearance cards or train orders consist mainly of numerically coded orders. An instruction sheet accompanies the yellow train order sheet, which can contain multiple orders or orders to annul a previous train order.

Access. There are no access restrictions on the use of these materials for research purposes. This collection is open to the public for use in the Delaney Southwest Research Library at the Center of Southwest Studies.

Use and Copyright. These materials are for use only in the Delaney Southwest Research Library; they are noncirculating. Limited duplication of print materials is allowed for research purposes. The user assumes full responsibility for observing all applicable laws regarding copyright, property rights, and libel.

Preferred Citation  
Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad records, Fort Lewis College. Center of Southwest Studies.

Processing Info  
Center of Southwest Studies student archival assistants Paul Beckler and Debra Lehl arranged and described this collection in September of 2000, under the supervision of the archivist. Student archival assistant Olivia Everett researched and wrote the historical sketch in October of 2004. This inventory was prepared by Debra Lehl in 2000. Library student worker Tia Flippin edited and reformatted the online inventory in the Fall of 2011.

Acquisition Info 
The Center of Southwest Studies acquired these materials as an early gift from Alva F. Lyons.

Separated Materials   

Related Materials   

Pathfinder #10 Railroad-related collections at CSWS (focus: narrow-gauge railroads of western and southwestern Colorado)

Access Terms   

Narrow gauge railroads.
Railroads -- Rocky Mountains.
Scenic railways.

Box/Container List  

Box 1
Box 2

Box 1    back to container list
12 folders containing a deck of playing cards provided by the Denver and Rio Grande showing scenes of the Southwest, scale tickets from 1957 and 1964, various forms, Alamosa agent’s stubs, and Durango agent’s stubs from years 1951 and 1956.

Description Box/Folder
Deck of playing cards provided by the Denver and Rio Grande, showing scenes of the Southwest. 1/1
Scale tickets, 1957 Sept. 4-13 1/2
Scale tickets, 1957 Sept. 25-30 1/3
Scale tickets, 1957 Sept. 16-24 1/4
Scale tickets, 1964 Oct. 5-Nov. 20 1/5
Scale tickets, 1964 Nov. 23-Dec. 29 1/6
Various forms 1/7
Alamosa agent’s stubs, 1921 Jun 1/8
Durango agent’s stubs, 1951 May-July 11 1/9
Durango agent’s stubs, 1951 July 18-Aug 1/10
Durango agent’s stubs, 1956 July 1 1/11
Durango agent’s stubs, 1956 July 15 1/12

Box 2    back to Box list
24 folders containing clearance cards (train orders) from years 1959, 1962, and 1964. As well as way bills from May 1963.

Description Box/Folder
Clearance cards (train orders) 1959 May 2/1
Clearance cards (train orders) 1959 June 2/2
Clearance cards (train orders) 1959 July 2/3
Clearance cards (train orders) 1962 Jan.- Feb. 2/4
Clearance cards (train orders) 1962 March-April 2/5
Clearance cards (train orders) 1962 May 2/6
Clearance cards (train orders) 1962 June 2/7
Clearance cards (train orders) 1962 July 2/8
Clearance cards (train orders) 1962 Aug. 2/9
Clearance cards (train orders) 1962 Sept. 2/10
Clearance cards (train orders) 1962 Oct. 2/11
Clearance cards (train orders) 1962 Nov.-Dec. 2/12
Clearance cards (train orders) 1963 Jan.-Feb. 2/13
Clearance cards (train orders) 1963 March-May 2/14
Clearance cards (train orders) 1964 Jan. 2/15
Clearance cards (train orders) 1964 Feb. 2/16
Clearance cards (train orders) 1964 March 2/17
Clearance cards (train orders) 1964 April 2/18
Clearance cards (train orders) 1964 May 2/19
Clearance cards (train orders) 1964 June 2/20
Clearance cards (train orders) 1964 Aug.–Sept. 2/21
Clearance cards (train orders) 1964 Oct. 2/22
Clearance cards (train orders) 1964 Nov. 2/23
Way bills, 1963 May 2/24