Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad

Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad: show locomotive

After checking out of camp late this morning, we continued south on Colorado 67 to Cripple Creek to ride the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad. Standard railroads have 4′ 8 1/2″ between the inner edges of the rails; narrow gauge designates any railroad with a smaller distance, and narrow gauge railroads were common in mountainous regions and mining operations where the lighter construction was a critical factor. The CCVNGRR gauge is 2′, the smallest common narrow gauge.

Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad locomotive

The tourist operation has two active coal-fired 0-4-0 steam locomotives running alternating round trips.

Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad engineer

Our train engineer is a civil engineering student in New Mexico and did a very respectable job of both driving the train and narrating the trip.

self-portrait on Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad

Yup, I was really there.

house for sale outside Cripple Creek, Colorado

Immediately outside Cripple Creek stands a bargain at any price! It is a wonder no one has snatched this up.

Anaconda, Colorado

The far end of the ride is at the ghost town of Anaconda, Colorado, of which few buildings remain.

Anaconda, Colorado ghost town blacksmith shop

The former blacksmith shop is the best preserved.

Anaconda, Colorado: collapsed mining building

Up the hillside is the collapsed head of an old gold mine.

leach heaps of Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mine

Up the hillside are some of the massive piles of the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mine, Colorado’s largest gold producer and one of the world’s largest open-pit heap leaching operations. They dig ore-impregnated rock out of the ground, crush it down to 8″ or smaller rocks, make mountain-high piles on top of supposedly impermeable membranes, drip arsenic through the piles to extract the gold from the rocks, and collect and process the arsenic at the bottom of the piles.

The Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company has gradually purchased all of the land in what used to be Anaconda and their operation is so successful that they’re preparing to take over the entire Anaconda valley for another leach heap. Highway 67 will be rerouted, the CCVNGRR will tear up its tracks and build new ones, and all of this area will be filled with more rock piles for heap leaching.

Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad: passing trains

At the end of the ride, the train pulls onto a Y track to let the other train pass, then pulls back onto the main track and returns to the station.

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