Touring (and Arguing) The Great Railroad War

By Forrest Whitman

Lots of the railroad history around Central Colorado is fun to discuss and argue about. The great railroad war (1878-1890) was a fierce fight. The contenders were General William Jackson Palmer’s Denver and Rio Grande Railroad versus the Santa Fe Railroad led by William Barstow Strong and Thomas Nickerson. The reader is invited to revisit the sites of the battles.

The first battle: A fine way to look at this site is to take the Southwest Chief passenger rain. As that train crawls up Raton Pass, I recommend getting a beverage and scanning out the sightseer lounge car window. Near the summit there’s still a sign erected by the Santa Fe Railroad. It’s announcing the site of “Uncle Dick Wootton’s place.”

This opening skirmish was fought in the very early morning of February 27, 1878. As the name of his line says, Palmer wanted to build south to the Rio Grande. The Santa Fe coveted the same territory.

The law was on the side of which railroad could lay track in the pass first. This battle should have gone to Palmer. He had interests in southern Colorado for a long time and had built rail here. Why didn’t he claim the pass long before 1878?

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Vintage Camping Colorado Style

By Mike Rosso

We all need a vacation from time to time. But what about a vacation back in time? A time of ducktail hair, poodle skirts, sputnik and Elvis? It’s easy to do if you live within driving distance of the Royal Gorge. Five miles west of Cañon City and just south of U.S. 50, on the road to that famous suspension bridge, is the Starlite Classic Campground, the only vintage camper park in Colorado.

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The “War” for the Royal Gorge

Jackson, royal gorge rr

by Judy Suchan

Two aggressive railroads, hastily built forts, a cannon commandeered by the legendary ‘Bat’ Masterson, gunfire, and a legal battle that raged in the courts for almost two years. This was the little known Royal Gorge War, an event that helped shape Colorado’s, as well as the nation’s transportation system.

In the late 1870s, miners converged on the Arkansas River Valley of Southern Colorado in the search for silver and lead. Feverish mining in the area led to the town of Leadville and attracted the attention of two railroads, the Denver & Rio Grande (D&RG) and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe.

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