1994 Mining History Association Field Trip



Georgetown Tour, June 7, 1994

Option B: Georgetown Loop Railroad Trip

from Georgetown to Silver Plume

Georgetown-Silver Plume mining district was in discovered in 1859 and initially the mines were worked for gold.  In 1865 and 1866, silver-lead ores were discovered. The most active period of silver mining was from 1872 to 1893.  Before the discoveries in Leadville in 1878, Georgetown and Silver Plume comprised the most prominent silver producing district in Colorado.  The richest mines in Silver Plume worked the Pelican-Bismark, South Frostburg, and Mendota Veins on Republican and Democrat Mountains.  The total production of the Georgetown-Silver Plume District is estimated to be over $30,000,000.


During both world wars, mines in the district were reopened for lead and zinc. The Pelican-Bismark, Mendota, and Smuggler Mines in Silver Plume were operated for lead, silver, and zinc during 1943 and 1944.  The ores were treated at two mills in Silver Plume and another in Georgetown. 


The Georgetown Loop on the Colorado Central Railroad was considered a major engineering feat when it was constructed in 1884.  The ingenious design of the loop reduced the grade of the narrow gauge railroad track and permitted the heavily laden freight cars to safely ascend and descend over 600 feet in the steep terrain.  The Georgetown Loop Historic Mining and Railroad Park is part of the Georgetown-Silver Plume National Historic District established in 1966.  The Loopís high bridge at Devilís Gate was reconstructed in 1984, its centennial year.  The loop railroad is open seasonally for tourists.


Unfortunately, no photographs remain from the 1994 Mining History Association tours.  Using historic and more recent photographs, the Photo Galleries attempt to reconstruct what attendees saw as they visited the various Colorado mining towns.


(Above) This view looking west shows the Colorado Central Railroadís Georgetown Loop ca1895.  The high bridge at Devilís Gate was completed in 1884, torn down in 1938, and rebuilt in 1984. (From Wikipedia Commons)


(Right) The modern view looking east shows the Georgetown Loop Railroad crossing the high bridge over Clear Creek. The train is now operated seasonally for tourists.  (1987 photo)



The visitors riding the steam train have an option to visit the historic Lebanon Silver Mine located along the loop railroad. (1987 photo)


The Silver Plume rail yard is the end of the present line. Originally the line served mining and milling operations further down the track. (1987 photo)

The town of Silver Plume is located at the base of Brown, Sherman, and Republican Mountains. This 1908 view shows the Diamond, Pelican, Eagle Bird, Illinois, Back Bone, Frostburg, and Burleigh Tunnels, and the Maine, Wisconsin, Mendota, and Montreal Mines and others.  The Mendota Mill and the Dives-Pelican-Seven-Thirty Mill are at the left edge of the photograph.  (After Spurr and Garrey, Professional Paper 63, USGS)

Another 1908 view of Silver Plume shows the Diamond Tunnel and the Dives, Illinois, Dunkirk, Pay Rock, Silver Plume, and Vulcan Mines. (After Spurr and Garrey, Professional Paper 63, USGS)

Modern mining is still going strong near Georgetown at the Climax Molybdenum Companyís Henderson Mine near Empire, Colorado.  The mine is the successor to the Urad Mine which operated from 1914 to the 1960s. Climax Molybdenum is a subsidiary of Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold. (2014 photo)

Opened in 1976, the Henderson Mine shaft and surface facilities serve a block caving extraction system.  The caved area can just be seen at the top left of the photo.  The ore is transported via a 15 mile long conveyor system under the Continental Divide to the mill at Parshall, Colorado. (2014 photo)


Photo Credits Mike and Pat Kaas (unless otherwise attributed)


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