Orient was the site of a CF&I iron ore mine. Founded in 1880 by Colorado Coal & Iron? to extract local iron-rich limestone deposits for shipment to the Pueblo steel mill, the Orient Mine was quickly producing 30,000 tons of ore annually. In addition, Orient City (as the surrounding townsite was called at the time) was home to some 400 miners. 1 The Denver & Rio Grande built a narrow gauge line from Mears Junction over Poncha Pass to Orient in 1881, in order to capture the entire iron ore haul back to the steel mill. The section between Mears Junction and Villa Grove would eventually become the north end of the Valley Line, and the portion west of Villa Grove would become the Orient Branch.
In 1905, CF&I lost their lease on the mine. Mining was severely curtained and the surrounding town was nearly abandoned. CF&I resumed mining in 1920, and exhausted the ore body around 1932. The mine officially closed in 1940, and the Orient Branch was subsequently abandoned.
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