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And the West is History: Freight Train to Farmington – 1966

In 1905, a 48-mile southern extension of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad was built primarily to transport fruit from the abundant orchards of San Juan County, New Mexico. Called the Farmington Branch, it was curiously built as a standard gauge line. This was done to discourage other railroads from building standard gauge lines to the mines of Southwest Colorado. Competing railroads presumed that the D&RG intended to convert all of its lines to standard and thus abandoned their competitive ambitions. When it became clear that no competition was imminent, the line to Farmington was converted to narrow gauge in 1923 in order to save the cost of transferring cargo back and forth from standard to narrow gauge. The train to Farmington, known as the Red Apple Flyer, was lightly used. However, the need to transport oil field pipe and supplies to the gas fields in the 1950s was credited with keeping the Denver & Rio Grande Western line west of Antonito in existence for additional years. Here, a southbound freight train at the bottom of Farmington Hill is carrying pipe destined for the gas fields of New Mexico. The line was finally abandoned in 1968. – Ed Horvat for Animas Museum, edhorvat@animasmuseum.org (Catalog Number: 15.33.21 from the La Plata County Historical Society Photo Collections)