Since they are the most popular of all narrow gauges, I figured that I'd make a post for people curious as to what they were. Typically topics such as "Maine 2 footers" and "Colorado narrow gauge" isn't really covered in depth unless you purchase specific books. Colorado narrow gauges consisted primarily of 3' gauge railroads...although there were a few small 2' operations. The biggest (and first) narrow gauge was the Denver & Rio Grande Western Family. This consisted primarily of the Denver & Rio Grande (in Colorado...started in 1870) and the Rio Grande Western (in Utah). It was the first narrow gauge, and it was built by General Palmer (and inspired by the Ffestiniog railway in Wales). The two halves were merged into the D&RGW in 1920. It was originally intended to connect Denver to Mexico City...although it became a Denver-Salt Lake City road. The main line was converted to standard gauge around 1890. The notable chunk of the railroad later on was the narrow gauge circle...which included what is now the Durango & Silverton, the Cumbras & Toltec, and the new Rio Grande Scenic (which operates a standard gauge SP 2-6-0). There are a few other operations on the old Rio Grande. The narrow gauge Rio Grande operated seven different classes of 2-8-0s, as well as 2-4-0s, 2-6-0s, 4-4-0s, 4-6-0s, 0-6-0ts, and 45 2-8-2s....24 of which survive. Three former Crystal River Railroad outside frame 2-8-0s were the largest of the D&RGW's 2-8-0s and were known as "little mudhens" as they looked like the roads smallest 2-8-2s (known as "mudhens"). The narrow gauge circle was operated (with steam) until 1967...with the Silverton branch never being shut down...but eventually sold. The second most important family would probably be the Colorado & Southern family (which consisted as both std and narrow gauge systems). The C&Sng family had two primary members...the Denver, South Park, and Pacific...and the Colorado Central. The CC was Colorado's second narrow gauge. It followed the Clear Creek canyon west of Denver beyond Silver Plume...with the famed Georgetown Loop being at the west end of the line. The CC used 0-6-0s and 2-6-0s as its motive power...and had many odd cars. It became a UP property in the late 1870s and was rolled up into the Union Pacific, Denver, and Gulf. Its 1880s equipment was common in design to the other UP narrow gauge lines such as the DSP&P, the Kansas Central, and the Utah & Northern. The second railroad in the family was the South Park. It was intended to be a trans-continental railroad (hence the "Pacific") but was effectively Denver to Gunnison with a branch to Baldwin. A secondary line, "The High Line" was built to access the Leadville district by crossing the continental divide twice. A section of this line survives today as standard gauge (converted in 1943). The original mainline was a money pit...with the unbelievable Alpine Tunnel district...the forestry service of Colorado give this area a perfect "10" in scenery...I'll fight the urge to go on and on about my favorite chunk of railroad. The South Park's moguls were the prototype for the LGB mogul which launched their north american popularity. Their Tiffany reefers have been offered by several manufacturers in Nn3, HOn3, Sn3, On3, and large scale. Their mason bogies were also famous 2-6-6ts whose drivers pivoted like freight car trucks. The C&S was formed in 1898-99 as their receiver, Frank Trumbull, merged the two railroads. They were then purchased by the Burlington a few years later. The Burlington promptly abandoned the money pit known as Alpine Tunnel but get the gold mine known as the High Line. The road lingered on until the late 30's and early 40's as the last sections of narrow gauge were abandoned/eliminated (the narrow gauge wore C&S lettering to the end to shield the CB&Q from the public relations negatives of abandoning the line...something they'd worked at for years). 2 original DSP&P engines engines survive...mogul #9 operates on the Georgetown Loop and Baldwin 2-8-0 191 sits at the Colorado RR Museum. Additional narrow gauge 2-8-0s: #60 at Idaho Springs...#71 at Black Hawk (was previously used on a tourist railroad), and #74 is being restored for the Georgetown Loop (she was also ex-DB&W and ex-RGS). Two standard gauge 2-8-0s survive as well. The Argentine Central was a tourist connector at the west end of the Clear Creek line and used shays. The Gilpin Gold Tram was a 2' operation in the Central City/Black Hawk region...it connected with the C&S and is another story in itself. The Mears Roads were the third family. Otto Mears was possibly the most interesting figure in Colorado Narrow Gauge history. He founded 3 railroads...the Silverton RR, the Silverton Northern, and the Rio Grande Southern. The first two ran north out of Silverton (where they connected with the D&RG). The SNRR survived well into the 20th century and the engine house is visible from the D&S trains. Using his profits from his Silverton Railroads...Mears financed the construction of the Rio Grande Southern. The RGS only ever owned 1 new piece of rolling stock...caboose 0404...and never owned a new engine. It connected up the narrow gauge circle by running from Durango through the San Juans with such places as Trout Creek, Lizard Head Pass, Ophir, and Telluride. The railroad never built a tunnel due to costs...but had spectacular wooden trestles. Most of their equipment was 2nd hand D&RGW equipment. There motive power can be divided into a few phases: small D&RG/RGW 2-8-0s, 4-4-0, 4-6-0s, a shay, and an 0-6-0t. Then those were replaced in the 1910's with 3 bigger consolidations and 3 beautiful (and large) 4-6-0s from the recently washed out Florence & Cripple Creek (the Phantom Canyon trackage was washed out and never rebuilt). In the 1930s...the Galloping Geese were added to keep the line afloat during the Depression...and then a pair of 2-8-2s...455 & 461...replaced 4-6-0s #22 & #25 around the start of WW2. The road was abandoned in 1951...with 6 of the 7 Geese surviving...the 4-6-0 #20 is currently being restored in Strassburg, PA, and all 3 (or maybe 2?) of the final 2-8-0s survive. One of the Geese and 2-8-0s operates at Knotts Berry Farm...along with the business car Edna. Bachmann's On30 railtruck is based on RGS Goose #1. The RGS was impoverished because of the government reducing its controls on Silver prices which kept the price artificially high...and justified the building of the RGS. Smaller roads would include the Uintah which had insane curves, insane grades, 2-6-6-2ts, 0-6-2ts, shays, etc... and hauled Gilsonite. Also the Florence & Cripple Creek, the Denver, Boulder, & Western, and a few other small lines. Most narrow gauge modelers work in HOn3 or garden scales...but Sn3 and On3 also have loyal followings. The modern Rio Grande is very easy to model in HOn3 and Sn3 as almost everything is commercially available...Sn3 has become more of high end brass collecting and operating scale...but some wonderful items are available...it's essentially the size of std gauge HO. On3 is fine for C&S or D&RGW since Bachmann's On30 2-6-0 is a nice stand in for C&S #22...and a couple manufacturers make the necessary cars. On30 offers a nice, easy and cheap approach to entering colorado narrow gauge modeling...while HOn30 is primarily for 2' gaugers. Many new On3 colorado prototypes are now being released in RTR due to the combined On3/On30 market. Hope you've enjoyed this read!