The Royal Gorge Route includes the railroad
tracks that run from Denver south to Pueblo,
then from Pueblo west to Salida.
Along the southern leg of the route, the tracks follow the base of the
Rocky Mountain range along the edge of the great plains to the east. Here the
Rockies rise out of the plains as high as 14,000 feet. About 32 miles south
of Denver the line passes Castle Rock, a huge salmon
colored rock outcrop
From Castle Rock the tracks continue south to Colorado
Springs. When General Palmer first
started his railroad in 1871, the section from Denver to Colorado Springs was the first track he built. He helped found Colorado Springs and
built a railroad to it. The town became a well known summer resort and gateway
to other attractions like Pike's Peak and Cripple Creek. At the time he had dreams of continuing
the railroad to Mexico.
From Colorado Springs the railroad continued south to reach Pueblo in
1872. In 1881 General Palmer helped found the Colorado Coal and Iron
steel works and the City has grown ever since. Coal from the fields around Florence was
hauled to the steel mill and fired the massive furnaces.
Originally the D&RG tracks continued south from Pueblo towards Trinidad.
However, history would change Palmer's initial plan. A dispute with the
AT&SF railroad denied him access to Trinidad and forced him to build west through the Royal Gorge,
a great gash through the
Rockies that was cut by the Arkansas River. The route follows the river through
the gorge to Salida, where it eventually could continue in any of four
THE JOINT LINE
During World War I the USRA operated the railroads and it
created the Joint line between Denver and Pueblo in order to reduce congestion. After
the war the tracks were owned and operated jointly by the
D&RGW and the AT&SF. A double track main line had southbound traffic on
the west side and northbound on the east side. At one time the Colorado Southern
and the Missouri Pacific also ran on the line.
In the 1950's and 1960's the trains were dispatched on the Joint Line using
train orders. Once the train was on its way, it was controlled using an
Automatic Block Signal system. Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) was installed
in 1974. The Rio Grande dispatched the southbound trains and the AT&SF did
the north. Crews were qualified on both railroads operating rules.