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Going to the NRHS 2016 Denver Convention Day 3 Narrow Gauge Day 7/3/2016

by Chris Guenzler

We had a good breakfast at the Rodeway Inn in Farmington before I packed up the car. We drove north to Durango and parked just west of the grade crossing at East 32nd Street. This would be my and Robin's first time ever chasing the 8:00 AM Durango & Silverton Railroad train to Silverton but only to just west of Rockwood.

The Silverton at East 32nd Street. We returned to my car and were in chase mode now! We headed to the next photo location.

We caught the Silverton at a private grade crossing. We next pulled off at cr a private grade crossing Trimble Road.

The Silverton at a private grade crossing. We headed north on US 550 and after crossing Trimble Road we pulled over to set up for our next runby.

The Silverton north of Trimble Road. Next we headed to the water tower at Hermosa.

The Silverton at the Hermosa water tower.

D&RGW Baggage Railway Express Post Office Car.

The Hermosa water tower.

D&SNG box car 3545.

D& box car 3460. From Hermosa we drove north to County Road 250 just west of Rockwood for our final runby pictures of the day.

The Silverton at County Road 250 just west of Rockwood. I had Chris Parker on the cell phone and he got to hear the engine really working hard. It had been a fantastic chase! We drove north on US 550 crossing over Coal Bank Pass 10,640 feet, Molas Pass 10,970 feet and Red Mountain Pass 11,018 feet on the way to Ridgway our next stop of the day.

Ridgway Railroad Museum

Ridgway, Colorado, long known as the birthplace of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, is the home of a museum dedicated to the preservation of the history of railroading in Ouray County and surrounding areas.

The Ridgway Railroad Museum, located at the junction of U.S. Highway 550 and Colorado State Highway 62 in Ridgway, Colorado, is open every day during the summer months (June 1 through September 30th) from 9 am to 5 pm. During April and October the Museum is open every day from 10 am to 3 pm. We are closed during the winter months. There is no charge to visit the museum but we do accept donations.

The Ridgway Railroad Museum is a non-profit, member supported organization whose mission is to explain and interpret the role and significance of railroads in the history of this region by use of exhibits, a reference library, educational programs, publications and sharing information with historical and modeling groups.

The Museum will preserve railroad equipment, artifacts, historical data, books and photographs of Ouray County and the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

A Ford Railbus 1.

Museum scene.

Gunsmoke and Dusty Trails statue.

Museum scene.

DRG&W caboose 0575.

DRG&W Business Car C.

Ridgway Depot Outbuilding.

Rio Grande Southern Coach 252.

Track gang equipment.

D&RGW Outfit Car 04919.

D&RGW gondola car 702.

D&RGW stock car 5574.

D&RGW box csar 3130.

Rio Grande Southern replica Motor #1.

Museum scenes. Special thank you to the museum for having us today. From here we drove north to Montrose and heading east I pulled off of US 50 when I saw something in a museum.

Union Pacific Baggage Car 1227 at the Museum of Mountain West. Next we headed east to Cimarron our next stop.

Cimarron Railroad display

At the western end of the narrow gauge's route through the Black Canyon was Cimarron. During the construction, Cimarron was a tent city, but soon became a little town of up to 250 people whose livelihood and schedule revolved around the trains. Here were housed the train relief crews, the roundhouse with the engines that would push the trains west up the steep Cerro Summit toward Montrose, the restaurant that would have 20 minutes to feed passengers, and the railroad's hotel for those staying longer. After mining decreased in the Gunnison region, stockmen continue to gather at Cimarron to ship their cattle and sheep to market via the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. Today at Cimarron, an outstanding exhibit displays authentic railroad cars and interprets those bygone railroad days. A short drive north of Cimarron brings one to the remains of a trestle across the Cimarron River on which sits the genuine Engine 278, tender and caboose actually used on trips through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. This display is no longer on the bridge and is locked in a yard in Cimarron.

The sign along US 50.

D&RGW Outfit Car 04414.

D&RGW stock car 5620.

D&RGW stock car 5670.

Both of the front car. Three people in NPS ranger outfits were standing and I asked if we could see the steam engine. Tom said he had to put a load of wash in but would met us at the gate to the yard. Tom peddled his bike and met us there. He unlocked the gate and turned us loose.

D&RGW 2-8-0 278.

D&RGW 2-8-0 278 tender.

The complete set.

D&RGW box car 3132.

D&RGW caboose 0577.

View of their equipment.

This trailer was used to get the train off of the bridge.

Builders Plate on the D&RGW 2-8-0 278.

Tom standing on the pilot. Special thank you to Tom for having us today. We drove east to Gunnison our next stop of the day.

Gunnison County Pioneer Museum

The Gunnison County Pioneer and Historical Society was founded in 1905, with the members subsequently deciding in 1906 to become a permanent sponsor of a local museum.

The Gunnison Pioneer and Historical Society was reorganized and incorporated in 1930. Sponsoring a museum did not become a reality until 1963 when the Adams and Wilson families donated land to be used for the Pioneer Museum. By 1964, operation of the Pioneer Museum had begun. The Pioneer and Historical Society has a ten person governing board and a curator.

Approximately 60 volunteers work at the Museum, which is kept open from May 24th to September 30th. Hours are from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday and 11:00 am to 5:00 pm on Sundays, including all holidays.

D&RGW 2-6-0 268.

Museum scene.

D&RGW spreader OD.

D&RGW gondola 710.

D&RGW box car 3633.

D&RGW stock car 5763.

D&RGW caboose 0589.

Museum scenes.

The Gunnison D&RGW station.

D&RGW Outfit Car.

Museum scene.

Water Tower.

One last view at this museum. Special thank you to the museum for having us today. We stopped at Subway to get lunch to go. Coming back on US 50 we ran through a thunderstorm that produced small hail. We made it through and drove to Montrose, our next stop on this trip.

Union Pacific caboose 25668 with my favorite UP slogan on it, "Carefully We Roll Along!"

The Denver & Rio Grande station in Montrose. We headed south to Ridgeway.

On the way there, we pulled off of Highway 550 for this picture. We drove west on Colorado 62 to CO 145 south following the route of the old Rio Grande Southern Railroad to Dolores.

Rio Grande Southern Railroad Museum

We pulled into the parking lot in Dolores, Colorado

Rio Grande Southern Railroad History

The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG) had built branch lines to the mining towns of Silverton and Ouray, but the San Juan Mountains between Ouray and Silverton were too formidable to allow the building of a railroad directly connecting the two towns. The Silverton Railroad, built north from Silverton, had reached within 8 miles of Ouray, but the remaining stretch through the Uncompahgre Gorge was considered too difficult. A cog railway was briefly considered but was never built.

The RGS was founded in 1889 by Otto Mears, and construction began in 1890 from Ridgway (north of Ouray) and Durango (south of Silverton) to go around the most rugged part of the San Juan Mountains and also reach the mining towns of Rico and Telluride. The line was completed only a little time before the Silver Panic of 1893 which resulted in most of the mines closing overnight and the railroad losing most of its traffic. The railroad struggled to survive through the Great Depression, and was finally closed in 1951. The RGS filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission for abandonment on April 24,1952.

As the Rio Grande Southern was never a wealthy railroad, its locomotives were all second (or more) hand, mostly from the Denver and Rio Grande/Denver and Rio Grande Western, which owned the RGS during most of its history. Most of the locomotives that came to the road were old and heavily worn, some having been pulled from the scrap line and pressed into RGS service. The road only had one car built new for itself. In later years, most of its freight cars were retired cars from the abandoned Colorado and Southern 3 foot narrow gauge system.

Today, much of the former D&RG and RGS rolling stock has new life in tourism, including the Western River Railroad and Knott's Berry Farm railways, as well as the Silverton Train (which has been in continuous steam service since 1881) and the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. The Knott's Berry Farm trains are maintained with their original colors and railroad identification.

The right of way can be traced by going west from Durango to Mancos on Rte 160, then to Dolores via Rte 184, north across Lizard Head Pass at 10,222 feet to Placerville using Routte 145, with the final leg Route 62 to Ridgway.

Ophir Loop

The route passed over Dallas Divide west of Ridgway and over Lizard Head Pass north of Rico. The most famous structure on the route was the Ophir Loop near Ophir. At this point the railroad was built up a narrow mountain valley and looped back up the other side to gain elevation over several tall trestles.

Galloping Goose

A famed aspect of the RGS was its fleet of Galloping Geese. During the Great Depression increasing operational costs made it expensive to operate trains over the mountain railroad. The RGS devised a rail car from Buick and Pierce-Arrow automobiles or bus front ends and a box car rear end. Seven Geese were built for the RGS, and all but one survive today. A Goose was built by RGS for the San Cristobal Railroad in 1933. It was returned to the RGS in 1939 and dismantled, with parts going to rebuild Goose 2. The Goose at Knott's Berry Farm still operates in the function it was designed to run a cost-effective rail service on days when demand does not require full-size trains (mostly weekdays during Fall, Winter and Spring in this year-round theme park). All six original Geese and the reproduction No. 1 are operational. The last non-operational Goose, No. 4, was restored to operation in August 2011 by the volunteers of the Ridgway Railroad Museum and the Telluride fire department.

Current Locations

#1 1931 Buick Replica at the Ridgway Railway Museum
#2 1931 Buick Colorado Railroad Museum
#3 1932 Pierce-Arrow orig, Wayne Bus Body Knotts Berry Farm
#4 1932 Pierce-Arrow orig, Wayne Bus Body Currently undergoing restoration in Ridgway, Colorado
#5 1933 Pierce-Arrow orig, Wayne Bus Body Dolores, Colorado
#6 1934 Buick Colorado Railroad Museum
#7 1936 Pierce Arrow Colorado Railroad Museum

More Rio Grande Southern Railroad Museum History

If the Rio Grande Southern Railroad had ever been a profitable endeavor with the changing economy of its fledgling days, the "Galloping Goose" might never have been "hatched" to accommodate travel by rail in the remote and isolated regions of far southwestern Colorado. The railroad was conceived and built in 1890-91 by the unflappable "Pathfinder of the San Juans," Otto Mears. It was over 160 miles long and ran from the town of Ridgway, Colorado on the north to Durango, Colorado on the south going through the towns of Telluride, Rico, Dolores and Mancos.

The RGS's early revenues came mainly from the numerous silver and gold mines near Telluride, Ophir and Rico. Hauling hundreds of tons of precious metal ores and hundreds of passengers in and out of the area made the financial condition of the railroad extraordinarily strong for its first two and one-half years! However, the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act caused the Silver Panic of 1893, and silver prices plummeted. As a result, many silver mines were closed, people fled the area by the thousands, and the railroad slipped into its first receivership that same year.

Nevertheless, the railroad survived, just barely at times, for another 40 years hauling various kinds of freight and passengers until the stock market crash in 1929 spelled the almost certain financial failure of the railroad. However, there remained an obligation and responsibility for the railroad to provide reliable transportation for small amounts of freight, what few passengers there were, and the always-important U.S. Mail. It was time to economize! There had to be a way! There was. A new rail vehicle was born from an ingenious idea and developed into what later became widely known as the Galloping Geese.

In June 1931, the first "Motor" was built by master mechanic Jack Odenbaugh and his crew at the Southern's Ridgway shops. (Many locals referred to the RGS as simply "the Southern.") Eventually there was a fleet of seven in operation on the RGS. Motor No. 5 went into service on June 8, 1933. (The railroad officially called these vehicles Motors until 1950.)

The cost was $2,599 for No. 5, which was built with a 1928 Pierce-Arrow limousine body and running gear. It was rebuilt in 1946/47, using a World War II surplus GMC gasoline truck engine and a Wayne Corporation school bus body. In 1950, the freight/mail compartment was converted to carry 20 additional passengers for sightseeing trips. With a one-man crew, and operating on gasoline rather than steam, our local Galloping Goose and its fellow goslings fit the bill for economic travel.

Even though originally built from Buicks and Pierce Arrows, the word "dignified" never seems to have been included in their description, but they were serviceable and definitely fit their purpose. Traveling through the countryside with a horn that could easily be mistaken for the call of a real goose, they were said to have "waddled" down the uneven, poorly maintained tracks of the cash-strapped Rio Grande Southern.

Throughout the Great Depression, World War II and all the way to abandonment in 1952, the RGS continued to operate steam engine powered trains on an irregular schedule as needed for hauling heavy freight and livestock shipments. However, by mid-1933, a Motor, a Galloping Goose, was used for hauling most passengers, small amounts of freight and the U.S. Mail.

From 1891 until 1933, the RGS carried passengers and mail in coaches and mail cars on regularly scheduled passenger trains. After 1933, the only choice for folks traveling through far southwestern Colorado by rail was the not-so-spacious accommodations of a waddling, honking Galloping Goose. Sometimes the ride included such entertainment as going over the top of Lizard Head Pass in a blinding blizzard in an unheated Goose or waiting somewhere along the line for floodwaters to subside, but in most cases it was "the only way to fly."

After World War II, the old muddy wagon roads slowly became the more like highways, and trucks and passenger buses began to rob the railroad of business. In 1950, the federal government did not renew the U.S. Mail contract with the RGS and financially, that was the last straw. Tourist passenger traffic during the summers of 1950 and 1951 did not generate enough revenue to keep the failing railroad alive.

In April 1952, the Interstate Commerce Commission gave permission to the Receiver in Denver to abandon the entire railroad. The first rails were pulled up in early September of 1952 and by March of 1953 the scrappers had finished their job and it was all gone! That is to say, the railroad line was gone but some of the equipment survives to this day, including Galloping Goose No. 5 nesting here in Dolores.

In 1952, members of the Dolores Rotary Club purchased Galloping Goose No. 5 from the court-appointed receiver for $250. It was then put it on display in Flanders Park in Dolores as a reminder of the town's railroad heritage.

The Galloping Goose Historical Society of Dolores, Inc. was founded in 1987. The Society's first big project (in 1991) was to build a replica of the original RGS Dolores depot. The new building is slightly northeast of the original location. It is a Victorian structure and painted in the RGS color scheme of buff yellow with brown trim. It contains the Society's railroad museum and gift shop.

In 1997 and 1998, the Society completely restored Galloping Goose No. 5 to operating condition through the efforts of hundreds of hours of volunteer labor and thousands of dollars in donations. Goose No. 5 made its first run in almost 47 years on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in May 1998. Goose No. 5 is now a very popular attraction operating on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in June and on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad during Railfest in August.

In 1999 the Society obtained ownership of RGS coach 256 and plans to restore it for static display in front of the Dolores Town Hall as the Chamber of Commerce visitors center and perhaps eventually to restore it to operating condition.

Displays in the museum show the history of the RGS, the Galloping Goose and the town of Dolores, including a diorama of the town's railroad yard as it looked in 1946. These and other displays make a visit to Dolores' only museum worthwhile. The museum gift shop features numerous items of railroad memorabilia as well as gift shop items relating to railroads. Many railroad books and videos are also for sale including the award-winning series People and Places of the Four Corners (Bowyer Productions). We also have the 12-volume set of "The RGS Story" by Dell McCoy and Russ Coleman (Sundance Publications).

Summer museum hours are Monday through Saturday 9 to 5, Memorial Day through Labor Day. (Limited hours May 15th through Memorial Day and Labor Day through October 15th.)

The above material was taken from this web site:

The replica Rio Grande Southern Dolores station.

RGS Goose 5 1933 Pierce-Arrow orig, Wayne Bus Body at Dolores, Colorado. We checked into the Dolores Mountain Inn and had dinner at the Ponderosa Restaurant. I could not upload my stories so this will delay it until I can but then it worked We had a good come through so I hoped it washed my car. Time to get a good night of sleep.