DRGW/Crystal River - S - Steve Wolcott

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The mainline of the D&RGW in the 20th century was Denver to Salt Lake City. The first standard gauge line was over Tennessee Pass. In 1934 the Moffat Tunnel Route was extended to the D&RGW mainline at Dotsero. It took about 8 years to upgrade this line to handle heavy engines. So for the era I'm interested in, about '37 - '57, both lines were in use. Grand Junction is about half way between Denver and Salt Lake and was a major yard, had engine facilities, and is where the Montrose branch connects.

The mainline saw a lot of bridge traffic, connecting the MP, CB&Q, RI, UP, ATSF on the east end to the WP and UP on the west end. The Exposition Flyer which was renamed the California Zephyr had daily trains both ways.

Local industries along the mainline included mines; coal, gold, silver, zinc, gypsum. Cattle and sheep, fresh fruit and other ag products. The hot spring resort at Glenwood Springs drew a stream of passengers. The Montrose branch contributed coal and other minerals, livestock, fruit, potatoes, onions, vinegar, apple juice and passenger traffic.

Crystal River Railroad

This railroad starts at Carbondale, about 10 miles south of Glenwood Springs on the Aspen branch of the D&RGW. Running up the Crystal River valley in standard gauge, at the end of the 19th century it went about 10 miles to Redstone where there was a major coal sorting and coking operation. A 12 mile narrow gauge line delivered coal from mines up a side creek, with 4.5% grades and 50 degree curves. In the 1907 the owner of a marble quarry extended the standard gauge line another 7 miles up the Crystal River and they ran as two separate railroads for a while. In 1910 the coal company lost their coke customer, shut down and sold their part of the railroad to the marble operation. Ironically, the coal mine reopened in the '70's after the rails were gone and the coal was trucked to Carbondale where it was loaded onto the D&RGW on the last remaining part of the Aspen branch.

From the mouth of the quarry a crane lowered blocks of marble 200' down a cliff onto flatcars powered by an electric tram for a 20 minute roller coaster ride with 17% grades down to the town of Marble. Here the marble was finished in a mill employing hundreds of craftsmen and then loaded on the Crystal River RR to Carbondale where it interchanged with the D&RGW. This quarry supplied the marble for the Lincoln Memorial, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and many others.

The Crystal River RR operated until 1941, running daily trains up and down the line, 2-3 cars of finished marble and a combine. They often ran specials for marble, potatoes and cattle. The CR had 3 engines, 2 moguls and a 10 wheeler, all built in the first 6 years of the 19th century.

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