The Early Years The Santa Fe Southwestern was chartered in 1910 as a narrow gauge line built primarily to serve several local mines. The original route stretched north XX miles from Pretloe on the Santa Fe main, to the mines at the town of Clear Creek. The line prospered from the start and by the beginning of the Depression, the railroad had gained Class I status. As production at each of the mines increased, several of the smaller mines merged and expanded, consolidating the operations of 11 separate companies under one umbrella. By 1928, there were 4 large operations going in the Clear Creek Mining District. The Depression saw the closing of all but one of the mines, a copper mine producing very high grade ore, and almost saw the demise of the railroad itself. Miraculously, the railroad survived and with America’s entry into World War II prompting a sudden demand for copper, the remaining mine on the line secured the railroad’s future.
Upgrades and Standard Gauge As the demand for high grade copper grew after the war, so did the demands placed on the railroad’s aging equipment. The railroad's management decided that it needed bigger and better equipment as well as better track. Using revenue from the increasing ore shipments, the line was standard gauged and equipment was leased from the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe. By the close of the war, the line had been not only upgraded but also extended further north to a connection with the Union Pacific at Jean, Nevada. A few years later that the route was realigned and the original segment between Elwood and Jean was taken out of service. The new alignment, which maintained the UP connection at Jean, was a faster, less strenuous route that allowed quicker shipment of ore to the north. Another benefit of the realignment was the increased transfer traffic from the UP to the ATSF with cars bound for customers on the SFSW. The railroad was now in a position to start making orders for new cars to handle increased ore shipments and at the same time, the railroad bought its first diesel locomotives.
Dieselization By buying an F7A/B set from the leased Santa Fe equipment along with a pair of GP30’s from UP and an SD9 from SP, the railroad was able to retire its last steam engine, a 2-8-2 Mikado, and thereby totally dieselizing its operations. Instead of being scrapped or placed on display, though, the steam engine was reassigned to the power the executive train. As a steady cash flow developed, the railroad focused on more motive power and equipment. By 1990, the SFSW rostered six road locomotives and in early-1991, the railroad unveiled its current corporate image with the purchase of two new GE C40-8’s. That same year the F7 was taken out of regular service and placed into a new assignment as the new executive unit. The steam engine it replaced performs its latest role hauling excursionists along the railroad.