SAN LUIS VALLEY — For almost 150 years, the San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad has served the San Luis Valley first coming to Alamosa over La Veta Pass in 1878.
When the railroad hit the San Luis Valley floor for the first time, the Valley was in the first stages of becoming what it is today. Businesses flourished, mines at the western end of the Valley boomed and the lumber trade brought places like South Fork to the peak of its economic prime in the 19th century.
Now, nearly 150 years down the road, or track to be more specific, the San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad is experiencing a new challenge — possible extinction. According to reports coming from the bankruptcy courts, the railroad will be up for sale in a matter of weeks. The line went bankrupt earlier last year. It has been tied up in court and may be sold to the highest bidder.
“We received notice from the bankruptcy trustee about a motion to be heard in front of a bankruptcy judge and that they are talking about going to auction on the San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad later in July,” stated Noffsker. County Attorney Ryan Dunn stated that the trustee had begun soliciting bids for the line as of June 18.
Noffsker has taken the lead on the railroad issue and has kept up to date with the proceedings after the line filed for bankruptcy. During a November meeting, Noffsker announced the bankruptcy of the line stating, “The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad is in receivership. Ed Eillis has been fired and they have shut down the excursion train. We have done an analysis as best we could and the economic impact on the Valley from not having the train is huge. Right now, it is in federal bankruptcy court and there is a lot of technical things going on. At the end of the day, we are hoping to get to have a chance in court because this railroad owes close to $2 million in property taxes in several counties.”
Now according to sources, there may be a potential buyer and the line may yet be saved. The railroad has been important to commerce in the San Luis Valley and as a draw for tourism and the loss of the line would be felt in all communities.
Several counties signed a movant in July of 2020 to show solidarity to the bankruptcy courts and only time will tell if it was successful. A movant is an individual or group of entities that make a motion before a court and ask the judge to decide in their favor or after considering all needs before deciding.
“We basically want to the best interest of the public and their needs to be heard by the judge before a decision is made. There are people here and in surrounding communities who rely heavily on the railroad for commerce and even tourism for economic growth and stabilization,” said Noffsker.