The Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad is another of Colorado's
many tourist railroads operating over lines that once sought the riches
the region had to offer, and just like the others operates through the
spectacular Rocky Mountain Range, departing each trip from the historic
mining town of Leadville at the former Colorado & Southern restored
depot. The LC&S operates on trackage that was once part of the
Colorado & Southern's vast narrow-gauge lines in the area and while
it is the only tourist railroad not to offer steam locomotives powering
its trains it does offer very reasonable prices for its trips (which is one reason folks continue to return). So, if you are in the area vacationing
or visiting nearby Denver considering swinging by to see this railroad,
which provides unparalleled views of the Rocky Mountains.
Leadville, Colorado & Southern GP9 #1714 rolls through the weeds with an excursion along the Colorado & Southern's former Climax Branch in Leadville on July 29, 2007.
The Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad has its beginnings dating
back to 1980 when the Burlington Northern, successor to C&S parent
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy sold off its depot, branch line, and
all local rolling stock around
Leadville, which was purchased by interests that would go on to form the
LC&S. The earliest history of C&S's silver mining branches
dated back to the Colorado & Clear Creek Railroad chartered in 1865
(later renamed the Colorado Central Railway). At the time the region
was becoming a major producer of silver (and to a lesser extent, gold)
and the Union Pacific, which originally owned these mining branches,
looked to exploit it. The Colorado Central later incorporated the
Georgetown, Breckenridge & Leadville Railway to continue marching
southwest in an attempt to reach additional mines and the towns they
By 1898 the Colorado & Southern Railway was created to
takeover bankrupt properties operated by Union Pacific, which included
all of its mining branches. By this time the lines were operated
primarily by two companies the Denver, South Park
& Pacific Railway and the Denver, Leadville & Gunnison Railway
(which the LC&S now operates). Unfortunately, the properties were
no longer as profitable as they had once been due to the passage of the
Sherman Act in 1890 that looked to regulate the silver mining industry
(there was too much being produced). While the C&S worked to
standard gauge much of these mining branches, by the 1940s most had been
abandoned or sold.
Today, when riding the Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad it
operates on a route that rises over 1,000 feet from the Arkansas River
Valley, travels through Freemont Pass and provides for views of
Colorado's two largest mountain peaks, Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert.
Overall the line operates through the San Isabel National Forest and
lasts for more than 2 hours covering about 21 miles round-trip. Aside
from the Georgetown Loop Railroad, it is the last remaining section of
the Colorado & Southern's mining branches still in operation.
For power the LC&S uses a single Electro-Motive Division Geep
diesel locomotive with trains departing the restored Leadville depot (a
D&RGW freight depot also remains in the town). If the organization
could ever resurrect or purchase a steam locomotive to run on the
property they could likely draw in even more visitors. Despite this,
however, it is still an excellent attraction and worth the visit. Also,
if you the time and chance check out the other similar excursions in
the region such as the Georgetown Loop, Durango & Silverton, and/or
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic. Currently, the LC&S operates a schedule that runs between late May and early October. They also offer extras such as riding in the locomotive and caboose (for a small additional fee), as well as special events throughout the year including photo ops, wildflower trains, a rare night ride, and river rafting packages.
Another view of #1714 in Leadville hosting an excursion on September 12, 1993 during a light snowfall. The GP9 began its career on the Northern Pacific in 1955 as #241 and then became Burlington Northern #1714 before being used on the LC&S.
If you are considering riding the train and/or would like more information about the Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad pleaseclick hereto visit their website. There you can find everything that they currently offer as well as an operating schedule and pricing. The views are well worth the ride on this little tourist line! If you would like to read a brief history of the Colorado & Southern Railway please click here. Also, for more information about excursion trains like the Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad you might want to consider the book Tourist Trains Guidebook, which is put together by the editors of Kalmbach Publishing's Trains
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