Modeling the Colorado & Southern Ry in 1958

Engine 807 pulls a manifest freight southbound at Left Hand Creek, milepost 40.31.
In 1958, the C&S still has a large roster of steam locomotives in service. One of them is up early on a June morning in the Rice Yard roundhouse.
In Denver, the C&S shares Rice Yard with the Santa Fe Railroad.  One of the Santa Fe GP-7s has spent the night in the roundhouse.
Consolidation No. 629 gets some attention from the Rice Yard roundhouse crew and her engineer.  She's a fine steamer admired by her crews.
Engine No. 809, a 2-8-2, stands ready for assignment beside the Rice Yard roundhouse.  This is a favorite spot for railfan photographers.
Night operation adds realism to the C&S Northern Division.  Engine Nos. 807 and 631 pose under the Rice Yard coaling station on a warm June evening.  Photo courtesy of Les Morris.
Consolidation 605 is serviced and ready to go for her morning shift as the Rice Yard switch engine.
Engine No. 629 departs with the Valley Local to work industries between Rice Yard and Utah Junction — a 3 mile stretch of the mainline.
The Rice Yard crew finishes weighing a string of cars with a load of fresh ties from the Koppers plant.
It's a warm summer evening as passengers linger on the platform at Denver Union Station.  Others are already onboard No. 29, the northbound Shoshone.
Engine No. 629 drifts downgrade past Renick siding with a southbound Local.  In 1958, steamers still service industries between Denver and Cheyenne.
No. 30, the southbound Shoshone, rolls under the Meeker Avenue viaduct and past the Rio Grande's North Yard.  It's just minutes from Denver Union Station.
Old Meets New tonight as youthful switch engine No. 151 idles beneath the ancient North Yard coal tower, a remnant of the Rio Grande's predecessor.
Engine 372 steps out across Clear Creek with passenger train No 31 on a late morning in June.  I wonder if there are any trout in that current?
The Wadsworth crossing is 10 miles from Denver as the train rolls, and it’s still very rural in 1958.  You can feel pretty isolated out here with an approaching thunderstorm, so it’s nice to see a local rancher coming towards us in his 1941 Chevy pickup.  You can almost smell the rain...
Extra 909 South rounds a curve and approaches the Wadsworth crossing.  She’s just coming into sunshine after a rainy 3 miles south of Broomfield. Rainwater dries quickly on a hot engine boiler, especially drifting downgrade at track speed.
The morning sun catches the engine on No. 30, the Shoshone, in Broomfield for a flag stop.  Yes, Broomfield really did have stop signs with their RR crossbucks!
Just after 10 pm, No. 29 coasts to a flag stop in Broomfield.  Though nicknamed “the Night Crawler”, this is The Shoshone, a first class train.  Running in the superior direction, this train owns the railroad.  With a green board, those flag-stop passengers better get a move on!
Nighttime operating sessions can be dramatic.  A southbound extra glides past the Louisville scale house on the Colorado & Southern Railway Northern Division.
CB&Q engine No. 6306, a 2-10-2, is pulling hard as it passes the Valmont power plant and begins to climb Burke's Hill with a manifest freight.  This is the ruling grade southbound on the Northern Division.  The Valmont Public Service plant is an important customer, and the C&S runs a coal turn every other day to keep the power turned on for Public Service customers.
A very late train No. 32, led by CB&Q engine No. 9942, hustles over the 47th Street crossing and is caught in the headlights of a local rancher’s pickup truck.
No. 41’s way car clears the single span bridge across Whiterock Ditch.  The train is almost to the watershed divide between Four Mile and Dry Creeks.
Consolidation No. 631 pulls a local freight through Big Cut and begins to drift downhill to Niwot.  The main line slices through the summit of this small ridge as it crosses several water courses between Ara and Longmont.
Engine No. 805 crawls across the pile trestle over Dry Creek with a manifest freight, milepost 35.86.
Train No. 24, the Plainsman, makes a brief station stop in Niwot, Colorado.  On the point is engine No. 372, a 4-6-2 heavy Pacific, a favorite of local railfans.  I wanted to try some early era modeling, so Niwot is set in 1910, including its pre-1920 rotary train order board with red and white indications.
Just south of the 47th Street crossing, Engine 634 runs light over Whiterock Ditch, milepost 31.89.  No. 634 is almost to Ara as she climbs the easy grade over the gently flowing irrigation water.

Welcome to the C&S Northern Division

The Colorado & Southern Railway mainline rolls through my hometown on its way from Denver, Colorado to Cheyenne, Wyoming.  This is the C&S Northern Division, a standard gauge railroad along the Front Range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.  While not as famous as the C&S narrow gauge lines, the Northern Division still thrives today as a busy bridge route between the Pacific Northwest and the Texas Gulf Coast on the BNSF Railway.

The C&S is still the major bridge route between the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf Coast.    Map by Jim Ferenc

As a subsidiary of the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad in the late 1950s, the C&S was famous among railfans for continuing to run steam locomotives in main line operation — long after the demise of big steam on other lines.  Dedicated photographers and cinematographers captured those final years of Class I steam, inspiring me to create the HO scale C&S Northern Division model railroad, permanently set in 1958.

I did take a few liberties with local history along the way, such as keeping the Denver Boulder & Western narrow gauge railroad in business almost 40 years after it disappeared.  After all, what would a Colorado model railroad be without some narrow gauge mixed in?

Goin' Railroading pairs a C&S senior engineer's memoir with a wealth of contemporary photos.  This book was one of two resources that sealed my decision to model this railroad.

The C&S Northern Division has been under construction since 1991.  Hundreds of visitors have toured the layout since 1995.  You can begin your tour with the Layout Overview I hand out to visitors — a brief summary of design, construction, animation, and operations.  Or jump right in to explore the Northern Division through these web pages.

Enjoy your visit!

Jim Ferenc
March, 2023

Narrow gauge Engine No. 31 stands on three-rail track at the Boulder depot with a mountain-bound passenger train.    Carnegie Library for Local History/Museum of Boulder Collection