June 12, 2009

Rebirth of the train to Creede, Colorado

The logo for the Wagon Wheel Gap Route

I remember well the day, October 7, 1982, when the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad closed down in Skagway, Alaska. Many thought it meant the end of tourism and possibly even the town itself. After a few years few believed the railroad would ever run again but in 1988, under new owners, it did just that.

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First passenger train to Creede
February 1892.

The Denver Rio Grande Railway lost no time extending their tracks from Alamosa, Colorado to Wagon Wheel Gap and Creede. This line continued after the silver boom was over up until the 1970s. Mine car rail service stopped in 1985 and the rails sat quiet for fifteen years.

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Lonely tracks along the scenic Rio Grande river. Across the river is the original stage road.

In the year 2000 a group of rail fans joined together and created the Wagon Wheel Gap Route with the goal of reopening a steam engine line for tourists from South Fork to Creede. They ran into legal resistance from the majority of Creede residents and the city council but forges ahead spending untold fortunes on restoring an original steam engine and several cars. The tracks wood needed replacing as well as other repairs.

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Beautiful scenery

As many of you know there has been a law suit against the Foundation by the ex-Mayor B.J. Myers & a few citizens in Creede attempting to overturn the rail line purchase by the Foundation from Union Pacific. This suit has been going on for over three years and has drained the foundation of tens of thousands of dollars that was needed to be put into the rebuild of the line not into lawyers pockets. This case was carried through local courts, to federal courts and into the Surface Transportation Board.

Finally in May 2005 it was reported on the website that the organization had won their court case and were planning on future projects for the coming summer. However, without reason the posts suddenly cease after July 3, 2005 and although the website is still up no updates to it have been recorded. I wrote to the site via the email address given but have yet to receive a reply. I wrote again today hoping to hear an update. Hopefully someday visitors will once again be able to arrive in Creede by steam locomotive.

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