D&RG / D&RGW Marshall Pass Route History

Marshall Pass Facts
From: Salida, CO
To: Gunnison, CO
Miles: 73.8
Built: 1880-1881
Abdnd: 1953
Scrap: 1955

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 Information

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.

216.5Salida, COWCYNTConnection to Royal Gorge Route
Yard & engine facilities
220.1Poncha Jct.GYConnection to Monarch Branch
226.0Mears Jct.GWCY 
240.7Marshall PassDWCTGS 
~243.8Hillden On 1887 timetable, not on 1932
276.8ParlinWGConnection to Pitkin Branch
282.2Steele Originally Mounds, renamed
288.6Gunnison, CODWCYTQZConnection to Baldwin Branch
Connection to Crested Butte Branch
Connection to Black Canyon main

Timetable History

1888-1932Unknown Timetable History
1932-1953D&RGW Alamosa Division Timetables, Subdivision 13
1953-1955D&RGW Grand Jct. Division Timetables, Subdivision 13

Categories: Routes

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  Last modified on October 27, 2011, at 04:31 PM
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