REAL LIFE USA RAILROADS 

THE ROYAL GORGE ROUTE RAILROAD

The Royal Gorge Route Railroad is a heritage railroad located in Cañon City, Colorado. The railroad transits the spectacular Royal Gorge on a 2-hour scenic and historic train ride along what is considered to be the most famed portion of the former Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. The 1950s-era train operates all year round departing from the Santa Fe Depot in Cañon City daily and following the tumbling Arkansas River deep within the soaring 1000 foot granite cliffs. 

History

In the late 1870s, miners descended on the upper Arkansas River valley of Colorado in search of carbonate ores rich in lead and silver. The feverish mining activity in what would become the Leadville district attracted the attention of both the Rio Grande and Santa Fe railroads, each already having tracks in the Arkansas valley. The Santa Fe had tracks in Pueblo and the D&RGW had tracks near Cañon City, Colorado, some 35 miles west. Leadville was over 100 miles away. For two railroads to occupy a river valley ordinarily was not a problem, however, west of Cañon City the Arkansas River cuts through a high plateau of igneous rocks forming a spectacular steep-walled gorge over a thousand feet deep. At its narrowest point sheer walls on both sides plunge into the river, creating an impassable barrier. 

 On April 19, 1878, a hastily assembled construction crew from the Santa Fe began grading for a railroad line just west of Cañon City in the mouth of the gorge. Rio Grande, whose track ended only ¾ of a mile from Cañon City, raced crews to the same area, but they were blocked by Santa Fe graders in the narrow canyon. By a few hours they had lost the first round in what became a two-year struggle between the two railroads that would be known as the Royal Gorge War.  


This video features an actual cab ride through the Gorge. 


Another recent look at the Royal Gorge Route train from 1000' above and at track level near the Hanging Bridge.


The Royal Gorge Route - Mainline Through the Rockies

It took ten years to record the story of the Royal Gorge Route over the now-closed Tennessee Pass. Built by the Denver and Rio Grande between 1874 and 1887 as a narrow gauge railroad and later converted to standard gauge, this dramatic crossing of the Rockies would operate for 110 years!