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The San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad (SLRG) runs west from a connection with the Union Pacific Railroad at Walsenburg, CO, over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at La Veta Pass and into the fertile valley of the San Luis and Rio Grande Rivers. At Alamosa, the railroad splits with a branch extending south to Antonito -- just north of the New Mexico border -- and northwest to South Fork. In addition to the Union Pacific, the SLRG connects with the shortline San Luis Central Railroad (SLC) at Monte Vista and the Denver and Rio Grande Historical Foundation at Derrick, just west of South Fork. The SLRG is just under 150 miles long. The highest point on the SLRG at La Veta Pass, is 9,242 feet above sea level, the highest rail freight line in North America. The primary commodities hauled by the SLRG are grain, minerals, specialty rock products and produce. SLRG also handles substantial bridge traffic to and from the SLC. Permian Basin Railways acquired SLRG in December 2005. Live Video Link to Alamosa Yard.
The oldest predecessor of today’s SLRG was the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG), which was chartered in 1870. The line over La Veta Pass to Alamosa and Antonito was originally envisioned as part of an ambitious and never-realized narrow gauge (three feet between the rails) line linking Denver with Mexico City. The narrow gauge tracks crossed the pass in 1877 and reached Alamosa on July 6, 1878. The railroad was pushed on to Antonito by 1880 and ultimately to Santa Fe, New Mexico and Silverton, Colorado. The D&RG built west from Alamosa, completing the line to South Fork and its terminus at Creede in 1881.
By the late 1880s, the inherent isolation of narrow gauge railroads from the national network began to put them at a competitive disadvantage. The D&RG converted the La Veta Pass and the Creede lines to standard gauge around 1900. The line to Antonito was also converted to standard gauge, but a third rail, laid to three-foot gauge, remained to Alamosa until the end of regular narrow gauge operation in 1968. Coincident with the conversion to standard gauge, the D&RG realigned the route over La Veta Pass to lower the summit, straighten curves and reduce grades.
In 1908, the D&RG was consolidated with the Rio Grande Western to form the Denver and Rio Grande Western (DRGW). In 1988, the DRGW purchased the giant Southern Pacific Railroad (SP). The combined companies were named for the larger and wider-reaching company, the SP. Union Pacific Railroad (UP) purchased and merged the SP in 1996. On June 29, 2003, the UP sold the Walsenburg - Alamosa, Alamosa – Antonito and Alamosa – Derrick (just west of South Fork) to shortline railroad conglomerate RailAmerica (RA). The Derrick – Creede line, which had been out of service, was sold to the Denver and Rio Grande Historical Foundation as a tourist line. RA sold the SLRG to Permian Basin Railways on December 22, 2005.
The San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad operates passenger excursion trains over scenic La Veta Pass and through the San Luis Valley to connect with the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad May through October. The trains, made up of vintage passenger equipment, leave from Alamosa, Antonito and La Veta daily. The trains operate in conjunction with the Denver & Rio Grande Historical Foundation. For more information, schedules and fares go to www.coloradotrain.com or call 877-7CO-RAIL (877-726-7245).
At a Glance
Reporting Marks: SLRG
Miles of Track: 149.60
Cities Served/Transloading Facilities Available: All stations have siding(s) for liquid and/or bulk transfer.
La Veta, CO
Fort Garland, CO
Alamosa, CO, freight dock warehouse
La Jara, CO
Antonito, CO, freight, dock, warehouse
Monte Vista, CO
Del Norte, CO
South Fork, CO
Rio Grande, CO
Locomotives Operated: Five
Freight Cars Operated: none
Service Frequency: Five days per week
Car Storage Capacity - Visit Car Storage: 500 50-foot cars
BNSF Railway at Walsenburg, CO
Union Pacific Railroad at Walsenburg, CO
San Luis Central Railroad, Sugar Junction, CO
601 State Street
Alamosa, CO 81101
118 South Clinton St., Suite 400
Chicago, IL 60661