Pine Ridge & North River Railroad    Pine Ridge & North River Railroad
   Southeastern Colorado & Northern New Mexico
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The Pine Ridge started with the purchase of the abandon Denver & Rio Grande Western La Madera branch.  It was the height of the depression so it was purchased for a song, but there wasn't enough traffic to be profitable.  The railroad scrimped along and tried several things such as hunting, tourist, & ski trains out of Santa Fe NM.  None of these had great success, providing just enough income to struggle along.   Things got worse in 1942 when the Rio Grande abandon the main line from Antonito to Santa Fe which cut the Pine Ridge off from its Tourists in Santa Fe.  The railroad appealed to the state to give them the right of way and Colorado agreed but New Mexico did not because a co-op of rangers along the line wanted the land and were willing to pay for it.  Operations were shut down.  The railroad sat idle and was ready to go under, when the ranchers co-op defaulted on their deal with the State and the right of way was picked up at a tax auction for $1000.  While this allowed the railroad to resume operations, they found that their previous traffic was not enough to maintain the trackage especially after having sitting idle for almost a year.  Relief came in a mysterious secret contract with the US Government.  The contract involved bringing some heavy yellowish rock out of the mountains, but it was not an ore like gold, silver, copper, or zinc in the traditional sense.

The government contract required the railroad to convert to standard gauge so loaded cars could be transfered to the AT&SF in Santa Fe and the Rio Grande in Antonito for transport to Tennesse.  This was not an issue because the contract included enough money to do this as well as to purchase a fleet of special steel hopper cars for the ore.  This was most unusual since most steel was being diverted to the war effort. 

Coming from poverty the railroad felt like it was the richest thing in the world. As an additional bonus the war board allowed them to purchase new motive power and passenger equipment.   They extended their trackage into new agricultural and mining areas.  They sponsored an irrigation project to make the agricultural areas more productive.

After the war it became obvious the yellow ore was uranium and the new prospector boom was on.  The Pine Ridge found itself right in the heart of some of the most productive deposits in the known world.  The railroad's boom times continued and they updated their mountain resorts, ski resorts, and hunting lodges.  The post war soldiers flocked to them.   In 1951 the railroad gobbled up other trackage being abandon by the D&RGW allowing it to connect to the Colorado Midland, the Colorado Southern, and the Colorado western slope.  With these connections the Pine Ridge became a short-cut link for certain traffic further adding to the bottom line revenue.  Connections to AT&SF passenger traffic on the south and D&RGW on the north creates a perfect source for mountain resort seeking tourists.

However with mountain roads being improved every year and airlines taking more and more traffic from the tourist trains it seems more an more traffic will move to truck and auto.  Natural gas being piped in is replacing fuel oil and coal for heating. The uranium boom seems to be ending as modern reactors can create their own fuel instead of needed raw material.  The future for the railroad in the 1960's looks bleak.

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