Map of the Mexico National Railway and Map of the Denver and Rio Grande Railway
Albert von Motz
Map of the Denver and Rio Grande Railway and Connections, Map of the Mexico National Railway, Including Its Proposed Extensions and Connections, Showing Also the Relative Position of Mexico to the United States the West Indies, and the Adjacent Oceans
Philadelphia: National Railway
Publication Comps., 1872
34 ¼” x 23 ¾” framed
The Denver & Rio Grande railroad was established in 1870 by soldier and railroad builder General William Jackson Palmer as a narrow gauge railway system with the grand plan of connecting Denver with Mexico City. The line was notable for its many
engineering achievements, including the highest railroad beds in the United States and the first large-scale application of narrow gauge road. At one time the railroad had more narrow gauge track than any other line in North America. Palmer was one of the few U.S. entrepreneurs who desired to connect the country in a north-south orientation and was especially singular in his desire to extend his railroad into Mexico, a goal which he eventually accomplished by working in Mexico itself. Although the railroad was eventually absorbed by the Union Pacific, its final achievements were noteworthy. It ran the last passenger train in the West after the
creation of Amtrak, and its scenic trains operate even today in Colorado and New Mexico.
The report with its detailed maps to stockholders is by no means a dry corporate production. In fact, it is an enthusiastic promotional of Colorado by a passionate visionary. Palmer declares: “The idea of a north and south railway, following the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains from the principal city of the new West-Denver-southward to Mexico, arose from a conviction that this belt of country had especial advantages in its location, climate, and natural resources.” Palmer sets forth the advantages and potential in the region, including mining, stock raising, agriculture, natural resources, and towns waiting to spring forth. For example, he warmly promotes the growing town of Colorado Springs established by him only two years earlier.
His vision of a new West opened up large areas to settlement that had been by-passed by other railroads. Not immune however to potential problems, Palmer devotes a large portion of this report to defending and explaining the advantages of narrow gauge railroad construction.
General William Jackson Palmer (1836-1910) was a distinguished Union cavalry officer and railroad executive. After the war, he served as an official of the Union Pacific Railroad’s Eastern Division, which, became the Kansas City Pacific and later merged into the Union Pacific. In 1870, he became president of the Denver and Rio Grande and completed its line westward by 1883. During the 1880s, he organized and constructed Mexican railroads, and two lines from Mexico City to the border were completed by 1890.
The maps alone make this report valuable and important and illustrate Palmer’s sweeping vision. The first map, showing the road from Denver to the Mexican border, illustrates the line as conceived in the U.S., and was also probably handed out as a separate promotional piece, not only for investors but also for potential settlers. The second map (still bound in the wrappers) shows the Company’s lands that are available for settlement and development. The third map (still bound in the wrappers) demonstrates the difficulty of the grades and terrain that must be overcome. The final
map is a grand production showing the U.S. and Mexico with the projected route to join the two countries and the nexus of international and national trade routes that meet the terminus at Vera Cruz. This last map, which is rare and little-known, demonstrates graphically Palmer’s plan to tie Denver to the rest of the world.