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Vance Junction, Colorado - Mile Post 37.8 - Elev. 8,116ft
Contributed by Jerry Clark

The Telluride Branch of the RGS left the mainline at Vance Junction. The facilities at this location included two 1000 foot long passing sidings, and a spur with a coal trestle and coal chutes for refueling engines. Although a coaling station was located here, Vance Junction never had a water tank, possibly due to it's location approximately 60 feet above the South Fork of the San Miguel River. The structures at Vance Junction included a section house which contained living quarters for the agent on the second floor, an old Jackson & Sharp coach body salvaged from a wreck, (RGS coach No. 254 - formerly D&RG coach No. 263) used as a depot and telegraph office, a section car shed, and two car bodies used by the section gangs. One of these was an old RPO baggage car body (originally D&RG No. 55 and then later RGS No. 150) and the other was a standard gauge boxcar (D&RG No.13680). The depot closed in the 1920's, but the coach body remained until after the end of operations.

The only remaining structure at Vance Junction is the remains of the Burnett and Clifton eight- pocket automatic coal chutes. The loading spur ran beyond the coal chute so that additional coal cars could be spotted above the chutes. When additional coal was needed in the chutes, a brakeman could release the brakes on the stored car and allow it to roll down into position to be unloaded. On the RGS, all coal cars were loaded and unloaded by men with shovels! Apparently manpower was cheaper than mechanical unloading devices or a few drop bottom gondolas.

When a locomotive pulled up on the siding below the chute, the fireman pulled on a rope connected to a spring loaded bolt on the outer door. A counterbalanced chute would then extend over the engines tender. A pull on a second rope would open the inner door, allowing the coal to flow down the chute. A second internal door was connected to the inner door.

The Telluride branch descended for .4 miles to Illium at the Western Colorado Hydroelectric plant before crossing the San Miguel and starting a 4% grade up Keystone Hill toward Telluride. A wye was located at Illium. There were no other railroad structures at Illium, although the RGS had plans to build a large depot at this location prior to it's fall into bankruptcy after the Silver Panic of 1893. Today the hydroelectric plant buildings are the site of a church camp.


Map of Vance Junction Area


Vance Junction Photo Gallery


Rio Grande Southern grade from Vance Junction to Trout Creek -  (93k) Rio Grande Southern grade from Vance Junction to Trout Creek

(93k)

Rio Grande Southern coal pockets at Vance Junction -- 7/2/95 -   (133k) Rio Grande Southern
Coal pockets at Vance Junction
7/2/95
(133k)

Vance Junction -  looking north along the Telluride branch.The mainline can be seen on the left of picture. It is the ridge to the left.
 (81k) Vance Junction looking north along the Telluride branch. The mainline can be seen on the left of picture. It is the ridge to the left.
(81k)

Vance Junction - View of coal tipple and uphill side of coal delivery ramp.  Notice all the cinders on the ground.  The former roadbed is EXTREMELY clear.
 (75k) Vance Junction
View of coal tipple and uphill side of coal delivery ramp. Notice all the cinders on the ground. The former roadbed is EXTREMELY clear.
(75k)

Vance Junction - Closeup view of the coal tipple.  Notice the remnants of the chutes on the ground.  (75k) Vance Junction
Closeup view of the coal tipple. Notice the remnants of the chutes on the ground.

(75k)

Vance Junction - View of one entire coal pocket. (66k) Vance Junction
View of one entire coal pocket.

(66k)

Vance Junction - Side view of the coal pocket.  Detail shot of the timber construction. (63k) Vance Junction
Side view of the coal pocket. Detail shot of the timber construction.

(63k)

Vance Junction - Detail shot of the inside of a coal chute. (60k) Vance Junction
Detail shot of the inside of a coal chute.

(60k)

Vance Junction - Detail shot of inner door.
 (54k) Detail shot of inner door.

(54k)

Vance Junction - Shot of the back of the coal pocket showing the loading end of the chutes. (69k) Vance Junction
Shot of the back of the coal pocket showing the loading end of the chutes.

(69k)

Vance Junction - Another shot of the back of the coal pocket.  The timbers in the forground and the remains of a raised platform where excess coal was stored. (81k) Vance Junction
Another shot of the back of the coal pocket. The timbers in the forground and the remains of a raised platform where excess coal was stored.
(81k)

Vance Junction - View of the underside of the coal pocket. (64k) Vance Junction
View of the underside of the coal pocket.

(64k)

Vance Junction - Close up shot of a chute rotting on the ground. (82k) Vance Junction
Close up shot of a chute rotting on the ground.

(82k)


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