Staggering Grades

By Brent Burger; posted January 5, 2003

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To gain access to the San Luis Valley, the D&RG headed west over 10,000+ foot Marshall Pass in 1879. The eastern approach was a lark, compared to the western side. Grades were no less than 4% for much of the route, forcing freight drags to be cut into short sections to be hauled to the top and reassembled before proceeding east. Here we are looking downgrade. The track leading off to the left, behind the coach, loops around and returns toward the roof of that same coach before looping again to the right and on down the far side of the canyon where it again disappears to the right. (see photo of same train at this point [id=46318942] ) It would loop again to the left, but drop altitude enough to not be seen in this photo, as it continued off the left side of the photo on its way to Mears Jct. and Salida, Colorado.