First train steams into Pagosa Springs

Progress was on the move in the Pagosa Springs of 1900, but the pace was too slow for newspaper editor Daniel Egger. Egger was afraid the people of the town hadn’t offered the railroad people sufficient inducement to build the depot within the Pagosa Springs city limits. Work was underway on the Rio Grande, Pagosa & Northern Railroad line being constructed between Pagosa Junction and Pagosa Springs.

Egger fretted on June 1:

“It begins to look like the property owners of Pagosa Springs do not want a railroad. The working and finance committee has so far refused to solicit subscriptions toward paying the right of way through town. If the holders of real estate in town don’t seem to interest themselves in having a station in town they will have no kick coming if the depot is located beyond the confines of the town. And should the railroad company start an opposition town they would probably hide themselves to the woods and kick themselves.”

Egger was scared by what the Denver & Rio Grande did to Animas City when they thought the city dads were asking too much for right of way. As they neared Animas City, Palmer’s railroad builders ignored the existing community and started a new community called Durango for their terminus. Fueled by its railroad connection, the new city of Durango flourished, while Animas faded into history.

Pagosa people responded to Egger’s nagging. By June 8 a depot site was chosen in the vicinity of the John Brunner residence. C.H. Freeman solicited subscriptions amounting to $800 and the town board appropriated $500. The right of way cost $1,500.

The fledgling town of Pagosa Junction was less than one year old in June, yet, according to Egger it had a population of over 300 people. Calling the town “a hummer,” the editor wrote, “The Pagosa Lumber Company ships nearly 300 car loads of lumber a month and employs about 150 men … The workmen live mostly in their own cottages, all of which have a picket fence enclosing a yard.”

A construction train of the Pagosa & Northern steamed into Pagosa Springs the evening of October 13. It was the first train into Pagosa Springs. Regularly scheduled trains began running Oct. 22. A large number of Pagosa Springs citizens greeted A.T. Sullenburger as he stepped from his coach on the Rio Grande, Pagosa & Northern on its inaugural run into Pagosa Springs.

According to descendants of the David Lowenstein family, the family entered Pagosa Springs from Durango on that first train. Soon after, Lowenstein founded a clothing store; the precursor of today’s Goodman’s, the oldest continuously existing business still in Pagosa Springs and still run by descendants of the original founder.

According to the first schedule, the train left Pagosa Junction at 1:45 p.m. and arrived in Pagosa Springs at 3:55 p.m. On the return trip, the train left Pagosa Springs at 4:35 p.m. and reached Pagosa Junction at 6:55 p.m.

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
This photograph of a train approaching the Pagosa Springs train depot was taken about 1918 and came from a collection of pictures provided by the Chapson family. Did I mention it was wintertime?