Written by: Gary Dolzall
Steam-era railroading in the Colorado Rockies is coming soon to Train Simulator – with the extraordinary Clear Creek Narrow Gauge route!
“The narrow gauge gets in the blood, and will not out.” So wrote the greatest of America’s railroad writers, the late David P. Morgan, long-time editor of Trains Magazine, nearly half-a-century ago. Truer words were seldom spoken, and the siren call of American steam-era narrow-gauge railroading in the Colorado Rockies is coming soon to Train Simulator!
A member of Dovetail Games’ Partner Programme, Milepost Simulations – creators of the acclaimed Canadian Mountain Passes and West Highland Line (South) routes – is now bringing the extraordinary magic of narrow gauge Front Range mountain railroading to Train Simulator with its “Clear Creek Narrow Gauge” route.
Set in the 1930s, this new Train Simulator route recreates the narrow gauge railroad that at the time was operated by the iconic Colorado & Southern Railway. Built in the 1870s and 1880s by the little Colorado Central Railroad under the sponsorship of the great Union Pacific, the narrow gauge railroad traced the path of Clear Creek and rugged, remote Clear Creek Canyon to climb the imposing Front Range of the Colorado Rockies and serve the region’s colorful mining towns.
Stretching 55 route miles in total, the Train Simulator Clear Creek Narrow Gauge route begins at Golden, Colorado, some 15 miles west of Denver and at an elevation of 5,675 feet, and then extends up the Clear Creek Canyon to Forks Creek. There, the narrow gauge railroad thrusts two diverging lines high into the Rockies, one following Clear Creek’s North Branch, the other following the stream’s South Branch. The northern line makes its way to the bustling little mining town of Black Hawk, then utilizes a series of daunting switchbacks to reach Central City at an elevation of 8,510 feet. The route’s other, longer line climbs, via Idaho Springs, to Georgetown, Colorado and thereafter employs the famous “Georgetown Loop” and towering Devil’s Gate High Bridge to reach Silver Plume, Colorado at an elevation of 9,101 feet above sea level.
Simply put, all the magic of Colorado railroading awaits on the Clear Creek Narrow Gauge route: Daunting yet majestic mountain topography; grades of up to 4 percent; switchbacks; remote but busy western mining towns that drew gold, silver, and other ores from the mountainsides and processed the precious ores in stamping plants and smelters; diminutive freight rolling stock to tote ore and coal and mining equipment; classic wooden passenger cars to carry local travelers and tourists who came to witness the “far famed” Georgetown Loop; enchanting mixed trains; and, of course, the special appeal of narrow gauge steam locomotives, which in the case of the Clear Creek Narrow Gauge route include both coal- and oil-burning editions of Colorado & Southern’s beguiling, Baldwin-built B4D-class 2-8-0s.
From the relatively “flatlands” and busy dual-gauge yard complex of Golden to Forks Creek tucked deep in the Clear Creek Canyon, to captivating mining towns named Idaho Spring, Black Hawk, and Central City, and to Georgetown and the remarkable final climb to Silver Plume – which from Georgetown required a 3.5 percent grade, one complete spiral, 300-foot-long, 96-foot-high Devil’s Gate High Bridge, and two reverse loops, all within roughly 3 miles of track – the upcoming Train Simulator Clear Creek Narrow Gauge route will most assuredly deliver all the captivating appeal, romance, and operating challenges of Colorado narrow gauge railroading that has held railroad enthusiasts and railroaders alike spellbound for generations.
In the coming weeks, Train-Simulator.com will be presenting a series of articles on the Clear Creek Narrow Gauge line’s origins and remarkable history, its freight and passenger operations, and its motive power. And we’ll also, of course, take a closer look at the upcoming Train Simulator route, all accompanied by advance screenshots. So stay tuned! – Gary Dolzall ■