MEMORIES of WHISTLES & SMOKE:
Remnants of the Denver, South Park & Pacific



The Denver, South Park & Pacific stone roundhouse still stands in old Como
in Colorado's beautiful South Park region. In the background can be seen
the roof of the depot, and behind that the hotel and eating house that served
many a passenger and railroader.
Sunrise over the old Como Yards
the night crews would be gone to rest.
It’s rather a ghostly picture now,
though I remember it at its best.

Memories of little old engines,
ready for the morning freights.
One for the east at seven thirty,
the other for the west at eight.

Train crews bustling around the yards
and enginemen oiling around.
Weather didn’t seem to matter much,
even though there’s snow in the yard.

Memories of whistles sounding off
as they pull out on the main.
Billows of smoke in the rising sun’s rays,
made a picture not seen again.


George Champion, 1958


The old railroad town of Como, on Highway 285 about 80 miles west of Denver in the beautiful South Park region of Colorado, sprung up in June, 1879 when the Denver, South Park & Pacific RR reached here on its way westward to tap the rich business serving the mining towns of Colorado's late 19th Century mining boom, with the announced goal of eventually reaching all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The railroad chose this location as it was near several coal mines, saving the railroad the added expense of having to use its equipment to bring in coal not only to fuel the locomotives but to keep the shops operating during the severe South Park winters.

Como was given its name by Nearly Italian immigrants for a lake of the same name in their homeland. Como grew into a small railroad town, and by the early 1900s, the population was about 500-600, mostly railroad workers and their families. Approximately 100 men were employed in the roundhouse and shops.

Como would become the very heart and soul of the DSP&P. It became a division point on the railroad, with a 18-stall roundhouse (six stalls in the stone building with an additional 12 wooden stalls), turntable, and machine shop to service the many locomotives in use in South Park. Between 1884 and 1937, doughty little narrow gauge steamers, mostly 2-6-0s and 2-8-0s, fought their way north over 11,493 foot Boreas Pass to the silver mining boom town of Leadville; until 1910 southwest through the Alpine Tunnel under the Continental Divide to reach Gunnison, a major center of mining as well as freight and cattle shipping business; back east to Denver; and a branch line running to the near-by coal mines. Trains through the tunnel and over Boreas sometimes required four engines, and extra helper engines were kept in the Como yards. Snow plows and wrecker trains were kept at Como when not in use, as was a rotary.

In operation from 1873 until 1938, the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad (later to become the Denver, Leadville and Gunnison, then finally the Colorado and Southern) but affectionally known amongst Colorado narrow gauge aficionados as, simply, “the South Park,” is one of the more popular of the now extinct Colorado narrow gauge lines. The line followed the South Platte River southwest from Denver along most of today’s route of Highway 285 across 9991 ft. Kenosha Pass on the rim of the wide expanse of South Park, the beautiful mid-mountain open space at 9500 ft. altitude in the central Colorado Rocky Mountains filled with cattle and horse ranches and ringed by snow capped mountains, and on westward through the first ever railroad tunnel under the Continental Divide to eventually end at Gunnison, Colorado, with grand plans on reaching the Pacific Ocean.

Several historical figures were involved with the DSP&P, including founders Dave Moffat (later the builder of the famous “Moffat Line” with his Denver Northwestern & Pacific RR); John Evans (2nd Governor of Colorado Territory, founder of the University of Denver and Northwestern Universities in Evanston and Chicago, Illinois and Evansville, Indiana, and the namesake of Mt. Evans in Colorado); and railroad baron Jay Gould (who indirectly controlled the DSP&P when it was a subsidiary of his Union Pacific).

South Park is the historic home of large herds of game, and the Indian tribes which camped in the region while following these herds. Early French trappers "mined" the area's streams and rivers for the plentiful beaver and other fur bearing animals. South Park, along with Colorado’s North and Middle Parks, get their names from the early French trappers' word "parc," for game preserve. South Park was also called "Bayou Salado" or "Salt Creek," for its large salt deposits. Beginning in 1859 when gold was discovered in Tarryall Creek (near present day Como), many mining boom camps and towns flourished, and the resulting heavy mining activity in turn brought the railroad.

(And yes, TV fans, the animated comedy South Park is from this same area.)

While the Como facilities were being built, the South Park kept extending its trackage westward, and reached its first goal, the booming Fairplay mining district in South Park, then continued on west with its next goals of Gunnison and then the mining towns in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. But the South Park would never reach anywhere near its intended ultimate destination of the Pacific Ocean, constantly loosing in competition with its chief rival, the Denver & Rio Grande, to be the first to find the best routes to the mining districts, which allowed the D&RG to be able to obtain the best freight contracts. With this loss of revenue, coupled with the South Park’s greater expense of having to build and operate over more difficult routes, the increasingly rusty rails were torn out in 1938.

The South Park is a most interesting piece of Colorado railroad history, and fascinating to study and explore what still remains.

COMO!
Even today there is still evidence of the railroad’s presence in old Como. The 1881 depot and stone roundhouse (recently restored) with turntable still stand at Como. As does the 1897 hotel and eating house that served both railroaders and passengers, and today still offers good food and a historic sleeping experience. Coal debris still cover the ground where the yard tracks were, and the old grade crossing is still guarded by the wooden cross buck that is seen in a 1937 photo of the last passenger train in Como.

Like the railroad and a way of life that will never be again the men are all gone too. In 1981, I interviewed, for a Rail Classics magazine article, George Champion, the last South Park railroader in Como. George was 97 years old at the time, but still lived alone in the small home he had shared with his wife Mayme of over 60 years, who had passed on not long before.

Right up until his death the next year, George spent his summers in Como surrounded by mementoes and dozens of pictures of the railroad and nearly a century of life in South Park. His window looked out over the old Como yards and the machine shop where he worked. If he was not off fishing, and you signed his guest book, he would be glad to sit and reminisce with you, for his memories of South Park were still vivid and alive.

He was also a prolific photographer, the walls of his home displaying his railroad scenes from the old days, and a good poet. Looking out his window at the old roundhouse one could easily envision what he wrote about in 1958 in his poem at the top of this page.

The HIGH LINE to LEADVILLE
One of the South Park’s original goals was the mining boom town of Fairplay on the western edge of South Park. (The town name “Fairplay” has a literal meaning. In the 1860s, residents of the mining camp of Hamilton near Como, disgusted at the way they were being cheated by residents of a rival camp of Tarryall, picked up their camp and moved nine miles across South Park to establish a new camp where there would be a “fair play for all.”) But before Fairplay could be reached, the rich silver boom mine area of Leadville became a priority of the railroad.

To reach Leadville, one of the most famous of the DSP&P lines took the railroad north from Como over the Park Range at 11,493 ft. Boreas Pass, the South Park’s famous “High Line.” Started in April, 1880 and following for the most part the old foot path of indians and early explorers which became a stagecoach road in the 1860s, the line with 4% grades was not completed into Breckenridge until August 1882. The railroad town of Boreas at the top of the pass was built to serve the railroad and train crews. There was a stone engine house, telegraph facility, turntable, wye, water tank, section house, and a 600 foot snowshed which sheltered the trains from the huge snow drifts. The post office at Boreas boasted it was the highest post office in the world.

Boreas Pass was originally called Hamilton or Tarryall Pass after two of the first mining camps in the area, but the name was later changed to Boreas, after the ancient Greek God of the North Wind, due to the severe winters which often left the residents snowed in for weeks at a time. Bitter winds and fierce cold, with temperatures down to 60 below, made life at Boreas extremely harsh, and more than one man lost his life trying to walk out in search of emergency medical help or when food supplies ran low.

The severe winter weather caused construction over Boreas to take two years, and it would then take the South Park almost two years more to finally reach Leadville on this route, 41 miles past Breckenridge via the Blue River Valley and over Fremont Pass, in February 1884.

Winter on Boreas also made train operations impossible at times. Snows that accumulated high enough to completely cover a train were common, and on many occasions train wheels were frozen in ice and had to be chipped free before they could move. These conditions caused many delays while tracks were being cleared. The rotary would be called in to clear the line and then the next storm would close the tracks again. It was not uncommon for trains to be stalled for days at a time.

The South Park had actually already reached Leadville in August of 1880 via a shared trackage agreement with the Rio Grand following the Arkansas River north. In fact, the South Park originally intended to build its line into Leadville on this same, easy route, by branching off the main line at Nathrop, about 48 miles southwest of Como and seven miles south of Buena Vista. But the Denver & Rio Grande, having also turned west from its line from Denver toward Leadville through the Royal Gorge of the Arkansas, got to the Buena Vista area first, and pushed on to Leadville ahead of the South Park.

As mentioned earlier, it would not be the last time that the D&RG would beat the DSP&P into an area, thereby claiming the best route and garnering the best freight contracts.

And the South Park had reached Leadville on D&RG rails, not their own. Rather than both companies laying track into Leadville via the Arkansas River Valley, which was broad enough to allow two separate grades, a “Joint Operation Agreement” in October 1879 gave the South Park the right to run over Rio Grande track from Nathrop into Leadville. In return, the Rio Grande would use the South Park’s rails into Gunnison, once the South Park line through the Alpine Tunnel was completed.

However, this agreement would soon fall through, with the DSP&P having to resort to building the Boreas Pass route to get into Leadville (although being allowed to continue to use the Grande’s Leadville line when Boreas Pass was closed by snow), and the D&RG laying its own track into Gunnison in August 1881 after building over Marshall Pass, again skunking the South Park which, account construction difficulties and delays building the Alpine Tunnel, would not reach town on its own rails until September of the next year.

This stuck the South Park with a much tougher (although shorter than the D&RG) Leadville route from Denver, a virtual up and down roller coaster with 4% grades, from “Mile High” Denver to the 9991 feet crossing Kenosha Pass, back down into the South Park’s 9500+ feet, then back up to 11,493 feet across Boreas, down again to 9,000 feet in the Blue River Valley, up again to 11,320 ft at Fremont Pass, then down to Leadville’s 10,208 feet above sea level.

George tells what it was like working for the South Park. He had started working for the railroad in Como as an apprentice machinist in 1901 at the age of 17. He worked 10 hours a day, six days a week, with Sundays off. He finished his railroad career with the South Park as a fireman, working on helper engines over Boreas Pass and through the Alpine Tunnel.

“I worked for the C&S (Colorado & Southern), had just took over from the Union Pacific (owner of the DSP&P). Lots of cars had UP numbers and lettering, we were changing numbers on engines and changing to automatic couplers, which became law. Overhauled engines and locomotives. Ran the lathe, drill press, bolt cutter, wheel lathe. Tore engine all to pieces and rebuilt it. Turned tires and everything. If tire too thin, would put on new ones. Replace cylinders, put in new cylinder packing, pistons and everything, new driving boxes, bearings, shoes, and wedges. Always working on engines. About four, five stalls in machine shop. Always two or three engines tore down for overhaul.

“Railroad operations were really tough in winter. We put the wing plows on in the fall, and had the rotary. In later years they cut down on the railroad crews and work force. So I got to do some fireman jobs, made several trips firing. I worked on helper engines. Would go out in the morning on a freight and cut off at Boreas, come back light. Had helper engines at front and rear. Two, three or four engines total. Engines easy to fire, engines steamed good. No job to keep them hot. Fired according to stack smoke. No smoke, shoveled coal in.

“Made my last trip (over Boreas) in 1908, in engine 47, fireman. Engineer was Johnny Olsen. Turned at Dickey (six miles past Breckenridge), brought freight back. Stopped at 730 Mine at Flander’s Spur and backed in and pulled out car of ore. Last trip, mine shut down soon after. Going to Dickey, on head of train and head end also on way back. Had 15 to 16 cars. Limit down for a train was 16 cars. On wreck above Peabody (near Boreas Pass), engine 44, Buddy Swartz was killed. Ran away from Boreas, ran off tracks on four percent with 16 cars of ore. 16 was always maximum regardless of number of engines.”

ALPINE TUNNEL
To get across the Continental Divide on its way west to Gunnison and eventually the Pacific, rails were pushed southwest from Como over Trout Creek Pass to Nathrop, then due west up Chalk Creek below the flanks of Mt. Princeton in the Collegiate Range and past St. Elmo, Romley and Hancock to tunnel through the Continental Divide under Altman Pass via an 1,825 ft. tunnel at 11,523 ft. elevation named, appropriately enough, Alpine Tunnel, finally reaching Gunnison, 208 rail miles from Denver, on September 1, 1882.

In a history of choosing the wrong routes and construction methods, the Alpine Tunnel would be the last - and worst - mistake the South Park would make. Being built not through solid rock but fractured granite and the accumulation of centuries of slide rubble requiring timbering with California Redwood for most of its length, the tunnel took four times the planned six months construction time to complete, with the first train through the tunnel in June 1882.

From Gunnison, the South Park started construction north to the coal fields up Ohio Creek near Baldwin, with plans to build over Ohio and Kebler Passes to reach Grand Junction in western Colorado and on into Utah on their way to the Pacific. Plans were also made to lay South Park rails 40 miles south from Gunnison into Lake City on the way to tapping the rich mining districts in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado.

But with the tunnel construction taking over two years longer than planned, the Grande, reaching Gunnison in August 1881 while the South Park was still stopped at the tunnel, would again beat the South Park to both goals. As a result, the DSP&P never went any closer to the “Pacific” in its chartered name than Gunnison, Colorado.

In addition, Alpine Tunnel would serve the South Park for less than 30 years. Plagued with heavy snows along with cave-ins, it was often closed for months at a time during the winter. In late June 1910, the tunnel, still plugged with 8 to 9 feet of ice, was closed for good, the rails and ties left in place. The Gunnison segment of the South Park was isolated, and would never operate again.

George Champion recalls his last trip, which took him through Alpine Tunnel not long before the tunnel itself was closed for good:

“It was the last day of December in 1909. It was in the morning, and they called us about 10:30, 11 o'clock, that is to leave about that time. There was three engines. I was called for the rotary pilot. The engineer was Ed Andrews and our fireman was John House. My duties was in the pilot crew, to change direction of the snow wheel and throw the snow, and had windows on the pilot house so we could see ahead. I had an emergency valve and whistle cord. I could control it. We had three engines and train crew with a combination coach.

“We left out of here (Como) about 11:30, and bucked snow all the way up from Schwanders (near Nathrop). Also some from Antero Junction to Hilltop Pass. Quite a bit of snow from Schwanders up Chalk Creek to Alpine Tunnel. We didn’t get up to Alpine Tunnel ‘till late evening. Had standard gauge plow on narrow gauge trucks, with side wings on front of plow. We didn’t know if it was going to clear tunnel!

“They decided to lead it through. We tied bell cord to whistle in pilot house and walked ahead of plow with our lantern to make sure plow would clear. We had no trouble with the plow, but our fireman, he was overcome by gas. We finally found him, he was down on the deck of the plow. They got him out and took him back to the coach and revived him. We made it through the tunnel alright without any trouble, and tied up at the Alpine Tunnel at eating house. It was getting pretty late, about 11-11:30 p.m. We were getting pretty hungry, and got dinner and a bed at the eating house there. After dinner, went back to telegraph office and sent telegraph to Dad and Mother, wishing them happy New Year. It was after 1:00 a.m., New Year’s Day.

“While we was laying at Pitkin (13 miles west of the tunnel), another storm came up. Boy, it was a humdinger! So they held us. There was a couple of freights waiting at Pitkin. One pulled out as soon as we got in, with about two to three engines, coming east. After that road was blocked. We were held there several days ‘till storm quit. There was several freight crews there, waiting while road was blocked.

“Finally coming out of Pitkin that morning, about nine or ten in the morning, we had three engines, I don’t remember the numbers, Billy Kearns was one engineer, Johnny Olsen was another, and I’m not sure who was on the third. Coming up to Alpine Tunnel, we stopped at Midway Tank and took water. It’s a darn good thing we did! We got up to Woodstock (three miles below the tunnel) and rounded Hookeye Curve. After Hookeye Curve, we began to hit some terrible snow. The engineer on the plow, he told me, “You watch out now, if you hear hitting any rocks, whistle ‘um down,’ cause there was some snow slides come down.

“So on this one particular slide, I heard her hit, and I whistled them down. They backed out, and I hollered to Ed, I said ‘we’ve hit some rocks,’ but I guess he didn't hear me. But ‘bout that time, a traveling engineer popped up into the cab, and he wanted to know what was the matter? I didn’t know he was on the train! I told him there was rocks down there.

“ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘no, I don’t think there is,’ and he whistled them ahead. Well, that fixed it! He tore all the blades off the bottom of the wheel. The engineer in the plow felt it, so he whistled them down, and backed out. The traveling engineer, he got off. I never seen him no more. I guess he felt guilty. Anyway, we had a few extra blades, cutter blades. A lot of them went down the mountain so we put on all we could. We laid there the biggest part of the day, putting them blades on. Had to knock the bent bolts out, oh, it was a devil of a time! We finally got off. I think we probably had eight or ten new blades, we put on all we had.

“We started for Alpine Tunnel Station. Meantime, the section men had uncovered a lot of rocks. We had a chain hooked on the front end of the plow with a device hook, dragging them rocks out. Well, we finally got the rocks out. There was several more slides, but they didn’t have no rocks in them. “So we made it to the Alpine Tunnel. It was about midnight or a little earlier. They wouldn’t let us tie up! Sent us on to St. Elmo, tied us up at St. Elmo.

“No place to stay! So we had’er parked there on the main line. We were all in for some’in to eat, and dead tired, so I and Ed Anderson, the fireman on the plow, we found a cabin down the hill, and it was unlocked, couple of nice beds in there, no bedding, just mattresses, good stoves and some wood. We built a fire and got warmed up and had a pretty good sleep.

“Coming out of Schwanders, they held up there at Schwanders for a freight coming west. Oh God!, we spent a couple of hours waiting for that train! I don’t know why they held it, but they did. So finally we got started, must have been three or four o’clock in the afternoon. It was getting kinda dark and windy, and the smoke from the train was blowing right down over the front of the plow, you couldn’t see nothing.

“And coming out of Platte River Station, there’s a cut in the railroad grade there, pretty deep cut, and the engineer had been widening on the plow every time he’d feel the snow, and I’d signaled for him if I could see it. But this one I didn’t see! So he widened on the plow, coming through that cut, and we’d run into a bunch of cattle. I don’t know how many we killed. They’d huddled up in that cut. So he happened to see ‘um. I couldn’t see ‘um! Stopped the train, and he got the fireman to get out with his coal pick and kill some of the cripples, and one of the old bulls run him back! So we finally got to Como, pretty late that night, and the next morning, I had to go down to the master mechanic’s office and make a report.”

SHUT DOWN
Operating under the ownership of the Union Pacific since 1881, the DSP&P, failing in all its efforts to reap the rich revenue businesses lost to the D&RG, along with its increased cost of construction over the more difficult routes left to it, would claim bankruptcy in May 1888, and was reformed in August 1889 as the Denver, Leadville and Gunnison Railway, a more appropriate name reflecting the actual terminals of the line.

Then in October, 1893, the Union Pacific was placed in receivership, followed in August 1894 by the DL&G suffering the same fate. The Colorado & Southern RR took over ownership in January, 1899, but in the first decades of the 20th Century, with the mines served by the railroad playing out and the growing network of reliable roads also cutting into the line’s remaining freight and passenger business, most of the South Park was abandoned.

In addition to the Alpine Tunnel’s closure in 1910, the Boreas Pass route was also shut down that year. The 12 stall wooden portion of the roundhouse were torn down in 1919, but three stalls were later rebuilt. As the railroad left Como, so did most of the population, which depended on the railroad for jobs. Passenger service was reinstated over Boreas Pass in 1911. In 1935, a spark from a locomotive stack ignited a bird nest in the roundhouse, and the ensuing fire destroyed the three stalls left of the wooden roundhouse and shops.

Colorado & Southern #9, an 1884 Cooke 2-6-0 Mogul, pulled the last passenger train from Leadville over Boreas to Denver on April 10, 1937. Into 1938, train movements continued as locomotives and equipment were gathered and scrapping work began. Four years later, the segment of the line between Denver and Waterton Canyon was gone.

Although the closure of the Alpine Tunnel meant no more through trains past St. Elmo, service to the mines in the area was continued until the mining output as well as St. Elmo’s population had dwindled drastically, and the railroad here was abandoned in 1922. One sarcastic observer said “...what remained of St. Elmo’s population left on the last train.”

In 1926, the railroad tracks through St. Elmo were torn up and the grade was turned into an automobile road for the 17 miles from Nathrop on HY 285 into town, then continuing up five miles to the old Hancock town site (nothing remains today) and the final three miles to Alpine Tunnel’s caved-in east portal.

Over in Gunnison, the Rio Grande continued to operate the South Park’s Baldwin Branch until the 1955 abandonment of its entire Marshall Pass line through Gunnison, the last D&RG train leaving town on July 24th. This D&RG line through Gunnison had reached Utah (with this stretch of D&RG rails becoming part of the famed Narrow Gauge Circle between 1891 and 1949). And of course the D&RG survives today as part of the giant Union Pacific.

The SOUTH PARK TODAY
Today the only South Park rails that remain are the Leadville to Climax line on the old Fremont Pass section, which was converted to standard gauge in August, 1943, connecting a number of mines around the Fremont Pass area via the C&S to the Rio Grande’s main line in Leadville, and today operating as the Leadville, Colorado & Southern tourist line; and a few miles of the first South Park rails south out of Denver, now standard gauged and operating as industrial spurs in the south Denver Metro area by the BNSF, which absorbed the Colorado & Southern in 1981.

The Boreas Pass grade is now a sometimes rough but reasonably good automobile road, lined with Aspen which turn blazing gold each September, and the blackness of the roadbed in places is proof that coal burning trains once puffed their way up through here. If further proof is needed, old tie spikes and rusted bolts can sometimes be found along the edge of the roadway in the early summer after plows have scrapped the road clear of snow. 200 feet of railroad track has been relaid at Windy Point on a section of the old grade by-passed by the current road, and used for handcar trips during Boreas Pass Railroad Days each August. Nearer the top of the pass, log corrals, dating from 1860 when this was a stage road, can still be seen.

The huge log railroad section house and several adjoining buildings (recently restored) atop the pass still stand, along with C&S box car #8311 on display. The pile of stone rubble was the 1883 engine house, which burned in 1909 and was never rebuilt. With a careful search through the bushes lining both sides of the road you can find traces of the wye with a few rotting ties still in place, along with the skeleton boards of the snowsheds. A few miles west from Boreas is Baker’s Tank, where trains took water on their way up from Breckenridge. (Baker’s tank originally was at Alpine Station at the tunnel’s west portal. Built in 1906 after the original engine house and tank burned, about 1909 the tank was moved to the Boreas Pass route.)

In the early 1980s when the grade was still “open” all the way to the east portal of Alpine Tunnel, this author recalls having to choose from carefully squeeeezing my large Bronco between a tree growing in the middle of the grade and a rock wall, or between the tree and the cliff edge, as well as negotiating around the many fallen boulders littering the grade. Now closed to vehicles, this last three miles to the tunnel’s east portal makes an invigorating summer day’s hike.

Today, the old grade beside the South Platte River through Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver is a popular biking and hiking trail. As you drive west over Kenosha Pass on Highway 285 and down into South Park, you can still see traces of the old railroad bed beside the highway. A water tank base is hidden in the brush in the old town site of Webster at the foot of Kenosha pass, a section of the Kenosha Pass wye has been relaid, and the station at Jefferson, seven miles east of Como, still stands, disguised as a real estate office.

The old stone roundhouse is very evident as you drive into Como, along with the white 1897 railroad hotel and 1879 depot, which starting in 2012 has been restored, including new track layed in front of the station where handcart rides are given each August during the Boreas Pass Railroad Day. DS&P boxcar #608 and part of 1878 passenger coach #56 are stored inside the roundhouse. On one comer of Rowe Avenue (Como’s main street), across from the depot, is the building that served as a store and post office, and, on the other corner, the Montag Saloon. A short distance down and across the street is the Odd Fellows Lodge with the odd looking round top. Many of Como’s original little houses, some with leaded windows and gingerbread trim, have been preserved and now serve as summer homes for the current owners. George Champion’s little home with the tan "brick" siding shingles common a half century ago is still maintained by family members.

To the north of Como, towards the Boreas Pass road, is the grave yard, located in a grove of Aspen and, in the summer, Columbine, the state flower. Many old and unusual tombstones mark the graves of early Colorado pioneers and railroad men. Mr. Champion lies buried here alongside his wife and one of their children. A marker shaped like a locomotive’s headlight marks the grave of Webster Ballinger, killed in 1901 in a train wreck on Kenosha Pass.



A lot of the South Park roadbed is clearly recognizable along HY 285 in South Park. Some sections still have ties with spikes in place.


Today, not much remains of the DSP&P in Fairplay. This depot, narrow gauge train and water tank in Fairplay’s living history town of South Park City is not totally authentic DSP&P. The locomotive came from Guatemala, but is of the same type as engines used on the DSP&P, a Porter Mogul built in 1914. The circa 1900 depot was originally the Buffalo Springs School (on the eastern section of the DSP&P). The freight cars and caboose are Denver & Rio Grande. Also, a “depot” shaped building in downtown Fairplay housing a real estate office is a replica, not the original DSP&P.


Denver Leadville & Gulf #191, an 1880 2-8-0 Baldwin that was originally DSP&P #51, served the South Park until 1902. Since 1973 on display at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden and cosmetically restored, it is the oldest steam locomotive in the state.
 
The 1881 Como roundhouse originally included 12 stalls and a machine shop in a wooden section, in addition to the 6-stall stone section seen here. The wooden stalls were torn town in 1919. Three stalls were rebuilt but burned along with the machine shop in 1935 after a spark from #75's stack ignited a bird nest in the wooden rafters. But the 6-stall stone section still stands, complete with its turntable.


Railroad workers pose inside the wooden machine shop of the Como roundhouse for this 4x5 glass plate photograph taken by South Park railroader George Champion around 1907.




The roundhouse is usually open for visits during the annual Boreas Pass Railroad Day the 3rd Saturday of August. DSP&P box car #608 built in 1897 and part of a passenger coach are stored in the roundhouse. The turntable is planned to be made operational again, and the turntable's circular pivot pin bearing is seen in the bottom image above.


This unusual 1910 Keystone steam powered churn drill is stored in the roundhouse. It was used to loosen gravel when drilling holes. Old printing press machinery is also on display in the roundhouse.



A rustic barn sets off a peaceful farm scene typical of the beautiful South Park region. Just a little ways down the road from the barn the Jefferson station still stands beside the old railroad grade (the picnic table is on the grade). Curtains in the windows in this 1980's view indicates its use as a home, but in the years since it has housed various businesses including a real estate office.


The last passenger train from Leadville pulled by C&S #9 stops in Como, April 10, 1937. (Richard Jackson photo, courtesy of Colorado Railroad Museum, Golden.)


The station and cross buck (both restored) and 1897 hotel/restaurant (still serving lunches and rooms in the summers) still stand today.


The Odd Fellows lodge hall, across the street
from the Como roundhouse.


#9
Colorado & Southern #9, a Cooke Locomotive Works 2-6-0, on the Como roundtable.
(George Champion photo.)


Two engines with a plow have had a battle bringing in this passenger train.
(George Champion photo.)



South Park railroaders pose outside the Como roundhouse. Note the rotary snow plow in the stall. (George Champion photo.)


Plow train on the Boreas Pass line.
(George Champion photo.)


The 1906 Bakers Tank still stands beside the Boreas Pass grade.


Boreas Pass 1882 section house and out buildings in 1977.


Restored Boreas Pass section house and out buildings in 2012.


The Boreas section house and snow shed remnants in the early 1980s in a fall snow storm.


The restored Boreas section house and snow shed remnants in 2012.


The 1900 Cooke rotary snow plow #01 in Breckenridge's Rotary Snow Plow Park is not an original South Park rotary, but sits on rails resting on the actual Boreas Pass grade.

#9 display
C&S #9 under a protective awning behind the snow plow in Breckenridge is the actual South Park engine seen in the previous above photo by Richard Jackson of the last Leadville to Denver passenger train in 1937, and also in two of George Champion's photos above. C&S box car #8323, ex Georgetown Loop RR (part of the original C&S) NE D&RGW 1937 flat car #6212, and C&S 2-wheel "bobber" caboose #1012 are also in the park.



St. Elmo, where George Champion and Ed Anderson finally found a place to spend the night on their rotary snow plow trip through the Alpine Tunnel in January, 1910. Today St. Elmo, often referred to as one of the most photogenic of Colorado’s ghost towns, no longer is a place for South Park railroaders to spend the night or get a meal, but is home to a large population of chipmunks and hummingbirds and a small population of summer residents in some of the old homes. In 2002, half of St. Elmo’s main street burned, including the historic town hall (with the bell tower) and white wooden phone booth seen here that President Teddy Roosevelt once used. Fortunately, the very photogenic Stark store and other buildings just across the street were saved, and the town hall has been rebuilt.


Not much remains today of the railroad's presence in St. Elmo, save for a couple of rotting South Park box cars below the old railroad grade at the edge of town.



A winter snowshoe hike in the 1980s on five miles of the South Park grade above St. Elmo captured this collapsed Allie Belle mine building near Hancock, and a crumbling saloon, all that was left of the old town. The Allie Belle structure remains in this position in 2012, but with the old saloon now flat on the ground, Hancock is completely ghost.

Yes, the railroad and railroaders are gone. The gentle summer breezes still stir the Aspen and Columbine, the fishing is still good, and the winters still tough. But now there are only memories left in South Park.

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