Fund-raising efforts to rebuild a section of the old Silverton Northern Railroad are building up steam, railroad officials report.
“We’ve raised $2,700 so far in our first effort,” said Silverton Northern Railroad President Fritz Klinke.
And an online “crowd-funding” campaign has collected pledges for another $3,505 as of Tuesday.
That effort is being led by Silverton attorney Anthony Edwards through the a website, mainstreetcrowd.com/SJCHS. The goal is to raise $10,000 by Oct. 15, so another $6,500 will be needed, and quickly.
“We’re excited about the money that has already been committed,” Edwards said. “We’re hoping we meet the deadline, but either way, we will be putting down railroad ties.”
Edwards noted that under the crowdfunding rules, the money pledged so far won’t be collected unless the $10,000 goal is reached by Oct. 15.
Edwards described the current effort as “the first phase of a long-term project in the valley.”
With the railroad restoration project running on a shoestring budget, Klinke said, “we’re coming up with ideas on how not to spend money.”
Klinke pointed out that the railroad has obtained the right of way with a 99-year lease from the county for the cost of $99.
And he says track has been secured for the project at no cost, as well.
“The ties will cost us,” Klinke said. “And the nuts, and the bolts, and the labor.”
Klinke, 72, said the plan was to have laid a couple hundred feet of track this year near the Powerhouse.
But he instead had knee surgery.
“It’s been a little slower than anticipated,” Klinke acknowledged, “but then, I’ve been a lot slower.”
However Klinke said he has lined up a Model T Track Inspection vehicle for use on the line, as well as other rail stock.
The original Silverton Northern was built by Otto Mears, operating from 1895 to 1942, serving the mines between Silverton and Animas Forks.
It began at Silverton with two miles of Silverton Railroad track, and reached Eureka in 1896. It was extended up a 7 percent grade to Animas Forks in 1904 for a total of 12.5 miles.
The branch up Cunningham Gulch was built in 1905. A few trains ran occasionally on the Animas Forks section into the 1920s and regularly on the lower section to Eureka until 1939, when the Sunnyside Mine closed. The SN ceased in 1942 when the U.S. Army drafted three SN locomotives to serve its needs in World War II on the White Pine & Yukon in Alaska.
The San Juan County Historical Society announced its ambitious plan to rebuild the 2-1/2-mile section of the old Silverton Northern Railroad from the Powerhouse Industrial Park to Howardsville in August 2010.
Historical society officials said the idea underlying the rebuilding effort is economic development — to develop a locally operated passenger-excursion train based in Silverton.