Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad (1873-1889)
Denver, Leadville & Gunnison Railway (1889-1899)

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This page was last updated on January 8, 2016.


The following DSP&P history comes from Ross Crain's DSP&P site:


The mainline ran from Union Station in Denver up the valley of the South Platte River to the town of South Platte, then followed the North Fork of the South Platte through Buffalo Creek and Bailey. West of Bailey, the route ran along North Fork and through the north end of the Tarryall Mountains to Como, a distance of 88.2 miles by rail. A small branch, just south of Denver, connected to Morrison. This was the first part of the railway to be built, in 1873.

From Como, the mainline traversed South Park to Garo, where a spur went northward to Fairplay and Alma.

The mainline continued south from Garo, over Trout Creek Pass. On the western side of the pass, a small spur connected to Buena Vista, then over the southern end of the Sawatch Range through the Alpine Tunnel to Pitkin, then Gunnison at milepost 208 (measured from Denver).

The principal branch line went north from Como over Boreas Pass to Breckenridge, Dillon, Keystone, Frisco, Climax, and finally Leadville at milepost 151.3. Scheduled passenger trains took 8 hours to travel Denver to Leadville. The time-freight took 12 hours and a way freight could take two days.


From 1874 until 1878, the company progressed slowly on its mainline, using a series of different construction companies as it struggled to remain solvent. The tracks finally reached the mouth of the Platte Canyon on May 4, 1878, 20 miles from Denver, and by June 2, 1878, the tracks reached 12 miles up the canyon. The tracks reached Buffalo Creek on June 17, 1878. The following year, on May 19, 1879, the tracks reached to the summit of Kenosha Pass and on June 27, 1879 they reached Como.

In November 1879, with the tracks only as far as South Park, the company contracted for the initial construction of the Alpine Tunnel, with an expected completion date of July 1, 1880. The following month, the tracks reached to the summit of Trout Creek Pass. That same year, work began on the branch line, the "High Line", to Leadville, and on July 2, 1880, the first train arrived in Leadville.

The Alpine Tunnel broke through on July 26, 1881, a full year later than planned. The mainline reached Gunnison the following year in 1882.

The Colorado and Southern started dismantling in 1910, with the closure of the Alpine Tunnel. In 1930, the C&S attempted to shut down the mainline through the Platte Canyon, due to a decrease in revenue and traffic. The last freight and passenger trains between Denver and Leadville operated in April 1937, and on April 10, 1937, the South Park Line officially closed. The last regular freight train operated between Denver and Como on April 25, 1937.

The last narrow gauge section, between Leadville and Climax, was converted to standard gauge on August 25, 1943, connecting a number of mines to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, the then owners of the C&S.


The first DSP&P locomotive was a Dawson and Bailey 2-6-0 built in 1874, named Fairplay. The second was a Dawson & Bailey 4-4-0 named Platte Canyon. Five boxcars, five coal cars, thirty flat cars, one baggage and one passenger car were built in 1874 by Hallack and Brothers in Denver. These were used mostly for construction.

Three second hand Dawson & Bailey 2-6-0 Moguls, numbered 17, 18, and 19, built in 1875 arrived in 1879, followed by 5 more 2-6-6T's , numbered 20 - 24, and four 2-8-6T's in 1880, numbered 25 - 28.

During 1883 and 1884, a large group of Brooks and Cooke 2-6-0 Moguls and 2-8-0 Consolidations joined the fleet, bringing the locomotive roster to 74 at the time of the UP renumbering in 1885. Many of these survived to become C&S locomotives, but none of the Mason Bogies lasted past 1899.


June 16, 1873
Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad was incorporated in Colorado. (Wagner, page 13)

Two locomotives were delivered to DSP&P, numbered as DSP&P 1 and 2

June 1874
Construction was completed south from Denver to Morrison (17 miles); work had started in August 1873 with first rails being laid on May 18, 1874.

July 3, 1874
Service began between Denver and Morrison.

Three locomotives were delivered to DSP&P, numbered as DSP&P 17, 18, and 19.

Completed to Webster, 69 miles from Denver.

Fourteen 2-6-6-T Mason Bogie locomotives were delivered to DSP&P, numbered as DSP&P 3-16.

Five 2-6-6T and four 2-8-6T Mason Bogie locomotives were delivered to DSP&P, numbered as DSP&P 20-24 and 25-28.

February 1880
Completed to Buena Vista (123 miles)

November 1880
Jay Gould purchased control of DSP&P

Late 1880
DSP&P was granted trackage rights over D&RG from Buena Vista to Leadville; Jay Gould controlled both DSP&P and D&RG but the agreement lasted only until DSP&P built its own line to Leadville in 1884.

January 25, 1881
Jay Gould sold DSP&P to Union Pacific; DSP&P became the South Park Division of Union Pacific.

June 1881
DSP&P completed the Alpine Tunnel, a tunnel under the Continental Divide, 1,805 feet long; work had begun in January 1880.

Twelve 2-6-0 locomotives from Brooks were delivered to DSP&P, numbered as DSP&P 29-40.

September 1882
DSP&P completed to Gunnison, 208 miles from Denver.

Twenty-eight 2-8-0 locomotives from Cooke and Baldwin were delivered to DSP&P, numbered as DSP&P 41-68.

Six 2-6-0 locomotives from Cooke were delivered to DSP&P, numbered as DSP&P 69-74.

October 1, 1884
DSP&P began formal operations of its new line to Leadville, crossing the Continental Divide twice, by way of Boreas Pass and again by way of Fremont Pass, then south to Leadville; the line was completed in February 1884 but operations did not begin until October 1884.

June 1885
All DSP&P locomotives were assigned new road numbers as part of Union Pacific's overall system-wide renumbering. The actual date each locomotive was renumbered is unknown. (This specific date information may become available by doing page-by-page newspaper research for the city where DSP&P had its larger shops or roundhouses.)

August 1889
Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad was reorganized as the Denver, Leadville & Gunnison Railway, still controlled by Union Pacific

October 13, 1893
Union Pacific entered receivership, for the purposes of financial reorganization.

August 4, 1894
DL&G was appointed its own independent receiver to allow a reorganization separate from Union Pacific's own reorganization.

November 19, 1898
DL&G was sold under foreclosure to a reorganization committee made up of its bondholders.

December 19, 1898
The DL&G reorganization committee, along with a similar reorganization of the Union Pacific, Denver & Gulf (this company being the standard gauge lines in Colorado that included the Colorado Central), sold their properties to the newly organized Colorado & Southern Railway.

January 11, 1899
C&S took ownership and possession of the former DL&G and UPD&G properties.


Denver, South Park & Pacific Locomotives


Ross Crain's DSP&P page (broken link:

Donald B. Robertson, Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History, Volume II, 1991, Taylor Publishing Company, pages 115 (DL&G) and 121 (DSP&P)

Hol Wagner, The Colorado Road, 1970, Intermountain Chapter, National Railway Historical Society

Rick Steel's C&S History, compiled from ICC Valuations, posted in 1997 [ website obsolete]

(Rick Steel's C&S history mirrored without permission -- in case the original becomes unavailable)