Southwest 2002

Durango-Silverton Narrow Gage Railroad, Silverton, Animas Forks, Petrified Forest National Park

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Durango-Silverton Narrow Gage Railroad
Durango-Silverton Narrow Gage Railroad
Tomek in Silverton
Ghost town of Animas Forks Animas Forks Painted Desert in Petrified Forest NP Petrified Forest


Animas Forks, elevation 11200 feet, was originally named Three Forks for its location at the junction of the North and West Forks of the Animas River.
The first log cabin in Animas Forks was built in 1873, and by 1876 the community boasted having a hotel, general store, saloon, post office, and 30 cabins. By 1883 the population grew to 450 people. the flood of miners, mail, and supplies came over Cinnamon Pass to Animas Forks, as that route was less rugged than the route to the South. The town newspaper was published from June 1882 through October 1886, and was the highest elevation newspaper printing press in the United States.
Although Animas Forks had quite a few year-round residents, many left in mass exodus to warmer climates at the first sign of winter. Exploratory mines, mills, and speculative ventures led to rapid growth in Animas Forks but declined when profits did not justify the investments.
Animas Forks rebounded briefly in 1904 when Gold Prince Mill was developed to process ore from the Gold Prince Mine, in Placer Gulch. To get ore to the mill, a 12600-foot aerial tram was built. One unique feature of this tram was that it included an angle station that allowed ore buckets to change direction in route. Ore was sent northeasterly from the mine portal then changes to easterly direction as it came around the flank of Treasure Mountain.. The ore continued in tram buckets in straight line to the mill.
The route for Silverton Northern Railroad was originally envisioned by Otto Mears as a route to connect Silverton to Lake City. In 1893, tracks were laid from Silverton to Silver Lake Mill. It was extended to Eureka in 1896 when that region shoved good ore. When Gold Prince Mill was constructed in 1904, the route was extended to Animas Forks which proved to be northern terminus for the Silverton Northern Railroad.