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Southwest Life Health And the West is History Community Travel

Photo: Corkscrew Gulch Turntable – 1899

Famed Western photographer William Henry Jackson took this photo of Otto Mears’ ingenious railroad turntable during its construction in 1899. The Silverton Railroad ran 17.5 miles from Silverton, over Red Mountain Pass, to the towns of Red Mountain, Guston, Ironton and finally to Albany, 6 miles south of Ouray. There was not room for a balloon loop or a wye, the two common methods for reversing the direction of a train, at the head of Corkscrew Gulch. Chief engineer, C.W. Gibbs, designed this solution, allowing the train to continue its route along the steep grade. He cleverly ensured that both sets of tracks leading to the turntable had downhill grades allowing rail cars to enter the table via gravity no matter which direction the train was ultimately heading. The Corkscrew Gulch Turntable is presumed to be the only turntable ever constructed on the main line of a U.S. railroad. <br><br>Ed Horvat for Animas Museum, edhorvat@animasmuseum.org