The Bodmin & Wenford Railway

Riding a steam train through Cornwall, England

Traveling in England, Scotland, and Wales for over 25 years has given my wife and me numerous opportunities to ride the extensive rail system in the United Kingdom. On our latest trip, in May of 2017, we were finally able to check off something that has been on our bucket list a long time—ride the Bodmin & Wenford Railway, pulled by an historic steam locomotive. The Bodmin rail line was one of the first railways in the world to use steam locomotives, certainly the first in Cornwall, and it is Cornwall’s only full size railway still powered by steam.

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The Georgetown Loop

Looking down the canyon towards Georgetown, you can see the massive Devil’s Gate High Bridge far below

The Georgetown, Breckenridge, and Leadville Railway, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad, completed the Georgetown Loop Railroad in 1884. Built as a 3-foot narrow gauge, its main objective was to haul silver out from the mines in Silver Plume. Due to the rugged and narrow confines of the Clear Creek canyon, the line wound 4 ½ miles from Georgetown to Silver Plume, a straight-line distance of only 2 miles. This portion of the line gains more than 600 feet in elevation with horseshoe turns, grades approaching 4%, and 4 bridges across Clear Creek. It also includes the massive 95-foot high Devils Gate Bridge that loops the line over itself. Later in 1893, the line became part of the Colorado and Southern railroad system. Due to its unique construction and beautiful vistas, the Georgetown Loop has been popular with tourists since its beginning. The line was dismantled in 1939 due to declining revenue from the mines, but thankfully, was re-built in the 1980’s. Read more

A Steam Powered
 Time Machine

The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad

The coal tipple at Chama is still functional.

This past summer, while on a family vacation in Colorado, we visited the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.  As a lifelong train buff, this had been on my bucket list for a long time, and it did not disappoint!  The Cumbres and Toltec is really a museum, but it’s a living museum.  On the morning we were there, we felt as if we had stepped back to a time when the narrow gauge railroad was a thriving business.  If you get to the rail yard early, you can watch the crews getting the locomotives ready, and hooking up the trains for the day.  These are the very same preparations that would have been made almost 100 years ago.

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Railroad Town:
 Boyce, Virginia

Norfolk & Western Depot circa 1913 – Boyce, Virginia (Norfolk Southern photo on loan to Virginia Polytechnic Institute Library)

The Town of Boyce, Virginia and its railway depot have enjoyed a long history together. Nearly as old as the town, the 1913 structure served as its public gathering place, the portal through which travel and commerce passed, and became Boyce’s icon.

Indeed, it was the crossing of a newly-built Shenandoah Valley Railroad with the Winchester and Berry’s Ferry Turnpike that prompted the birth of a new community in formerly dense, forested land. Unlike Berryville, White Post, and Millwood, the Boyce community—briefly named Boyceville—sprung forth around a stop along the tracks relatively late in Clarke County’s development. The town would not have existed were it not for the arrival of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad in 1879. Read more

Railroad Town:  
Clifton Forge, Virginia

Driving into town on a rain splattered spring morning, Clifton Forge looks like dozens of other small towns scattered about the mountains of western Virginia. The only clue to the town’s past is a small sign pointing the way to the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Heritage Center.

Clifton Forge was once a booming railroad town. In the early 19th century, a settlement grew up along the Jackson River between Slaughter Pen Hollow and Smith Creek which eventually became known as Clifton Forge. Read more

Galt Coal Burns All Night 

The Great Falls & Canada Railway

 

AR&CC locomotive #13 at Shelby Junction (Virden, Montana) in the winter of 1897. This locomotive was originally North-West Coal & Navigation Company (NWC&NC) #1. From left; Fireman A. Niven and Engineer T. Nolan. Photo courtesy Glenbow Archives NA-1167-11

In time, the Lethbridge (Alberta district, Northwest Territories) coal mines would feed all the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) steam locomotives in western Canada, as well as the stoves of its stations and many settler prairie homes. The slogan “Galt Coal Burns All Night” was emblazoned on signage wherever it was sold; lumber yards, grain elevators, and farm cooperatives. By 1890, the North-West Coal & Navigation Company (NWC&NC) averaged 90,000 tons delivered per year to Dunmore, and the CPR wanted more. Northwest Mounted Police Superintendent Deane reported the Galt mines could produce more than 1,000 tons per day – with the possibilities for more in sight.

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