Georgetown Loop

Spencer and Rob take a closer look at the oil-fired steam engine
Spencer and Rob take a closer look at the oil-fired steam engine
After taking Dave and Ellen to see Red Rocks, we decided to head farther up the mountains, since Red Rocks was quite hot. We debated between Idaho Springs and Georgetown, and settled on Georgetown, because Clare and I wanted to look at some art studios there. We were successful in finding some nice pottery, and also found a nice place to eat lunch, which had a very nice patio facing Clear Creek.
Ellen, Meg, and Clare
Ellen, Meg, and Clare

While we were in Georgetown, it occurred to me that we had often thought about taking the Georgetown Loop train. We looked into it, and found out that there was a 1:35 train. We finished lunch at about 1:25, and arrived just in time to catch the train.
Spencer and Dave on the Georgetown train
Spencer and Dave on the Georgetown train

The train makes 2 stops – one at Silver Plume, and then one at a silver mine, where you can get a tour. We did not do the mine tour this time. We learned all sorts of facts about the train during the 60-90 minute ride. While it is only 2 miles from Georgetown to Silver Plume, there is an elevation gain of over 700 feet, which would be about a 6% grade, which is too steep for most trains. So they decided to have the train loop over itself. Even then, there are some sections which have a 4% grade, and which are very narrow. We also learned that the engine was an oil-fired steam engine, originally used in Hawaii at the sugar plantations, where they had more access to oil than coal. The track is 3 1/2 foot narrow gauge, which is cheaper to make, and allows for tighter curves, and is also narrower, which is useful in the mountains. The train currently carries about ten cars. It is actually too much load for the steam engine to handle by itself, so there is also a diesel “helper” engine, which is the largest narrow-gauge diesel engine built. Then there is the big bridge, which is not only around a curve, but also on a incline. It was an engineering marvel when it was built in the 1880s, and cost about a million dollars to build back then. They re-did the bridge with more modern methods in the 1980s.

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