Railroads in the West

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Railroads in the West

All photos included here are in the Public Domain in the United States of America unless noted otherwise. Western photographers are noted in the Players (if I have a workable date for them) [LOC = Library of Congress]. Nothing in the way of enhancement has been done to these photographs they are as originally produced.

Elk Canyon - Railroads in the West

Elk Canyon
Photo: U.S. PD, – Grabill, LOC


Passenger Train - Railroads in the West

Passenger Train
Photo: U.S. PD, Grabill, LOC


Buffalo Bill's Advance RR car - Railroads in the WestThis well preserved standard gauge railroad car is part of a mated group of three, in Nederland, CO, placed by Jimmy and Charlotte Kieth sometime in the late 1960’s or early 70’s. The Keith’s were buyers, sellers and traders of all sorts of railroad memorabilia at the time. Last time I went by, two of the cars were occupied by businesses; the Cody car is gutted and has always been empty. I have no idea who owns them today. At one time, the Keith’s also owned the Pullman built custom business car which had belonged to Baby Doe Tabor and was used in the Paramount Pictures 1965 movie Cat Ballou.   If I can find my photos of that car I will post them here as well. Photos and Collage © 2010 & 2011 OWDR & R.W. “Doc” Boyle.  {001}
see also:
Photo Gallery Index – Performer PhotosBuffalo Bill
The Originals Index – Entertainment in the Old West
Rodeos and Wild West ShowsBuffalo Bill


Kansas Pacific RR advertizing - Railroads in the West1873 – The Kansas Pacific Railroad
tells the populace that there are “Free Homes”
in the the West where the buffalo roam.
Photo: U.S. PD 2007


Colorado Midland Railway: 1883 – 1918

Colorado Midland Railway POcd c 1900 - Railroads in the West

Aspen Daily Chronicle 09/29/1890

“A.E. Bull is one of our busy citizens. He runs a barber shop on Sundays
and loads the product of McMurry’s sawmill on the cars week day.
– The Lime Creek Quarry Co. has orders ahead for 5000 bushels of burnt lime.
It keeps the wood contractor (M.D. Waldo) rustling to keep the yawning
furnaces supplied with fuel. – The Frying Pan Valley furnishes an immense amount
of timber. In the aggregate during the year, with eight sawmills manufacturing
a hundred thousand feet of lumber daily, Large quantities of logs are shipped out
for mining timers, besides over six hundred cords of wood used monthly in burning
lime and charcoal. – The lime, lime rock, charcoal, lumber, logs, and building stone
shipped from this section of the country average several hundred cars per month and
forms no small item in freight traffic of the Colorado Midland road. – There will be a
house warming at Galusha’s new boarding house next Friday evening. The Colorado
Midland will make a special rate of one full fare each way from Aspen, Leadville
and New York to parties of one or more who wish to attend the celebration. Prof.
Boyer will lead the string band and Professor Clemmons will furnish the brass.”

w/ thanks to: Colorado Midland Yahoo internet Group via The Roaring Fork Foamer

Colorado Midlland Railway Wild Flower excursion 1917 - Railroads in the WestPhoto: U.S. PD, 1917, a postcard via Wikipedia


Sears, Robuck letterhead 1907 - Railroads in the West
Alvah Curtis Roebuck - Railroads in the WestRichard Warren Sears - Railroads in the WestGood mail service and dependable railroads for delivery made for a revolution in the marketing of goods. These fellows were the pioneers. Richard Warren Sears on the left and Alvah Curtis Roebuck on the right; both Photos: U.S. PD. Artwork: Sears, Roebuck Letterhead c. 1907, courtesy The Cooper Collections.  {003 & 001}

Wk. 04, 01/25/1993 – Sears, Roebuck and Company


Water Tank at South Fork, CO (standard gauge)

RR water tak at Sargent, CO - Railroads in the WestA typical steam-era, mountain railroad water tank [It’s a big one!] at South Fork, CO.* It was on the standard gauge of the D&RGW RR. Among the many problems of mountain railroading is water; in the winter as snow, it blocks the tracks and avalanches take tracks, trains and people away in seconds; in the spring, floods take out roadbeds and bridges. Yet, year round, steam engines demand water, and the harder they work, the more water they need; sometimes in just tens of miles. How much water at eight pounds to the gallon does the locomotive need in the tender to haul up a given grade to the next tank. In the mountains, engineers [both railroad and locomotive] had to think that way. Photo: © 2000 Doc Boyle  {001}
*03/13/2019 – Mr. Charles Weston writes: I believe the water tank you have identified as Sargent is actually at South Fork on the standard gauge Creede branch. He proved he was right so I have changed the ID. – Doc

This photo actually is the tank at Sargent, CO. These big tanks were likely all built to the same general plan but local expediency and years of use and some repairs have created a very individual look to each tank. As they have been abandoned by the railroad and suffered the neglect of time, they lose various parts, until someday, the whole thing will fall to the ground if it isn’t hauled away for its lumber first. Photo: US PD? hauled this off the internet during the discussion over what tank I really had pictured in the above article. – Doc


Denver and Rio Grande Narrow Gauge

DRGW Excursion train at Hermosa, CO (1963) - Railroads in the WestHere we see narrow gauge K-28 locomotives 473 and 478 {built 1923} leading an excursion at the Hermosa water tank on the Silverton Branch of the Denver and Rio Grande Narrow gauge RR in 1963. Both of these locomotive still operate today on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge RR pulling daily tourist trains on the forty seven mile trip from Durango, CO at 6,512 feet above sea level to Silverton, CO at 9, 305 feet above sea level and return. While not the largest engines on the line, they a certainly larger than those in use in the 1880’s. Photo U.S. PD 06/30/1963 Bill Bogle.   {001}
Wk. 31, 08/05/1881 – Denver and Rio Grande Railway
Wk. 28, 07/10/1882 – Silverton, CO


The Galloping Geese

Galloping Goose # 5 - Railroads in the WestAs the mines were failing for the last time and the railroads were shutting down unprofitable service wherever possible, a number of innovations were tried to maintain service. This unique machine and others following the same idea, made it possible to retain passenger, freight and mail service to mining camps that had become mining towns and some of which were starting the transition to tourist towns. This is Rio Grande Galloping Goose #5, originally built on a 1928 Pierce-Arrow limousine, entering service 06/08/1933 and ran with a 1947 re-build, into the current configuration, until 1953 when it went on static display in Dolores, CO. Nicely re-built in 1998, it occasionally runs as a guest on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Photo: © 2000 Doc Boyle  {001}


Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge RR

Cripple Creek and Victor RR View - Railroads in the WestThe smallest of the Colorado mountain tourist railroads, this is the two foot gauge,
Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad at Cripple Creek, CO [1967 to present].
Today it runs a four mile round trip to near the abandoned Anaconda mining camp.
The locomotive in the photo is #2,  a 0-4-0 Henschel built in 1936 {in Germany}.
Photo: © 2000 Doc Boyle


 Crush, TX – 1896

Crush, TX, before the crash! - Railroads in the WestThis is #999 [green], facing off # 1001 [red] at “Crush”, TX; each with six cars in tow,
just before they were each backed off a mile and then brought together at a combined speed of 90 MPH.

Wk. 37, 09/15/1896 – Crush TX


1894 Rock Island RR wreck site memorial - Railroads in the West Here is another intentional wreck.
But this time the crowd didn’t gather in advance and the cost was much higher.

Wk. 32, 08/09/1894 – The Wreck


Transcontinental Railroad
Main Effort 1862 – 1869

Promontory Point, UT - 1869 - Railroads in the WestThe Meeting of the Rails!
Promontory Summit, UT – 05/10/1869
Central Pacific RR (left), Union Pacific RR (right).
Photo: U.S. PD (1869) LOC

Promontory Summit, UT
The first spike driven by Leland Stanford
Two gold, one silver, and one forged of gold, silver and iron
(plus one common iron spike wired to the telegraph)
join the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific Railroads,
completing the Transcontinental Railroad.
Now its $69 and seven days to California…

The Union Pacific
Building westbound

“Hell on Wheels”

Union Pacific New Track Crew - c. late 1860's - Railroads in the West

Union Pacific New Track Crew
Photo: U.S. PD c. late 1860’s

During the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad numerous “Hell on Wheels” towns appeared and disappeared beside the Union Pacific right-of-way from Omaha, NE, to Promontory Summit, UT. Often temporary and lasting only months; made up of cheap board structures and tents that could be easily dismantled and moved to the next location. Even so, they offered everything a navy needed, from clothes to hardware supplies, dentistry to saloons, gambling and prostitutes. Famous for their rapid growth and infamous/notorious, for their lawlessness. There was always an undertaker.
Union Pacific railroad workers were often young Civil War veterans, many were Irish immigrants. Most were single. Since most of the towns moved with the railroad, populations were never static. An amalgam of ethnic groups, a constant stream of transients, new workers, merchants and other profit seekers, provided change, opportunity and excitement. The work and the situation, always provided a certain amount of danger.
Most of the Hell on Wheels towns disappeared with the smoke, as the railroad moved west, but a few, such as Laramie, WY, endured and thrived as branch line terminals, railroad repair facilities and home communities for the railroad crewmen and their families.  {001}

The Central Pacific
Building eastbound

Who will do the work?

In February 1865, the Central Pacific Railroad employed 50 Chinese workers as an experiment to verify their ability to perform the arduous labor of laying tracks. Passing the test, they also laid the foundation for an amazing event in American history. Within months, a new, rapidly growing, Chinese workforce began their assault on the Sierra Nevada range. Paid but a dollar a day and working 12 hour shifts, six days a week, living in makeshift camps, sometimes in the very tunnels they were blasting.  Often called upon to perform life-threatening feats of construction and losing numerous lives in the process, they blasted and mucked their way through the most difficult and dangerous terrain of the entire endeavor.*
At the height of the transcontinental construction period, the Central Pacific employed over 12,000 Chinese workers, more than 90 percent of the company’s workforce.  {001}

Chinese RR workers on the Central Pacific - Railroads in the West

Chinese RR workers on the Central Pacific
Photo: U.S. PD c. 1870’s

see also:
Wk. 26, 07/01/1862 – The Pacific Railway Act
Wk. 44, 11/02/1863 – Theodore D. Judah
*Wk 16, 04/16/1866 – nitroglycerin
Wk. 19, 05/10/1869 – Promontory Summit, UT
Wk. 05, 02/02/1863 – Leland Stanford
Wk. 25, 06/21/1893 – Leland Stanford
Wk. 01, 01/05/1904 – George Francis Train
Wk. 26, 06/30/1942 – William Henry Jackson

“One of those trains went so fast that the telephone poles looked like a solid board fence.
When they came to a section of the country in which the fields
were planted to corn and beans alternately,
the whole country looked like succotash!”

Old timer’s tale

Some Western Railroads

This list is a drop in the bucket.
There were hundreds of railroads in the old west.
Many were special purpose and didn’t last too long.
Plenty of ’em went broke trying.
You can see some of these names as parts of today’s conglomerates…


AT & SF logo - Railroads in the WestAtchinson, Topeka & Santa Fe RR (AT&SF) – 1859-1996
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)
Doc Holliday rode these trains.
became part of BNSF 1990
PLAYERS -numerous entries


Borate and Daggett Railroad (B&DR)  (CA 1897 – 1907)
narrow gauge – 3′ ft. (914 mm)
Approximately 11 miles from Daggett, CA to the mining camp of Borate three miles to the east of Calico, CA.
Borax, some lumber and tourism.
When it dissolved, pieces, parts went to the Tonopah & Tidewater RR, the Death Valley RR, the Nevada Short Line and others.


Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway (BBB&C) (TX – 1853 – 1868)
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)
In the early days, also called the Harrisburg Railroad. The line failed during the financial collapse of Texas during Reconstruction. Owners changed (1868), and it became the Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio Railroad (GHSA). This early line became the oldest component of the Southern Pacific system.
Wk. 06, 02/11/1850


Bullfrog Goldfield RR (BG) (NV 1905 – 1918)


BNSF Railway – 12/31/1996 to present
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)
Created from many older roads…
largest freight railroad network in North America



Camden and Amboy RR – (02/04/1830)
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)
The first railroad in New Jersey, noted here because it was the first railroad to be conceived primarily as a passenger railroad and the first to employ steam locomotives to replace animal powered vehicles on rails. Functional railroading in America began here. Much later, the C&A became part of the Pennsylvania RR.  {001}
Wk. 37, 09/15/1831. – John Bull


Central Pacific logo - Railroads in the WestCentral Pacific RR (CP)
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)


Burlington Route logo - Railroads in the WestChicago, Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q)
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)
absorbed by BNSF 1996


Colorado Midland RR logo - Railroads in the WestColorado Midland RR (CM) CO – 1883 to 1918)
standard gauge 4′ 8 1/2″ – (1,435 mm)
First standard gauge RR over the Continental Divide in Colorado.
The Colorado Midland Railway ran from Colorado Springs to Leadville, then over Hagerman Pass to Aspen and west to Glenwood Springs, New Castle and Grand Junction. (Never made it to Grand Junction, went broke.)  {001}


The Colorado & Southern Railway Co. (C&S) – 1898 to 1982
standard gauge 4′ 8 1/2″ – (1,435 mm) and narrow gauge – 3′ (914 mm)
Colorado’s home-grown railroad, “The Colorado Road”came into existence as the result of a merger of the Colorado Central and the narrow-gauge Denver, South Park & Pacific. It thrived until 1908 when its standard-gauge and narrow gauge lines became a subsidiary of the Chicago Burlington and Quincy, it was finally absorbed in 1982.  Some wags suggested C & S stood for “Cinders & Smoke” because it had been the last Class I railroad in the region to rid itself of steam locomotives.


Cripple Creek and Victor RR logo - Railroads in the WestCripple Creek & Victor RR (CC&V)
narrow gauge – 2′ ft.
Mining – today, tourists
Railroads, above)


Cumbres and Toltec RR logo - Railroads in the WestCumbres & Toltec Scenic RR (C&TS)
narrow gauge – 3′ ft. (914 mm)
Tourist RR
Rio Grande Narrow Gauge
Railroads – above
Death Valley RR (DVR) (CA 1914-15 – 1931)
narrow gauge – 3′ ft
Borax mining
Ryan, CA & Death Valley Junction, CA



Photo: U.S. PD 2014 Doc Boyle

Denver and Rio Grande Western RR logo - Railroads in the WestDenver & Rio Grande Western RR (D&RGW)
narrow gauge – 3′ ft. (914 mm)
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)
PLAYERS -numerous entries
Railroads, above


Great Northern RR logo - Railroads in the WestGreat Northern RR (GN) – 1857 – 1970
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)
A “colonial car” provider for the emigrants.*
absorbed by BNSF 1970
References – Dictionarycolonial car
PLAYERS -numerous entries


Heber Creeper – Utah
standard gauge



Missouri Kansas and Texas RR logo - Railroads in the WestMissouri-Kansas-Texas RR (MKT) but always called “The KATY”
standard gauge
Doc Holliday rode these trains.


Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad (LV&T) (NV c. 1906)Nevada Short Line Railway (Silver Belt Railroad) (NV 1913 – 1918)
Silver mining.


Los Angeles Terminal Railway (CA – end 1900)Missouri Pacific RR logo - Railroads in the WestMissouri Pacific RR (MP)
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)Oregon Short Line RR (a UP subsidiary)



Rock Island RR logo - Railroads in the WestRock Island RR (RI)
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)

San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad: (see: Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad)


Sierra Valley & Mohawk Railway (CA – 1895 – 1916)
narrow gauge – 3′ ft.
The Originals – Landmarks and RegistersBeckwourth Pass


Salt Lake, Garfield and Western Railway logo - Railroads in the WestSalt Lake, Garfield and Western Railway (1916 to present)
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)
Renamed from the Salt Lake & Los Angeles Railway (see: next article)
Passenger service discontinued in 1959.
Still in operation (2018).


Salt Lake & Los Angeles Railway (1891 – 1916)
Originally the Saltair Railway (for about a year)
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)
Nicknamed “The Saltair Route”.
Originally created to provide exclusive service from Salt Lake City
to the Saltair Pavilion at The Great Salt Lake, about a 10 mile run.
Renamed as the Salt Lake, Garfield and Western Railway in 1916. (see: above)


Southern Pacific RR logo - Railroads in the WestSouthern Pacific RR (SP)
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)
PLAYERSSouthern Pacific RR – numerous entries
PLAYERS – Timelines – Timelines A-L – Chris Evans Gang Timeline


Texas and Pacific RR logo - Railroads in the WestTexas & Pacific RR
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)


Tonopah & Tidewater RR  (T&T) (NV 1906 – 1940)
Borax mining

Tyler Tap Railway  (TX 1871 – 1886)
Sold at foreclosure on February 10, 1886
This company is considered to be the beginning of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway Company (Cotton Belt).


Photo: U.S. PD 2014
Doc Boyle

Unioin Pacific RR logo - Railroads in the WestUnion Pacific RR (UP)
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)
2nd largest freight RR in North America
PLAYERS -numerous entries


United States Potash Railroad (CA 1931 – 1967)


Utah Southern Railroad Extension (a UP subsidiary)

Virginia and Truckee RR logo - Railroads in the WestVirginia & Truckee RR
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)?



Western Pacific RR logo - Railroads in the WestWestern Pacific Railroad
standard gauge – 4′ 8 1/2″ (1,435 mm)
Feather River Route, CA
The Originals – Landmarks and RegistersBeckwourth PassWyoming Railway and Iron Company (1890) founded by Charles A. Guernsey (Guernsey, WY )
Founded the to exploit iron mining in the area.
By 1898, the Colorado Fuel and Iron company (CF&I) had began leasing mining rights in the area, to improve its iron supply. In 1904, they purchased the entire Sunrise Mine. CF&I hoped to make Sunrise a model company town. Company-owned houses, boarding houses, depots, a school, churches, shops, and other structures were built during the early 1900’s. 1910 into the 1920’s, partly in response to the Ludlow Massacre, further improvements came in the form of brick housing, better utility systems, a hospital, a YMCA building, a playground, parks and other improvements. The mine employed 547 people by 1928.
Initially, Sunrise was a strip mine, then a glory hole. In 1930, the mine began underground block caving, but by World War II, all mining was underground. Ore was partially processed on site and then sent CF &I mills in Pueblo, CO.

Yard Men at Smithville, TX (1910) Railroad Hijinks - Railroads in the West

Yard Men at Smithville, TX (1910)


I’m a bit of a foamer myself so I work on this section now and then.
Always glad to have your old time RR photos!
Please tell me as much as you know about what you send. – Doc

barbed wire divider - Railroads in the WestEnd: Railroads in the West

{001} C 03/20; E 02/20; F 03/14; P 02/20

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