Railroads desired continued high freight and passenger traffic, something no one could guarantee, and they pointed out that the mountain weather left them at the mercy of the elements. In the end, though, when the railroads arrived, Colorado hard-rock districts blossomed, and those left off the routes suffered both economically and promotionally. Districts boomed in many ways once the railroads arrived.


Even Leadville prospered as railroads neared it, closing the transportation gap day by day, and its production of low-grade ore benefited immensely from the availability of cheaper transportation. There was another, somewhat unforeseen, tradeoff. As one person complained, fearing the arrival of undesirables, “now we will have to put locks on the doors.” Of the three districts mentioned earlier—Aspen, Gunnison, and San Juan—the Gunnison country was the least significant and least productive. The removal of the Utes and the arrival of the D&RG happened almost simultaneously in 1881. Prospectors rushed into the area and in 1883 production topped out at $600,000—mostly in silver.


The usual reports of promising discoveries, “good prospects,” and “many newly discovered mines” in such districts as Tin Cup, Pitkin, Gothic, Ruby/Irwin, and Tomichi kept interest alive and the ever-hopeful on the move. However, other reports indicated that “developments so far made are not important”; “little has been done”; the district has “not enjoyed a very lively season”; the “smelter has been under very poor management” and “but little ore has been sold.” “The majority of the other mines are mere prospects.”