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Nostalgia & History > Cimarron, Colorado

Date: 01/09/09 05:36
Cimarron, Colorado
Author: flynn

The following website gives a history of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. [In an earlier posting on Sapinero, Colorado I gave the address to a different website that also gave a history of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River.]


The following excerpt is from the above website.

“At the western end of the narrow gauge's route through the Black Canyon was Cimarron. During the construction, Cimarron was a tent city, but soon became a little town of 300-500 people whose livelihood and schedule revolved around the trains. Here were housed the train relief crews, the roundhouse with the engines that would push the trains west up the steep Cerro Summit toward Montrose, the restaurant that would have 20 minutes to feed passengers, and the railroad's hotel for those staying longer. After mining decreased in the Gunnison region, stockmen continue to gather at Cimarron to ship their cattle and sheep to market via the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. Today at Cimarron, an outstanding exhibit displays authentic railroad cars and interprets those bygone railroad days. A short drive north of Cimarron brings one to the remains of a trestle across the Cimarron River on which sits the genuine Engine 278, tender and caboose actually used on trips through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. [I think the Gunnison River in this section is called the Cimarron River. In the map of Gunnison County cut from the 1895 Atlas of Colorado and shown in Picture 1 below, I think this river is called Crystal Creek. I also think that Crystal Creek was also the name of a location along the railroad in additon to the name of the creek. If I am wrong in this please correct me.]

In doing Google searches for Cimarron I found an interesting website for Cimarron, Colfax County, New Mexico. This web site has a picture of the depot at Cimarron, New Mexico and other railroad pictures. This web site discusses the “St. Louis, Rocky Mountain and Pacific - The Swastika Line” and the “Cimarron and Northwestern” railroads.


When I was looking for material on my previous posting on Sapinero, Colorado I found an interesting website.


This website is of a model railroad layout for Sapinero, Colorado and for Rockwood, Colorado. It has a number of pictures of the layout. In one of the pictures it shows a Galloping Goose in Sapinero. [I thought the Galloping Geese operated on the Rio Grande Southern Railroad. More below.]

When I was looking for material on Sapinero, Colorado I wanted to find the name of the river or creek that flowed from Lake City in the south into the Gunnison River near Sapinero. [See the map in Picture 1.]

I found the river was called the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. Wikipedia has a webpage, “Lower Lake Fork Valley, Colorado.”


“The Lake Fork of the Gunnison River begins in high mountains in the western region of the U.S. state of Colorado, draining the northeastern part of the San Juan mountains. After passing through Lake San Cristobal, one of the larger natural lakes of Colorado, it is joined at Lake City by Henson Creek, and from there flows north. About 22 miles north of Lake City, it enters the Lake Fork Canyon, and at the north end of the canyon, joins the Gunnison River just before it enters the Gunnison River canyon. For the purposes of this discussion, we will consider the lower Lake Fork Valley to be that part of the river between Lake City and the canyon.”

The above website also discusses the San Cristobal Railroad.

“Only small amounts of minerals were able to be taken from the Lake City area in wagons and so pressure for a railroad developed. In 1881, the Denver and Rio Grande (D&RG) built a rail line into Gunnison and then continued to the west to Sapinero. Although a branch had been planned for Lake City, the lack of money delayed it. Finally, in 1879, it was completed. This was the end of the stagecoach in this area. The rail line came up the Lake Fork Canyon and at Johnson Gulch, a water tank was built to provide water for the steam engines. This was called Madera Siding. The rail line continued to the area below Barnum Station where holding corrals were built, and this was an important loading place for cattle which were then shipped to Sapinero and from there on east across Marshall Pass. The major use of the rail line, however, was to carry increasing mineral wealth from the Lake City area. Ranchers along the valley were also dependent on the train to bring mail and needed supplies.

As with so many other mining areas, the mines of Lake City began producing less and less. Finally in 1933, the rail line was making little money and was abandoned by the D&RG. The line was purchased and called the San Cristobal Railroad, and a galloping goose was built to run on the tracks and to take mail and other things to and from Lake City. The galloping goose was a combination between a car and a railway car, built on a Pierce-Arrow body. It used a gasoline engine and could be driven up the railroad tracks and carry mail and limited amounts of freight. This was never very successful, though, and the rail line was completely abandoned in 1939. By this time, there were automobile roads into the area, and mail was brought into the valley from Gunnison in this way.”

Wikipedia has a web page on the Galloping Goose.


“Galloping Goose is the name given to a series of seven railcars (also known as ‘motors’) built in the 1930s by the Rio Grande Southern Railroad (RGS) and operated until the end of service on the line in the early 1950s.”
“A similar unit was built for the San Cristobal Railroad and was rebuilt by the RGS in 1934-35. When the San Christobal folded in 1939, this unit was returned to the RGS and dismantled, with some parts going to rebuild and maintain the #2 Goose.”
Picture 2 below, is a map of Gunnison County from the 1920 Colorado Atlas.

I did a Keyword search on the Denver Public Library digital photo website, http://history.denverlibrary.org , for Cimarron and got 114 photos. Ten of these photos are below.

Picture 3 below, is DPL photo RR-1058. “Title: Cimarron at 360 switching yard. Summary View of a Denver and Rio Grande Western locomotive and an idler car at the switching yard in Cimarron, (Gunnison County), Colorado; shows men and cottonwood trees. Date: July 7, 1949. Creator: Robert W. Richardson.”

Picture 4 below, is DPL photo OP-8024. “Title: D&RGW train (Narrow Gauge), engine number 454, engine type 2-8-2. Summary: Freight, eastbound, unloading sheep. Photographed: at Cimarron, Colo., May 8, 1949. Creator: Otto Perry 1894-1970.”

Picture 5 below, is DPL photo RR-1789. “Title: D&RGW, Cimarron, Colo. (2-8-0) 361, almost head on, taking water, scenic. Summary: Denver and Rio Grande Western locomotive 361 (2-8-0) vents smoke, as it takes on water from a water tank, at Cimarron (Montrose County), Colorado. People stand near sheds and buildings. Date: May 30,1949. Creator: Robert W. Richardson.”

Picture 6 below, is DPL photo OP-7965. “Title: D&RGW train (Narrow Gauge), engine number 361, engine type 2-8-0. Summary: Rocky Mountain Railroad Club excursion; 9 cars. Photographed: on bridge east of Cimarron, Colo., May 30, 1949. Creator: Otto Perry 1894-1970.”

Picture 7 below, is DPL photo OP-7878. “Title: D&RGW train (Narrow Gauge), engine number 340, engine type 2-8-0. Summary: Elks Special; 11 cars, distant view. Photographed: Cimarron, Colo., October 3, 1948. Creator: Otto Perry 1894-1970.”

Picture 8 below, is DPL photo RR-1792. “Title: D&RGW (2-8-2) 456, at Cimarron, coming to push E3-11-2-6 and 4D. Summary: Denver and Rio Grande Western locomotive 456 (2-8-2) vents smoke near a wye in Cimarron (Montrose County), Colorado. A depot and sedan automobile are near trees. Date: November 14, 1945. Creator: Robert W. Richardson”

Picture 9 below, is DPL photo OP-7836. “Title: D&RGW train (Narrow Gauge), engine number 318, engine type 2-8-0. Summary: Passenger, eastbound; 2 cars. Photographed: arriving at Cimarron, Colo., June 17, 1944. Creator: Otto Perry 1894-1970.”

Picture 10 below, is DPL photo OP-9134. “Title: D&RGW car number 311. Summary: Coach on train; rear view. Photographed: at Cimarron, Colo., June 17, 1944. Creator: Otto Perry 1894-1970.”

Picture 11 below, is DPL photo X-11486. “Title: Colorado D. & R. G. R. R. Summary: Cimarron, Montrose County, Colorado, flanks the Cimarron River. Frame residences, trees, sheds, tents, and stock pens comprise the town; a low bridge spans the water upstream. Passenger coaches of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad approach the roundhouse in the foreground; maintainence sheds and a water tower edge the tracks. Date: 1886. Creator: Charles Goodman d. 1912. Thomas M. McKee Collection. Source: Jackson Thode.”

Picture 12 below, is DPL photo WHJ-1450. “Title: Black Canon near Cimarron. Summary: View of a Denver and Rio Grande Railroad trestle over the Gunnison River in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison near Cimarron (Montrose County), Colorado. Two railroad workers stand by a train. Date: (between 1880 and 1886?). Creator: William Henry Jackson 1843-1942.”

An item in the January 5, 2009, Salida Mountain Mail, http://www.themountainmail.com , 100 years ago. The Salida Mail, Jan. 1, 1908: Tom Dobbie, one of the finest engineers that ever pulled a throttle on the Denver and Rio Grande, has been suffering from rheumatism for the past week and on Tuesday night thirty-two of his friends came to his home and surprised him. They did not neglect to bring good things with them and a splendid oyster supper was soon prepared. Mr. Dobbie declares that his pain has almost entirely left him because of the surprise given him by his friends.”

Date: 01/09/09 05:39
Re: Cimarron, Colorado
Author: flynn

Pictures 4, 5, and 6.

Date: 01/09/09 05:43
Re: Cimarron, Colorado
Author: flynn

Pictures 7, 8, and 9.

Date: 01/09/09 05:47
Re: Cimarron, Colorado
Author: flynn

Pictures 10, 11, and 12.

Date: 01/09/09 08:48
Re: Cimarron, Colorado
Author: jcaestecker

Mr. Flynn,

I enjoy your frequent posts, this one in particular, and thank you for your efforts. I've always thought Cimarron to be the most picturesque of narrow gauge locales. There are also some atmospheric photos of Cimarron in Colorado Rail Annual No. 21, which is a tribute to RWR's "Narrow Gauge News."



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