High Line History

Sidebar by Ed Quillen

Transportation – July 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine

These days, there are only two major railroads in the West: the Union Pacific and the Burlington Northern Santa Fé. The track from Leadville to the summit of Frémont Pass has been owned by both of them.

The line began in 1884 as part of the narrow-gauge Denver, South Park & Pacific, which was soon acquired by Jay Gould and added to his Union Pacific.

It operated as part of the South Park Division of the Union Pacific. The financial panic of 1893 caused the separation of some UP subsidiaries, and so the Climax line became part of the Denver, Leadville & Gunnison.

Around the turn of the century, that and several other lines were consolidated into the Colorado & Southern, which was soon acquired by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and operated as part of the Burlington system through the 1970 merger that produced the Burlington Northern — which sold it to the Olsens in 1988.

To meet wartime production demands at the Climax Molybdenum Mine, the line was converted to standard-gauge in 1943; the steam locomotive at the Leadville depot hauled the freight until the diesels arrived in 1962. –Ed Quillen