Pagosa Sprgs Branch Facts
The Pagosa Springs Branch was first proposed around 1889, but was actually built by the Pagosa Lumber Company during 1899-1900 under contract from the Denver & Rio Grande. The route connected the timber industry around Pagosa Springs, CO, with the D&RG's narrow gauge San Juan Extension 31 miles away at Pagosa Junction, CO, otherwise known as Gato.
The line generally followed Cat (or Gato, in Spanish) Creek from Gato/Pagosa Junction northwards to near Dyke, along modern day US 160 about 12 miles west of Pagosa Springs. The line then turned east and followed modern 160 into Pagosa Springs from the west side. The route was steep, curvy (up to 28 degrees), and was at least initially constructed with light rail - 30 pound is mentioned by Ormes?. All along the line, logging spurs jutted from the main track, amounting to some fifty-five miles in total.
The line was operated under the name Rio Grande, Pagosa & Northern until 1903 or 1906 (the exact year is disputed between sources), when the D&RG assumed control of the main route and made it the Pagosa Springs Branch of the Fourth Division. After the Rio Grande acquisition of the line, the Pagosa Lumber Company retained ownership of all of the various logging spurs along the route. In 1923, with the creation of the D&RGW Alamosa Division timetable, the Pagosa Springs Branch was officially designated Subdivision 12-A of the Alamosa Division.
The Pagosa Lumber Company largely moved on to new forests to the southwest by 1916, but the branch hung on until the Depression. The line was abandoned in 1935 and torn out a year later.
The D&RG/D&RGW ran one daily (except Sunday) mixed train on this branch pretty much throughout its existance. In addition, the D&RG/D&RGW shared the line with Pagosa Lumber Company trains running from the logging spurs back to the mill.
After the Rio Grande acquisition, the Pagosa Lumber Company acquired to ex-D&RG Class 56 2-8-0 Baldwins - 37 and 70. At some point, they also acquired former D&RG Class 40 2-6-0 Baldwin #23, but it's unknown if it ever ran on this particular line. In addition, Ormes? mentions an ex-D&RG 42 operating the RGP&N before the D&RG acquisition, but no other sources support this.
Pagosa Springs Branch Timetable