Historic Railroad Map of Colorado - 1886

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Denver and Rio Grande Railway System, 1886.

This map of Colorado and part of New Mexico was published in 1886 by Rand, McNally & Co. Organized in 1861, the Colorado Territory became a state in 1876. At that time a major silver boom was occurring at Leadville. That valuable silver discovery lured many fortune seekers to the area. The newly discovered resources of the Rockies needed more and more railroad lines that were able to run through some expressly difficult terrain to transport them.

The Denver & Rio Grande Railway was begun in 1870 as a narrow (3 foot) gauge line that transported coal and other minerals between Denver and Salt Lake City. Connecting railroads enabled more mining accessibility throughout the region.

A bitter battle between the Santa Fe Railroad and Rio Grande Railroad known as the Royal Gorge War ended in 1879. It was decided on April 21 of that year, by way of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, that the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad should acquire the primary rights for building a line through the narrow gorge along the Arkansas River, in areas that couldn’t accommodate multiple lines. The ruling came after two years of vicious sabotage acts and harsh armed standoffs between the two railroads. That section of the railroad between Pueblo and Salida was later called “Grand Canyon of the Arkansas” for its dynamic views.

By the 1890's, the Rio Grande Railroad maintained the largest operating narrow gauge railroad in North America. Today most of the original Rio Grande lines are owned and operated by the Union Pacific Railroad.

This map shows the railroad and its connections as they existed in the 1880's. It includes cities, towns, railroad stations, stage roads, rivers and mountains. Relief is indicated through the use of hachures and shading. At the lower left is an inset map of Western States. A large portion of the inset map and a small portion of the main map have been torn and are missing.


Archive Paper

Archive Paper

Premium fine art paper that provides accurate color reproduction with high-contrast, high-resolution print output and maximum image permanence. A high-quality print ready for framing.

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  • Heavy-weight 230 gsm, 9.5 mil thickness.
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  • Pigment based Canon LUCIA inks provide smooth tones and rich colors in fine, precise detail.
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