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Ridgway, Colorado - Mile Post 0 - Elev. 7,002 ft.
Contributed by Jerry Clark - Photos by Mark L. Evans and Thomas A. Cruse
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Ridgway was established by Otto Mears in 1890 when construction of the RGS began. The older town of Dallas was absorbed, as so often happened in the period , when the new town gained the support of the railroad. Ridgway is located 27 miles south of Montrose and is in a beautiful mountain valley at an elevation of 7003 feet. The orange and gold in the surrounding mountains in September are the stuff calendar photos are made of. One can only hope that the early miners who searched so long and hard for metallic gold, took time to appreciate the gold found in the surrounding aspens on the hillsides in the San Juan Mountains.

The surveyors began work in March/April of 1890 and by summer there were more that 3000 men at work on the railroad. Track laying began on May 25, 1890. Much of the roadbed was built following the original toll road Mears had built to Telluride years earlier. The elaborate system of toll roads that Mears had constructed all through out the San Juan region were to earn him the title of "Path Finder Of The San Juanís".

Ridgway was the northern terminal of the RGS and had all the requisite facilities. Originally the terminal consisted of a 5 stall roundhouse, 50,000 gallon wooden water tank and 50-foot turntable. After a disastrous fire in 1906, the facilities had to be re-built. The new facilities included a new 5 stall roundhouse that would later have 2 more stalls added to accommodate the fabled "Galloping Geese" . The turntable was re-built to accommodate the heavier K-27 locomotives in use and a wye was constructed to turn these locoís. The new terminal also included a new machine shop and brick office building to be used as RGS headquarters. The coaling facilities required men with strong backs as the coal wharf in use required all coal be shoveled into the waiting tender. A sand storage bin and drying house rounded out the new construction.

The pride and joy of Ridgway was the new Queen Anne style depot that was constructed. The depot as a joint project of the RGS and D&RG. The cost exceeded $5000.00 which was a huge sum at the time. The style of the depot set the precedent for future structures of the RGS. The depot opened for business on October 24, 1890.

Construction of the railroad continued through the year and by May of 1890 18 miles of track had been completed. This was seen as very good progress but it was the easiest part of the railroad as Mother Nature had not put many obstacles in Pleasant Valley. On October 10,1890 the first scheduled train operated over the RGS between Ridgway and Placerville. RGS no. 1, a class 60 2-8-0, did the honors and required 2 Ĺ hours to complete itís journey. As winter set in, construction slowed to a crawl.

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Ridgway, Colorado Photo Gallery
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