Marshall Pass Facts
The Marshall Pass Route was the D&RG's original narrow gauge mainline through the Rockies westward to Grand Junction and, by way of the Rio Grande Western, Salt Lake City. Construction started from Salida in the middle of September 1880, and reached Poncha Junction by November. Over Marshall Pass (crossing at 10846 feet above sea level), the line roughly followed an old toll road that had been laid out by Otto Mears and purchased by the Rio Grande to facilitate construction. The line was completed over the pass to Gunnison, CO, on 21-Jun-1881.
The route was formally abandoned from milepost 220.66 westward on 9-Dec-1953. Abandonment did not start until after the Poncha Junction wye so as to keep the trackage for the now standard-gauge Monarch Branch intact. The physical scrapping did not take place until nearly 18 months later, in the summer of 1955, starting in July and being completed by 1-Oct-1955. The route was scrapped by the Brinkeroff Bros Construction Company, the same firm that was hired to remove the Rio Grande Southern a few years earlier. (As a point of history, the wrecking train was powered by K-36 489.)
Today, the roadbed from Salida to Poncha Junction and then up the hill to Mears Junction is easily visible in most places from US Hwy 50 and US Hwy 285. West of Sargents, the line again roughly follows US 50 and is visible in many places. Between Mears Junction and Sargents, the roadbed was turned into a gravel road over Marshall Pass in 1962. Hopefully within the next year or two, I'll be able to get up there and photograph what remains of the route.
Marshall Pass Route Timetable
Mileposts are based on a 1932 timetable. Original timetables in the 1880s show slightly longer milages, starting between Salida-Poncha Jct.