Salida to Pueblo (Royal Gorge)

From the 7,240 ft. siding at Salida (MP 215.1), where the line turns southeast (to continue following the course of the Arkansas), single track, CTC, speed limit 40 mph, and then begins a curvy section heading generally southeast, past Cleora, a detector at MP 212.7, a detector at MP 211.6, English, a detector at MP 210.4, Wellsville (MP 208.8), a detector at MP 208.7, the 6,630 ft. siding at Swissvale (MP 208.0), the 509 ft. Red Hill Tunnel (MP 206.3), a detector at MP 206.1, Badger, a turn south-southwest, following the north bank of the river, a detector at MP 204.9, a detector at MP 203.4, Howard, where a spur to Calcite once headed away west, a detector at MP 202.8, a turn east and then curvily south-southeast, Werr, a detector at MP 200.5, the 6,150 ft. siding at Vallie (MP 198.1), Pleasanton (MP 195.4), a turn east-southeast and then east-northeast, a detector at MP 193.4, a turn east, and the 5,840 ft. siding at Cotopaxi (MP 191.7).

There is a turn northeast, still following the north bank of the river, a detector at MP 190.3, a turn east again, a detector at MP 189.0, and a start on a curvy stretch headed generally east-northeast, following the curvature of the north bank of the river, past a detector at MP 186.5, the 6,190 ft. siding at Texas Creek (MP 184.1), where a branch once headed south, a detector at MP 183.1, a detector at MP 181.0, Echo, a detector at MP 180.1, a detector at MP 178.5, the 4,820 ft. siding at Spikebuck (MP 175.9), a detector at MP 174.8, a detector at MP 173.4, and the 9,190 ft. siding at Parkdale (MP 171.2-MP 169.9), altitude 5,760 ft.,  with detectors at MP 170.0, where the line leaves behind highway (US) 50 that has followed the line from Salida (mostly on the south side of the river, but now crossing the river and heading away up and on the north side), turns south and enters the Royal Gorge of the Arkansas River. Railroad history records the story of various railroads’ attempts to gain a foothold in the gorge, since the topography is such that only one line could be built through the gorge.

 The track runs along the north wall of the gorge (left bank of the Arkansas River, which is flowing east). Along the south wall, there are substantial remains of an old flume made of cedar shakes that once carried the water supply to the pioneer versions of the communities downstream. Although this flume is quite well preserved, it has not been in use for over 50 years and clearly would not be watertight today! Clearly it is true that only one line could be built through the gorge. In fact, there are spots where only very creative engineering permitted any line at all to be built.

The line now heads curvily east-southeast, following the curvature of the river, past a detector at MP 169.5, a detector at MP 169.0, Sample, and a detector at MP 168.7. The suspension bridge across the gorge, connecting two sides of the park on the bluffs, is visible high above the narrowest part of the gorge. Just to the west of the foot of the funicular ride from the park high above (and thus west of the suspension bridge itself) is the main spot where it would seem that there was room for no track through the gorge. The creative solution was the ‘hanging bridge’, where the track bed is, in fact, suspended from anchors on the wall of the gorge, with no rock support below, designed by Charles Shayler Smith and built by the Santa Fe prior to Rio Grande winning the court battle for ownership of this route.

As the gorge turns east, south-southeast, east again, and then just east of due south, it passes a detector at MP 168.0, a detector at MP 167.5, a detector at MP 167.0, a detector at MP 166.5, Gorge, a detector at MP 165.9, a detector at MP 165.1, and a detector at MP 164.7 as it turns almost due east, past Cañon Junction, where a narrow gauge line once left to the south, up the valley of Grape Creek, and the line turns just north of east, past a detector at MP 163.7, Burnito, and a detector at MP 162.6, and leaves the Royal Gorge.

At the west end of Cañon City, the line passes the Colorado State Prison, the location where the Santa Fe line east once departed on the south side,  and the 7,230 ft. siding in Cañon City (MP 161.6-MP 160.1). There are separate Santa Fe and Rio Grande depots in Cañon City, resulting from the days when those railroads fought over possession of the route through the gorge. The line heads east-northeast, away from the Arkansas River, although still in a gulch created by that river, running just south of the north mud cliffs of the gulch, past a detector at MP 159.1, where it turns east, a turn southeast where the 3 ft. gauge Cañon City and Cripple Creek once continued east, past a detector at MP 156.9, a detector at MP 156.6, and a detector at MP 154.9, bridging to the south side of the river and turning east southeast, crossing the former alignment of the Santa Fe track in the process.

There was once a wye on the south side at Oak Creek Junction, with a spur to Chandler, the line turns southeast, a spur from Rockvale trails in on the south side, and the line turns east at the 6,930 ft. siding at Florence (MP 153.3-MP 151.8), where a narrow gauge line once headed north and there was once a wye with a spur to the Coal Creek Mine to the south, and begins to curve, past  a detector at MP 150.0, the 6,100 ft. siding at Adobe (MP 147.1-MP 146.6), a bridge to the north side of the river, the yard at Portland (MP 145.8), where a quarry line once headed up the bluffs on the north side, a detector at MP 145.4, Clelland, Concrete, a detector at MP 143.6, a turn curvily south-southeast, generally following the river, Beaver, where a line once trailed in from the north, Woodruff, a detector at MP 141.7, a turn southeast, the 6,850 ft. siding at Hobson (MP 139.7-MP 138.5), Erickson, where the line turns east and the erstwhile Santa Fe alignment trails in, a detector at MP 136.1, a detector at MP 135.5, a detector at MP 133.4, the 7,390 ft. siding at Swallows (MP 131.4-MP 129.9), where the erstwhile Santa Fe alignment departs again, on the south side.

There is a detector at MP 127.5, a detector at MP 125.3, the line turns south-southeast and then northeast past Goodnight (MP 123.0), where two Main Tracks, CTC, start, southeast past detectors at MP 121.5 and just north of due east, where the erstwhile Santa Fe alignment trails in again, past Dry Creek (MP 120.6/120.4).

At the west end of the Pueblo Yard, where Yard Limits begin, the westerly line from the Joint Line comes in from the north at Canon City Junction (MP 118.4 on that line), where the speed limit drops to 15 mph, and the line turns south-southeast with the yards on both sides of the line, past Pueblo Union Station (MP 119.4), on the east side of the line, at an altitude of 4,695 ft., and the wye at South Pueblo, where the former BN (Colorado & Southern) line (BNSF's Spanish Peaks subdivision) from the south trails in, and the line turns just north of due east, to Pueblo Junction (MP 118.2), west apex of the wye on the southeast side of the line, where the ex-Santa Fe line from La Junta comes in from the east via that wye, at the north apex (MP 118.0), and  the former Rio Grande line curves north.