The Colorado and Southern Railway
is one of the West's most fabled lines even though it spent much of its
existence as a subsidiary of the much larger Chicago, Burlington &
Quincy system. However, it has a very complicated and interesting
background. The C&S began as a means to reorganize and takeover a
number of bankrupt operations
which radiated west, north, and south of Denver, much of which was
originally controlled by the Union Pacific. The C&S instantly
became a rather sizable Class I system once it gained control of the the
UP's interests and later the Fort Worth
& Denver City, which connected most of Texas' largest cities.
While most of the C&S's narrow-gauge operations have long since been
abandoned many of its lines, especially in Texas remain in operation
under successor and Class I, BNSF Railway, today.
Colorado & Southern Class E-4A 2-8-2 #800 is at the yard in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 18, 1946.
The C&S was officially incorporated on December 19, 1898 as a means to bring stability to several bankrupt
railroads in the region. The C&S's earliest predecessor was the
Colorado & Clear Creek Railroad, which was chartered on February 9,
1865 as a narrow-gauge mining railroad. This company went through a few
name changes before becoming the
Colorado Central Railway in January, 1868. Winding through the rugged
Rocky Mountains west of Denver the railroad finally reached Georgetown
in August, 1877. The railroad reached its final
length in 1884 when it chartered the Georgetown, Breckenridge &
Leadville Railway to stretch west of Georgetown and the small mining
town of Graymont. The new line was completed by 1884.
The other initial component of the C&S was the Cheyenne &
Northern Railway, chartered in 1886 and which became a property of the
Union Pacific after it completed its initial 125-mile main line between
Cheyenne and Wendover, Wyoming. After UP took over the line in 1887 it
continued it northward to Orin Junction. Four years later in 1891 the
UP created the Union Pacific, Denver & Gulf Railway to combine
several railroads it controlled including the Cheyenne & Northern;
Colorado Central, and Denver, Texas & Gulf; Denver, Texas & Fort
Worth; and Fort Worth & Denver City.
The latter three companies mentioned above operated in southern
Colorado and through most of Texas. The Denver, Texas & Gulf had
been incorporated on March 18, 1886 to takeover the bankrupt operation
of the Denver & New Orleans Railroad, which had constructed a
125-mile line between Denver and Pueblo. Soon after that line was
completed a new railroad was chartered; the Denver, Texas & Fort
Worth on April 12, 1887, to continue the line southeast and a connection
with the Fort Worth & Denver City (which was renamed the Fort Worth
& Denver in 1951) at Union Park, New Mexico Territory which was
completed in March, 1888. The DT&FW gained controlled of both the
FW&DC and DT&G and all three were operated as a single system.
The Colorado and Southern Railway came about because of the bankruptcy
of the Union Pacific on October 13, 1893. Due to the UP's receivership
it was forced to divest itself of its ownership of the Union Pacific,
Denver & Gulf Railway; a rather large system for its day, it spanned
from Dallas, Texas to Orin Junction, Wyoming connecting cities like
Denver, Pueblo, Cheyenne, Amarillo and others along the way.
C&S Class B-4-F 2-8-0 #76 lays over in Denver, Colorado on May 5, 1933.
Officially, the C&S was born on December 19, 1898 to take
over not only the Union Pacific, Denver & Gulf Railway but also the
narrow-gauge operations it held (all mentioned above and including the
Denver, Leadville & Gunnison Railway, which operated the former
lines of the famed Denver, South Park & Pacific Railway). In all,
these narrow-gauge lines connected many of Colorado's mining towns like
Georgetown, Silver Plume, Climax, Leadville, Golden and Gunnison. The final, but shortlived component of the original C&S
was the Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek District Railway, which
connected its namesake cities, along with the town of Victor.
CS&CCD was a standard-gauge operation but like the narrow-gauge
lines to north its primary function was to serve the region's mining
interests. It only remained a part of the C&S from 1904 through 1911
before leasing the line to the Florence & Cripple Creek Railway.
The CS&CCD operated for just nine more years before abandoning
operations in 1920. The C&S itself operated for only ten years as a independent
company before being purchased by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy
in 1908 hoping to tap the large cities and markets the C&S served.
For the Colorado & Southern's part it remained a separate
entity from the CB&Q and operated independently, partly due to the
fact that Texas law required such and that all railroads operating
within its borders be headquartered within the state.
Most of the C&S's growth after CB&Q ownership took place along its Texas lines operated by the Fort Worth & Denver City. The FW&DC continued to build or takeover railroads in Texas all of the way through the 1930s with the financial backing of the CB&Q. It leased several railroads including the Fort Worth & Denver South Plains (completed in 1928, it connected Estelline, Dimmitt, Silverton, and Lubbock); the Fort Worth & Denver Northern (completed in 1932 it connected Childress and Pampa); the Fort Worth & Denver Terminal (this line provided for yards and terminals in the Fort Worth area); and the Wichita Valley Railway (this railroad leased numerous other smaller lines including the Wichita Valley Railroad,
Abilene & Northern, Stamford & Northwestern, and the Wichita
Falls & Oklahoma all of which connected Wichita Falls with Stamford,
Spur, and Abilene to the south).
Another view of C&S 2-8-2 #800 shows the steamer at Cheyenne, Wyoming on June 18, 1953.
The final component of the now quite large Colorado and Southern Railway
system was the Burlington-Rock Island Railroad. The B-RI came about
due to the reorganization of the Trinity & Brazos Valley Railway
(better known as the "Boll Weevil") and was 50% owned by the Fort Worth
& Denver City and the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific (Rock
Island). The route extended southward from Dallas to Houston and
Galveston, and while the FW&DC did not have direct rail access
between Forth Worth and Dallas it gained trackage rights via the Rock
Island. The Burlington-Rock Island fell into receivership in 1964 with
its parent companies picking up the line and continuing to operate it,
continuing the 50% interest partnership. However, with the CRI&P's
bankruptcy in 1980 the line reverted solely to then Burlington Northern
Obviously, by the diesel era the C&S was a wholly owned
subsidiary of the Burlington, who simply sublettered locomotives as the
C&S. Still, for posterity and reference purposes, these units are
In this scene three early EMD covered wagons, FTA #153C, FTB #153B, and F2A #153A lead a freight train past the small depot at Leland, Illinois on bright and sunny July 9, 1963.
Due to the narrow-gauge operations becoming less
and less profitable the railroad slowly sold off or abandoned the network
piecemeal until the final leg still in operation to Golden, Colorado was
converted to standard gauge in 1943. Today this section of the route
is still operated to serve the Coors Brewery located there although
virtually all of the rest of the C&S's once vast narrow-gauge
operations are but a memory. The lone exception is a small, 4.5-mile
section of the line around Georgetown which today operates as the
Georgetown Loop Railroad during the summer months of the year.
The C&S remained an independent operation through the
first eight decades of the 20th century before it was finally merged
into the Burlington Northern on December 31, 1981. Ironically, the
C&S's subsidiary, the Fort Worth & Denver remained on the books
for two more years before being folded into BN on December 31, 1982.
Today, much of the original Colorado and Southern Railway main line
through Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming remains in operation by
successor and Class I BNSF Railway.