by Kenneth Jessen
At the western end of the San Luis Valley, near the town of South Fork, passengers can enjoy a most unique railroad experience. It is a 12-miles-per-hour trip in a motorcar along the historic Creede Branch of the former Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway. Trips run twice a day between South Fork and Wagon Wheel Gap, with special extended trips to Wasson.
This portion of the original Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway was constructed as a narrow gauge line in 1883 and ended at Wagon Wheel Gap, a resort designed for the wealthy. Just 10 miles away, the silver mines at Creede began to produce large quantities of ore. The railroad was asked to extend the line, but it lacked the financial resources. In 1891, financier David Moffat formed the Rio Grande Gunnison Railway and took the tracks to the mines at North Creede. The Denver & Rio Grande Western leased Moffat’s extension, and in 1908, they purchased the line.