Saturday, May 25, 2013

Royal Gorge Scenic Railway

It's "Anything Goes Saturday" yet again; what shall we look at today? Well, I just scanned some old stereo slides, and liked a couple of shots featuring the Royal Gorge Scenic Railway. It was based in Cañon City, Colorado, at a frontier town called "Buckskin Joe". Originally built in 1957 as a movie set,  it eventually became a western theme park, similar to Knott's Berry Farm. There were gun fights in the streets, a "Mystery House" (presumably akin to the "Haunted Shack"), magic shows, a horseless carriage ride, and of course, a saloon where guests could order a sarsaparilla and a buffalo burger. 

But we're here to enjoy the miniature railroad! Built in 1958, it provided stunning views of the Royal Gorge during its 3 mile, 30-minute trip. It included a wonderful view of the famous Royal Gorge Bridge, and an exciting trip across two impressive trestle bridges. The photos below are circa 1960. Notice the crude wooden "viewing platform".

According to one website, "...the trains were built in Cañon City by Royal Gorge Fabricators. The engines are 1952, 6-cylinder Spitfire flatheads. The trains are open-air and run on a 15-inch narrow gauge track called 'Mountain Gauge'. This type of track was used in mines where standard width was too large for the narrow passages."

The last day of operation for Buckskin Joe was September 12, 2012. The town, including the miniature railroad, was purchased by a Florida billionaire who planned to relocate the whole kit-and-caboodle to his private ranch.

Say, watch a video of a trip aboard the Royal Gorge Scenic Railway why don'tcha!


Nanook said...

Great pics. In many scenes in the video, it was hard to spy the tracks ahead, which made for some interesting viewing.

It's too bad so few of these small, specialized entertainment venues remain - and this appears to be another one that's come to its end.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

I love miniature railroads and the first image is great. The red and yellow diesel locomotive looks all shiny and new. So cool!

The video was great too. I didn't realize how elaborate the track layout was. Also, those were some awesome trestles it crosses with a such a rustic feel to it. Extra nice blog article today. Thanks for posting it.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

Railroad pics for my birthday! Thanks Major. Rail photos of any kind are one of my favs. And what looks like a babushka in photo 1, too much. Even the video was shot on my birthday last year too cool. Packing my bags and heading to Colorado. Well maybe next year, heading to ride the big DLR next weekend. Thanks for making me dream of my own backyard railroad. Happy rails

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I didn't really notice the fact that you often couldn't see where the track was going. It reminds me of the Alice ride, where your caterpillar seems to be headed off the "leaf", but turns at the last crucial second.

K. Martinez, something tells me that the billionaire's backyard in Florida won't be nearly as interesting - isn't Florida mostly flat? Of course he can afford to dig out a few canyons in order to have trestle bridges if he wants them.

Alonzo, I planned the whole birthday thing very carefully! ;-) I have to admit that the idea of an elaborate backyard railroad is pretty appealing. When I read about Walt Disney's Carolwood Pacific, with the long s-curve tunnel and the trestle, it makes me wish I could have experienced it!

TokyoMagic! said...

What a shame that the town and it's train were able to be enjoyed by the public for so many decades and now it will just be in someone's private collection.

Major, I just visited Walt's Carolwood Barn from his backyard last Sunday. The Los Angeles Live Steamers Museum has it now and their miniature train that runs around the property is about the size of Walt's and has a pretty elaborate layout with tunnels, bridges, etc. I plan to do a post about it VERY soon....honest! I have to get back to posting, I tell ya!

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210Frwy said...

Enjoyed the vintage photos and bonus train ride!

Matterhorn1959 said...

The billoinare's ranch is in Colorado. He is the same collector who paid several million for the Billy the Kid tintype. He is one of the Koch brothers worth about 7 billion dollars.

Melissa said...

I think we have a babushka sighting in the first picture!

(Happy belated B-day, Alonzo!)