The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW, DRGW, or simply Rio Grande) was a US Class 1 railroad which existed from 1870 to 1989.
D&RGW logo 2

The "speed" logo used from the 1950's to the 1980's.

The Rio Grande purchased the Southern Pacific in 1989, and and the new company decided to go with the Sothern Pacific name because of its size and broader branding. During the finalization of the purchase, both were absorbed by the Union Pacific purchase in 1996.

Early History (Narrow Gauge Era)Edit

The first railroad line of the company was first constructed in the mid-1860's west of Denver, Colorado in the United States, and was finished in 1870. It began as a narrow-gauge (3ft or 914mm) railroad which served the high rural mountain areas of Colorado in the Rocky Mountains in the Royal Gorge along the Rio Grande River; delivering wood, coal, ore, copper, and other goods to service the growing industries around the state of Colorado. They also delivered passengers to the mountain towns, and eventually extended their trackage through the Northern and Eastern areas and Salt Lake City, Utah in the 1880's.

Some of the first locomotives that they owned were numerous types of 4-6-0 "Ten Wheeler" narrow-gauge steam locomotives, while some of the last were fleets of EMD GP50, GP60, and SD50 types of diesel locomotives; most which were actually purchased under the Southern Pacific's ownership.

They were also affiliated with the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, but was eventually absorbed (aside from their rival; the Moffat Route Railroad, became absorbed as well).
D&RGW Logo

D&RGW's original logo used until the 1950's.

Rise of Standard GaugeEdit

During the early 1900's, narrow-gauge service to Denver became a bit difficult because trains leaving to and from Denver became over-crowded due to the rather narrow coaches used by the D&RGW during the Narrow Gauge Era, and the fact that railroad coverage and service was rather poor in west of Denver near Utah, and south of Denver near Albuquerque, New Mexico. But the time came to transition to using standard-gauge (4ft 8½in or 1,435mm) trains and railroad lines; hence, the extension from Denver to Salt Lake City, Utah, and Albuquerque, New Mexico using standard gauge trains and locomotives (mainly streamlined), and their narrow gauge trains and lines being used for secondary service.

They also competed with the Moffat Route railroad, and eventually forced the railroad into bankruptcy after they finished completing the Moffat Tunnel, which greenlit railroad traffic for the D&RGW and dominated over the Moffat Route railroad in freight and passenger delivery to and from the numerous cities and towns outside of Denver.

End of the Narrow Gauge EraEdit

During the 1950's, the D&RGW no longer began to primarily use their narrow gauge rail lines and trains because of mines and towns becoming abandoned due to lack of minerals and being located in rural areas. Hence, the retirement of their aging locomotives and rollingstock, and the abandonment of their narrow gauge lines.

Later HistoryEdit

The railroad lasted as an independent company until 1988 when DRGW's parent company, Rio Grande Industries, purchased Southern Pacific Transportation Company, which was failing at realing in financial debt, because of the failed merger between the ATSF and SP.

D&RGW logo 3

The alternate logo which often had/has various slogans.


The majority of the D&RGW's narrow gauge railroad lines, locomotives, and rollingstock are preserved due to numerous scenic railroads and preservation societies. (Such as the Durango and Silverton, White Pass in Alaska, and Cumbres & Toltec Scenic railroads and preservationists.)

The Union Pacific (UP) also painted an EMD SD70ACe unit with an exclusive number and scheme commemorating and dedicating the D&RGW's end and purchase by the SP and the remainder becoming part of the UP. (Aside from the railroad also being part of the UP's heritage, as well as it being part of their heritage fleet as a "heritage unit".)


  • The Tennessee Pass line was the main railroad line (often considered to be their own Transcontinental line) used by the D&RGW for high-speed passenger service up until the formation of Amtrak during the 1970's. The 3.5% graded line is one of the highest standard gauge railroad lines in the US. It was eventually used for freight service by the D&RGW, SP, and UP until 1997, when the UP closed the line for primary service; mothballing it. (Only parts of the line are still used.) Since the closure, the line has experienced severe neglect.
  • The Moffat Tunnel along the Moffat Route railroad line, is also one of the highest and longest railroad tunnels in the US as well.
  • The Tennessee Pass line itself, is named so because of how similar the scenery looks compared to the Smokey Mountains in the state of Tennessee in the US.
  • The film "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory" was filmed on the Tennessee Pass shortly before the line was closed. (Aside from the trestle scene being filmed on the SP's Donner Pass.)
  • Two tourist railroads (Royal Gorge and the Leadville And Southern; or the Eagle River Railway, railroads) currently operate on parts of the line, but are restricted to travel the entire route because of disrepair and UP's trackage rights.
  • The Wheeling and Lake Erie shortline has most of their units painted in a D&RGW-style scheme as well as having a small fleet of former D&RGW-painted units.
  • The Eagle River Mine is a somewhat famous abandoned mine which was abandoned along the Tennessee Pass due to toxic waste minerals forcing the industry and the surrounding town of Gilman to be evicted and abandoned by the EPA.
  • From the 1980's until the SP and D&RGW's full purchase in 1996, the D&RGW operated special train known simply as the "Ski Train", which was eventually operated by several tourist railways until recently being discontinued in 2009.



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