In 1884, Georgetown and Silver Plume were two of the most successful silver mining towns in Colorado. In the interest of getting the silver to market as quickly as possible, both towns needed a narrow gauge railway to carry the loads of silver ore. However, Clear Creek had carved a narrow steep canyon that connected the two locations, putting huge obstacles in the path of the proposed railroad. Union Pacific chief engineer, Jacob Blickensderfer, devised a system of curves and bridges, reducing the average grade to 3 percent (from 6 percent), and included three hairpin turns, four bridges and a 30-degree horseshoe curve. The train traveled four miles and gained 640 feet in elevation between the two towns. It ran from 1899 to 1938 carrying passengers, sightseers and freight and was abandoned for forty years.
Thankfully, the Colorado Historical Society stepped up in 1973 and began restoring the line. The historic loop reopened in 1984 and has remained in operation ever since. Today, it is a beautiful way to view the glory of the Colorado Rockies and the Clear Creek River Valley. The trip takes about an hour and 15 minutes, or two and half hours if you take the walking tour of the Lebanon Silver Mine.
Along the route visitors may stop at the Lebanon Silver Mine and view wildlife in its natural habitat. The train park includes an 1884 depot, two 1860s mines, an 1871 mill building, four reconstructed mine buildings, a locomotive maintenance building, the 1874 Pohle House, and a new rolling stock shelter.
The walking tour of the Lebanon Silver Mine, located at the halfway point on the railroad, is terrific and well worth the time. The ¾-mile walking tour takes you 500 feet into a mine tunnel bored in the 1870s. A guide will point out rich veins of silver and tell you about early days of mining in Colorado. Be warned that the temperature inside the mine is a constant 44 degrees Fahrenheit, so dress accordingly. The tour also includes visits to the manager’s office, the miners’ change room and the tool shed.
Light snacks and drinks are available at either end of the line. Gift shops are located at the Devil’s Gate Station (Georgetown) as well as in the Silver Plume Depot.
Georgetown Loop Railroad
P.O. Box 249
Georgetown, CO 80444