Monarch Branch Facts
The Monarch Branch / Monarch Spur departed from the narrow gauge Marshall Pass Route at Poncha Junction, CO, and was originally built to the same 3' gauge as its connection to the outside world. The branch went due west from Poncha Junction, stretching towards the small mining camp of Maysville originally. In 1883, the route was extended eight more miles up the hill to reach the quarry just below Monarch Pass.
The branch was steep, reaching 4.5% and needing two sets of switchbacks (the only ones in the Grande system) in its short length just to maintain that grade. With the abandonment of the Marshall Pass line in 1955, this isolated narrow gauge segment was converted to standard gauge the next year. The branch also conceptually became longer, though the track did not change. Since the Monarch Branch shared track with the old narrow gauge mainline over Marshall Pass from Salida to Poncha Junction, that segment became part of the branch after 1955 and the branch "grew" by 4.9 miles.
It survived this way until 1982 because the quarry at the top provided all-important dolomite and limestone for the CF&I blast furnaces in Pueblo. However, sometime in 1982 CF&I shut down these furnaces, and the need for this difficult branch and the commodities it supplied disappeared. By late 1984, the abandonment was formalized and the rails were ripped out.
Monarch Branch Timetable
Mileposts are based on a 1932 timetable. Original timetables in the 1880s show slightly longer milages, starting between Salida-Poncha Jct.