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Zephyr train at the passenger depot

Railroads in Fort Collins

Pictured above is the Zephyr train at the passenger depot that once stood at Laporte Avenue and Mason Street. This photo is from the early 1950s.

"The advent of the railroad marked the beginning of a new era in the history of Fort Collins and Larimer County. It opened communication by rail with the outside world and brought the town in touch with the rest of creation. It afforded the farmer and stockman an opportunity to ship out their surplus products and fat cattle to wider and better markets. The home merchants could also get in their stocks of goods in better time, in better condition and at a cheaper rate, consequently the producers and consumers were all benefitted." - Ansel Watrous, The History of Larimer County, 1911.

Ansel Watrous was right. The railroad was vital to the development of Fort Collins. Inadequate transportation had hurt the growth of the Fort Collins area, with wagon roads to Denver and Cheyenne so poor that they were passable only during good weather. Development in the mid-1870s had stood still within Fort Collins, but with the coming of the railroad came a surge of growth.

The first railroad to reach Fort Collins was the Colorado Central in 1877, ending the isolation of the community and allowing for and influx of communication, trade goods, new markets, transportation, and new settlers to the town. The first freight delivered to Fort Collins by rail included coal and drugstore merchandise.

The Colorado Central Railroad was followed by the Greeley, Salt Lake, and Pacific (GSL&P) in 1882. These lines, both subsidiaries of the Union Pacific (UP), were later consolidated into the Colorado & Southern Railway in 1898. In 1910, the Union Pacific laid track in town, and today, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line rolls through Fort Collins on a regular basis. The trains that run down Mason Street are daily reminders of the long history between our community and the railroad.

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