On Sept 11, 1889 William Carpenter and several other businessmen of Grand Junction, CO founded the Little Book Cliff Railway. The LBC was built narrow gauge, the rails were only three feet apart. The reason for the building of LBC was to haul coal from the Book Cliff mine and supplies from the standard gauge D&RG or CM railroads to the mining town of Carpenter 12 miles distant from Grand Junction.
The line climbed from the valley floor in downtown Grand Junction to the foot hills of the Book Cliffs. The most interesting feature along the line was its double-horseshoe curve about 8 miles outside of Grand Junction just north of what is now the regional airport. It was there that most of the road’s accidents occurred. The worst was when Locomotive No. 4, the railroad’s largest, rolled on its side.
Since the only commodity of on the Little Book Cliff was the coal, the railroad tried to generate extra revenue through excursions. At one time the idea of renaming the town of Carpenter to Poland Springs was floated to entice more rides. The Little Book Cliff also constructed large riding cars for tourist from Grand Junction. The riders, called Go-Devils, were towed to Carpenter on the back of a train. The adventurous could then climb aboard and go ‘like the devil’ on the return to Grand Junction. Sails were added as an experiment for more speed and a way for the riders to be powered uphill, but they did not work out.
In 1923 the Book Cliff mine closed, thus the Little Book Cliff Railway closed and was scrapped. Very little of the Little Book Cliff was saved. However, a damaged freight car truck was left behind and was unintentionally buried in the rail yard in downtown Grand Junction. The truck was discovered during the construction of the Mesa County Courthouse in 2000 and is now on display at the Museum of the West.
The Rio Grande Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society has made a replica of one of the Little Book Cliff’s Go-Devils as well as a handcart. These replicas can be found at the Cross Orchards Historic Site in Grand Junction, CO.