Last weekend we had a family day out and made a visit to the Georgetown Loop Railroad. With Abo up from Brazil visiting it was a perfect opportunity to treat ourselves to the beautiful Rocky Mountain scenery.
The Georgetown Loop Railroad is a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge United States heritage railroad located in the Rocky Mountains in Clear Creek County, adjacent to Interstate 70 in Colorado.
This tourist train runs between the communities of Georgetown and Silver Plume, a distance of 2 miles (3.2 km). The route is 4.5 miles (7.2 km) long and ascends an elevation of 640 feet (195.1 m) through mountainous terrain along with trestles, cuts, fills, and a grand loop.
The railroad is situated near I-70, with Silver Plume Depot sitting adjacent to the eastbound on-ramp. Just east of Silver Plume on I-70 there is a parking area named Georgetown Loop Overlook providing scenic views to motorists. The Clear Creek Greenway Trail access road connects Silver Plume Depot, Georgetown Loop Overlook, and the Devil’s Gate Station near Georgetown. This trail is accessible to bicyclists and hikers.
The Georgetown Loop Railroad was one of Colorado’s first visitor attractions. This spectacular stretch of 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railroad was completed in 1884 and considered an engineering marvel for its time. The thriving mining towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume lie 2 miles (3.2 km) apart in the steep, narrow canyon of Clear Creek in the Rocky Mountains west of Denver. Engineers designed a corkscrew route that traveled nearly twice that distance to connect them, slowly gaining more than 600 feet (183 m) in elevation. The route included horseshoe curves, grades of up to 4%, and four bridges across Clear Creek, including the massive Devil’s Gate High Bridge.
The Georgetown, Breckenridge, and Leadville Railroad had been formed in 1881 under the Union Pacific Railroad. The Loop portion of the line was the crowning segment of the line, crossing the top of the gorge on a 95-foot (29 m) high trestle.
Originally part of the larger line of the Colorado Central Railroad constructed in the 1870s and 1880s, in the wake of the Colorado Gold Rush, this line was also used extensively during the silver boom of the 1880s to haul silver ore from the mines at Silver Plume. In 1893, the Colorado and Southern Railway took over the line and operated it for passengers and freight until 1938.
Between 1906 and 1918, the Georgetown Loop connected with the Argentine Central Railway in Silver Plume, by which tourists could continue onward to the summit of Mount McClellan. Prior to 1916, the Argentine Central also served several large silver mines on the east side of Argentine Pass.
The line was dismantled in 1939 but was restored in the 1980s to operate during summer months as a tourist railroad, carrying passengers using historic 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge steam locomotives.