The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad operated in the states of Colorado,
Utah, and New Mexico between 1871 and 1988. Begun as a three-foot gauge
line with the intention of linking the cities of Denver and El Paso, it found
itself forced by circumstances to change orientation in a westerly direction.
The railroad became synonymous with mountain railroading, first with
cliffhanging narrow-gauge lines and later with dramatic mainline assaults on the
The Grande had a chequered corporate history, but finally achieved respectability and profitability during World War 2. It became an important bridge route in the transcontinental system, as well as a feeder system for coal. During its period of fiscal consolidation, however, many less-profitable portions of the system were abandoned or sold, particularly the narrow gauge lines. By 1980, all 3-foot track was dismantled, except for those portions converted to independent tourist lines (most was gone long before this time).
Facing a changed competitive landscape in the 1980s, Rio Grande's owners acquired the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1988 and merged the lines-- a process that required several years to implement. And right when the system had begun to gel and to turn a profit, the new Southern Pacific Lines was sold to Union Pacific (1996). Now, all Rio Grande lines are part of UP (except for parts that have been spun off to shortline operators). The D&RGW is gone, but certainly not forgotten.
This site displays images of relics of the D&RG(W). Many remnants of the railroad can be found here and there-- some preserved as museum pieces or public displays, and many others as semi-forgotten structures, landmarks, and equipment. It's slowly fading away, though. As a historian I can't let that happen without making an effort to preserve the images, and the memory, of the Rio Grande.
© 2008, James R. Griffin. All rights reserved.