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Railroad history at Navajo State Park

Navajo State Park’s exciting rail history will come alive with noted local historian John Porco at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 23, at the Navajo State Park Visitors Center Conference Room.

Porco will talk about his favorite topic, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad and the Rio Grande Narrow Gauge Railroad. Porco resides in Pagosa Springs and has been a railroad fan for nearly 60 years, with a particular interest in the Durango and Rio Grande Western narrow gauge.

Porco will explore the former Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad in southern Colorado between Chama, N.M., and Durango, focusing on the history of the line and its operation over the years, particularly as it applies to the Navajo Lake and Arboles area.

The highlight of the evening will be rare and unusual photos, both of the railroad in its heyday and of its current traces. Vestiges of this railroading empire are scattered throughout Navajo State Park. The steel bridge that carries Navajo State Park’s Piedra Trail over the Piedra River is a favorite hiking trail.

The border between Colorado and New Mexico was once a hotbed of railroad activity. Much of the economic development of the region can be traced to the essential transportation services provided by the railroad, which served multiple communities in Archuleta and La Plata counties, including Juanita, Pagosa Junction, Arboles, Allison, Oxford and Ignacio. Until 1936, there was even a rail branch to Pagosa Springs. The narrow gauge mainline of the Rio Grande was built to connect Alamosa and Durango in 1880-81. Regular passenger train service over the line lasted until 1951 and freight traffic was carried until the line was abandoned in the late 1960s.

Anyone interested in railroads and the history of the area is welcome to attend the evening presentation.

All events in the park are free with a Colorado State Parks pass — either a $7 day pass or a seasonal pass.

Call 883-2208 for more information, or log on to the park’s website at www.parks.state.co.us/Parks/Navajo.

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