We’re thrilled to announce the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s next hardcover book, Rio Grande Steam Finale, to be released October 1, 2023.
In the 1950s and 1960s, many of the nation’s greatest railroad photographers journeyed to southwestern Colorado and northern New Mexico to document the final years of the Denver & Rio Grande Western’s spectacular narrow-gauge railway. They were driven by a fever for which there was no cure: the chance to photograph half-century-old trains operating on rails spaced three feet apart, the last remnants of an empire.
Drawing from thousands of images of the Rio Grande narrow gauge in the Center’s archive, this book gathers the finest work on this rich subject by Tom Gildersleeve, John Gruber, Victor Hand, Don Hofsommer, Jim Shaughnessy, Fred Springer, Richard Steinheimer, and Karl Zimmermann. Inside Rio Grande Steam Finale you’ll find a stunning gallery of black & white and color images, lavishly presented and many published for the first time, covering the narrow gauge from Alamosa to Chama, Durango, Farmington, and Silverton.
The trains are captured in furious action, climbing steep mountain grades, crossing high trestles, winding beside rivers, and traveling vast flatlands. Thundering steam locomotives billow plumes of smoke, some doubled together at the head end and some assisted by rear helpers placed ahead of timeworn cabooses; they’re seen from trackside, from hilltops, from pacing cars, and from inside the cab. Exquisite scenes at day, night, and dusk capture the railroad people, engine houses, rolling stock, lineside structures, and magnificent scenery that shaped the Rio Grande’s legendary narrow gauge system.
Engaging essays by Hofsommer and Zimmermann, both of whom experienced the narrow gauge first-hand in the 1960s, provide context and personal insights. Extensive captions add context to the stories of the photographs, which trace the pattern of typical train operations of the era. The book concludes with a chapter of color images of today’s Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.
Edited by Scott Lothes and Elrond Lawrence, the 10×10 book includes a map by David Styffe and nearly 200 outstanding photographs. The book will sell for $60. Pre-order information will be announced in August on our website and on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.
Cover photo: Denver & Rio Grande Western locomotives 497 and 487 hammer up the four percent grade to Cumbres, Colorado, under a dramatic sky at Windy Point on October 3, 1967. Photograph by Victor Hand