September 3, 2015

Sunset Water Tank.

Charles McClure captures the excitement of the day, showing the 2-8-0 as it arrives at the new water tower at Sunset, about 1898. The recently constructed right-of-way to Ward climbs up the mountainside in the upper left of the image.
The original narrow-gauge railroad serving the mountain community of Boulder County was one of three local lines operated by the Union Pacific under the name Greeley Salt Lake & Pacific, begun in 1883. A catastrophic flood event in 1894 removed most of the infrastructure, a gift to the UP as it had already contemplated ceasing operations. Gold mining operations were now deep enough they required massive capital investments, and silver mining had disappeared with the 1893 repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act

For three years there was no rail service, with not enough mining activity to justify the capital expense and no investors in sight. In 1897 that began to change, with the incorporation of the Ward Smuggler Gold Mining Company and several other indications of increased activity.

After some tentative efforts to develop a 22-inch tramway between Ward and Boulder, comparable to the successful Gilpin Tramway, Investors from New York, Pennsylvania and Boulder filed papers of incorporation for the Colorado & Northwestern Railway Company. It was to be a full 36-inch narrow gauge, and the announcement of its coming triggered significant additional investments in the Ward District.

Using some of the right-of-way of the defunct GSL&P, moving some sections above the flood zone, and extending it to Ward, the railroad was in Boulder County again.

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