This abandoned railway was built not by a railroad company but rather by two different sugar companies.
The Holly Sugar Company, with sugar processing plants in two small Colorado towns, Holly and Swink, sought to build a railroad line that connected these two plants. Despite the presences of the Colorado Division mainline of Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe that already connected these two towns, Holly Sugar wanted to tap into the areas north of the Arkansas River (south of which ran the AT&SF line). The line was surveyed, and construction started at their plant at Holly in 1906, and worked westward to Swink. The name of the railroad was to be the Holly and Swink Railway.
At the same time, the American Sugar Beet Company, with a plant in Swink, also wanted to tap into the untouched areas north of the Arkansas River, so they began building a line from their plant in Swink eastward.
The AT&SF eyed these two operations with a keen interest, as not only would these lines compete with AT&SF's own mainline south of the Arkansas River, but they would provide rail service to a previously untapped area north of the river. So, in 1907, before both railroad lines were completed, the AT&SF purchased the railroad interests of both sugar companies.
What the AT&SF had purchased were two different railroad lines that were being built straight towards each other: the Holly Sugar Company line from the east, and the American Sugar Beet Company from the west. The AT&SF wisely decided to fill in the gap and completed the two lines, making one continuous route between Holly and Swink. In addition, the AT&SF built short "connector lines" that connected this route with their mainline on the other side of the Arkansas River: one between Waveland and Las Animas, and the other between Wilson Junction and Lamar. Furthermore, two short spurs were built to the north of the line, between Wiley and Big Bend, and also between Wilson Junction and May Valley.
Disaster struck in 1910 when a bridge over the Arkansas River washed out near Swink; the AT&SF decided to take up the portion of the line between Swink and Fenton, and did so in 1915. The remainder of the line was abandoned in stages.
|Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway|
|Docket: 26446||12/7/1970||Section: 1(18)|
|App. for auth. to abandon a line of railroad extending from MP 0/5745 ft. at Holly, Prowers County, a dist. of approx. 6.55 miles; a line of railroad extending from MP 40 at Keesee, Bent County, to MP 81/3595 ft. at Cheraw, Otero County, a dist. of approx. 41.67 miles; and a line extending from MP 0/5163 ft, at Las Animas, Bent County, to MP 2/1330 ft, at Waveland, Bent County, a dist. of approx. 1.28 miles; the overall total is approx. 49.5 miles, all in Colorado.|
|Length: 49.500 miles||Citation:|
The American Beet Sugar Co. plant was in Rocky Ford (not Swink) & their railroad (the Arkansas Valley RR) was built east from there (not Swink). I believe they also built the connection to Lamar as they also had plants in Lamar & Las Animas.
The section from Waveland to Cheraw was not abandoned in 1943. I rode the mixed train over that line (and the rest of the line) in the 1960's
The line into Rocky Ford had been abandoned earlier & was probably due to the bridge washout you mention. The line into Swink remained, as I rode that part as well.
It would be nice to know where Fenton & Shelton Junction were!
Many thanks for posting this. I've been curious about the line's history for decades!