The Silverton Railroad was one of four narrow gauge lines operating out of Silverton, CO during its heyday. The main feeder route was the Denver & Rio Grande's Silverton Branch out to Durango. The Silverton Branch arrived in Silverton in early July 1882. The three other roads - the Silverton Railroad, the Silverton Northern, and the Silverton, Gladstone & Northerly - sprung up as feeder lines. These feeders would bring supplies up to the mines in the surrounding hills and to bring ore back to the Grande for shipment to the smelters in Durango.
The Silverton Northern Railroad was incorporated on 20-Sep-1895 by Otto Mears, Fred Walsen, and Alex Anderson. Construction northward out of Silverton started in April 1896, and was completed as far as Eureka - 6.5 miles away - by June at a cost of $272,400.
Despite the rest of the lines struggling from the Silver Panic of 1893, the Silverton Northern continued to do enough business to stay afloat. Both the Sunnyside Mine and Silver Lake Mine were strong gold producers, and gold had maintained its value.
Two more extensions were added to the railroad. In 1904, the line was run six miles further up the canyon from Eureka to Animas Forks. Some thought was apparently given to a connection to Lake City, though no actual construction occurred. A year later, a 1.3 mile extension was added from Howardsville up Cunningham Gulch to the Old Hundred and Green Mountain Mines.
The Silverton Northern was the longest lived, and arguably most successful of any of the three Mears roads out of Silverton. The Eureka-Animas Forks segment was torn out in 1936 after years of occasional service (at best). The branch up Cunningham Gulch was also short-lived, though the exact date of scrapping eludes the author.
The main Silverton-Eureka segment lasted through 1939 on regular shipments from the Sunnyside Mine. The mine shut down in that year, though, on account of a miners' strike. Everything that remained of the railway was sold for the price of unpaid taxes - some $17,000 - to a Dullen Steel Products Company in 1942. Everything was subsequently loaded up and shipped out as scrap.