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History of Railroad/Transportation in Chaffee County

Salida Mail, Aug. 25, 1903: One engine and tender, the baggage car, two day coaches and a tourist sleeper of the third section of train N. 1 were derailed and wrecked by the giving away of a bridge near Nathrop last Friday night. The circumstances leading up to the wreck, as told by some of the victims of the accident were that the train was running at a rather slow rate of speed on account of the condition of the track which had been weakened by a tremendously heavy fall of rain during the earlier part of the evening. The bridge that was the cause of the accidents was hidden from view by a sharp curve and as the head engine made the turn Engineer Reardon saw that the water was running over the track, but it was then too late to stop. Throwing open the throttle the nervy engine driver tried to pull the train over the sagging framework. The head engine passed over in safety but the second one left the rails, the baggage car dropped into the gap and the two coaches and the sleeper were scattered out over and along the track. The wreckage was an awful sight and that dozens were not killed outright or horribly mangled seems almost a miracle.

Salida Mail, Aug. 26, 1903: The immense amount of passenger traffic that is now being done on the Rio Grande is breaking past records. The traffic this week has been immense and it was on this account that the band concert of Wednesday evening had to be postponed, many of the members of the band being compelled to work overtime in the yards. It is expected that the concert will be given tonight.

Salida Record, Nov. 12, 1903: The local railroad shops and round house have been at last provided telephone service. At the request of many of the workmen employed at the round houses and shops, the company finally consented and the Colorado Telephone Company has placed a line across the river at the swinging bridge and made the necessary connections.

Salida Record, March 4, 1904 :A serious wreck under very peculiar circumstances occurred Saturday evening on the South park road between St. Elmo and Nathrop. The train with two engines, thirteen cars of coal and a passenger coach, was coming down a steep grade. There was a fierce wind blowing and snow was falling. A forest fire was burning near the track and added to the perils of the place. A rock slide came down on the track ahead of the train and the engines and cars were piled up. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt though crew and passengers suffered from the elements while the fire came near consuming the train. The spectacle of wind, fire, snow and wreck was a thrilling one.

Salida Record, Sept. 30, 1904: Yesterday evening train number 69 which leaves Salida at noon ran away down the western slope of Marshall Pass and as a result fourteen coal cars and the engine are a pile of wreckage at the bottom of the embankment. That no lives were lost is remarkable considering that this is as bad as any of the previous wrecks that have occurred at this exact spot, the last one having occurred about a year and a half ago when Harry Goldwater and Nelson Van Pelt lost their lives.

Traffic will be delayed until this evening, at least, as much of the wreckage is wedged in the cut and will require considerable work before it can be clear for travel.

Salida Mail, Oct 14, 1928: Railroad business on the Salida division including the narrow gauge lines, is humming. All regular train crews are at work and besides the students several extra men are now on the board.The increased business includes sheep, cattle, Western Slope fruit and California fruit, besides the ordinary run of freight.

Salida Mail, Dec. 10, 1928: Wages were better in the transportation business in the Arkansas Valley a half century ago than they are today even with the recent increase allowed railroad men by the federal board of arbitrators. Fred A. Seelinger, who retired from active service on the D. & R. G. W. Railroad Oct. 22, under the pension rules, can testify to that. Mr. Seelinger was a railroad engineer from March 1, 1885 until his retirement, and for the last twenty seven years he pulled passenger trains.

Mr. Seelinger was here before the railroad. In fact he was absorbed by the railroad. In 1879 he was driving stage coaches between Cleora and Leadville and between Cleora and Canon City and that was two years before the railroad reached Leadville. The railroad was hurrying to Leadville to get the tonnage of ores.

Salida Mail, April 7, 1929: Engine 1701, one of the new type of passenger locomotives purchased by the D. & R. G. W. Railroad arrived in Salida with train No. 1 Wednesday afternoon and made the trip through from Denver to Salt Lake City. This is the first time this feat has been accomplished.

A crowd gathered at the depot to see the new engine and Engineer R. E. Condon was on hand to pilot it to Minturn. The railroad has purchased ten engines of this type.

The engines have 70 inch driving wheels. The weight on the drivers is 264,900 pounds. The length of the engine and tender is 100 feet 6- 1/4 inches. The tank has a water capacity of 14,000 gallons and a coal capacity of twenty tons.

The Mountain Mail, Dec. 10, 1953: Monday afternoon at 1:30 Denver and Rio Grande narrow gauge engine 485 made its first solo trip and ended up on its side in the turntable pit, a broken little engine. In railroad parlance engine 485 "walked off," traveled about 200 feet when it came to the turntable, and crashed into the pit.

Leonard Abbott, a roundhouse employee, was on the engine when the walk started but jumped to safety. No one was hurt but property damage could be quite extensive. No figure could be given today on damage but railroad officials said it might run into several thousand. Total replacement cost on a steam narrow gauge engine would be about $25,000

Salida Daily Mail-Record, Aug. 30, 1954: Chaffee county road crews are improving the Tincup pass road, now passable by automobile, from the top of the pass down to St. Elmo. Major improvement work has started at the top of the pass, working down. The road was traversed by a caravan of Jeeps and pickup trucks, with 54 persons making the trip under direction of Dick Lane, public relaltions chairman of the Chamber of Commerce.

The road over Tincup pass into the town of Tincup once was a wagon and stage coach route, probably in use before the Colorado and Southern built their narrow gauge railroad over the Continental Divide. The road once was used as a mail route. In those days road builders threw rocks along the side of the road, giving the appearance of a ditch..

The Mountain Mail, Nov. 25, 1978: Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad officials have refused to confirm or deny rumors that the company plans to raze the Salida depot.

A spokesman in the president's office said destroying the building has been considered, but no decision had been reached. The depot now serves as the roadmaster's office, and houses various communications facilities.

No passenger has boarded a train in Salida for more than a decade, and last summer, the agency was closed. Several uses have been proposed for the Salida depot if the railroad is willing to sell the building and lease the land, including using it for a museum for old fire equipment. However, no group has organized to save the building if the railroad decides to get rid of it.

The Mountain Mail, August 24, 1979: The 30th annual Fly-In Breakfast and Air Show, this weekend at Harriet Alexander Field, promises to be a spectacular treat for all, especially anyone intrested in aeronautics, aerobatics, and aircraft. The event is sponsored every summer by the Salida Flying and Civic Club.

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