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 Rockies.
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.
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.
The photos on these pages are dedicated to the men and women that made this railroad one of the premier transportation enterprises of the past century.
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