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  • Inside Spread

Colorado Narrow Gauge 2019 Calendar

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A rail-fan favorite, Colorado Narrow Gauge 2019 pictures the trains of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. Established in 1870, the Rio Grande eventually operated 2,783 miles of track connecting Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Serving mountain communities, farms, and mines from the 1800s into the mid-1900s, the Rio Grande ran trains through mountain gorges, and across the highest rail mainline in America to deliver on the D&RG's early motto, 'Through the Rockies, not around them.'

Engines and locations featured in the 2019 calendar include:

499 on its way to set out cars for sheep loading

The Fall colors have faded in this October 1963 view taken about five miles west of Chama, New Mexico. Just behind the train is Willow Creek, a livestock loading siding. But 499 is on its way to set out cars for sheep loading at Lumberton, New Mexico, twenty miles to the west. The crew will deliver the cars, turn on the Lumberton wye and return to Chama, remaining there overnight. The next morning they will return to Lumberton and shuffle the cars until the sheep are loaded. They will then head to Chama and another crew will take over from there. If the loading process takes too long, a fresh crew will take over at Lumberton and make the run to Chama. The logistics were a never ending puzzle with several different ways of handling it. But that is what trainmasters are for.

271 assigned as a switcher

Denver and Rio Grande Western 271, a little Class C-16, sits on a lead track next to the coal dock at Durango, Colorado on June 4, 1940. 271 is assigned as a switcher. Even in 1940, business in and around Durango was brisk enough to require a switch engine, and sometimes more than one. It still carries its "Royal Gorge Route" logo and lettering. This slide was taken by legendary photographer Richard Kindig, who was only twenty-three years old at the time.

Time to make up a Cumbres Turn at Chama, New Mexico

It is time to make up a Cumbres Turn at Chama, New Mexico on June 3, 1957. Engine 482 is sitting by the enginehouse and will remain there until the congestion settles down. Engines 486 and 493 are slowly drifting away from the photographer. 493 will be the road engine and 486 will be the point helper; there is a cut of cars in the background out of sight that they will pick up. They will then pull forward through the switch and get in the clear. At that time 481 will shove the Gramps Tankers and couple onto the train. 481 will cut away and pick up a caboose, return and couple into the train as a rear end helper. The last step is an air test. When this is completed, depending on westbound traffic coming off the hill, if any. If they are in the clear, the three locomotives will begin the 14-mile climb to Cumbres.

Grande Southern’s Galloping Goose #3

Rio Grande Southern’s Galloping Goose #3 has arrived, southbound, at the Placerville, Colorado depot on July 25, 1950. Goose #3 was built and entered service in 1931. Over the years, it underwent several changes; originally built with a Pierce-Arrow car body, it was rebuilt in 1947 with a Wayne school bus body, as it appears in this image. The railroad was abandoned in 1951, and #3 was purchased by Knott’s Berry Farm at Buena Park, California, where it remains on display today.

Work train leaving Hermosa, Colorado

Denver and Rio Grande Western 478 is on a northbound work train leaving Hermosa, Colorado in October 1964. On board are four cars of ballast, two cars of new ties and a carload of bridge timbers. The railroad typically ran several work trains after the Rio Grande "Silverton" trains completed their tourist runs for the season. Since inclement weather often started as early as October, DRGW operated the work trains before the winter months. Today's Durango and Silverton Railroad operates no steam work trains; all are headed by Diesel power.

The toughest piece of railroad anywhere

This is the Monarch Branch, just about the toughest piece of railroad anywhere. It is June 1, 1956 and Rio Grande 480 is backing a nine-car cut of loaded limestone “gons” down the middle leg of the Garfield Switchback. 480 would carefully back these cars down the 4% grade to a set out track at Garfield. 480 would then climb back to the upper leg and pick up the balance of the loaded gons, where a brakeman waits to couple them to the locomotive. 480 will repeat its previous trip, couple both sections together and take them to Maysville, six miles to the east. 483 was a helper engine working at the mine while 480 was working at Garfield. The loaded limestone cars would be moved about twenty-one miles to the yard at Salida, Colorado, where the limestone would be reloaded into standard gauge cars. The limestone was used in processing steel at the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company at Pueblo, Colorado.

Taking on coal at Monero, New Mexico

Denver and Rio Grande Western 498 is on an eastbound freight, stopped to take on coal at Monero, New Mexico on the afternoon of June 13, 1968. By the time a train left Durango and arrived at Monero, it had travelled more than eighty-five miles. These old freight hogs could really devour theie coal, especially on the rock and roll first half of the Durango-Chama Line. For many years the railroad hauled locally mined coal out of Monero, so with a ready supply, a coal tipple was added for primarily eastbound trains. This supply of coal came in handy many times, and here, in the last year of operations, it will keep another train on the move.

Caboose 04343 bringing up the rear

Denver and Rio Grande Western Caboose 04343 is bringing up the rear of a westbound freight headed by Engines 483 and 493 south of Estrella, Colorado on July 24, 1968. On narrow-gauge lines cabooses were a necessity. Under normal operating circumstances the rear-end brakeman and the conductor rode there, and the conductor was in charge of the train. The Conejos Mountains can be unforgiving in the winter. At times, there were three cabooses, especially on snowplow trains: one for extra bedding, one with extra food and other supplies, and one for the rear-end crew. You never saw a train going anywhere on the narrow gauge without a caboose, passenger trains excepted.

Crossing the Lobato Trestle

Denver and Rio Grande Western 492 is crossing the Lobato Trestle about four miles east of Chama, New Mexico. The thirteen stock cars are the last of a large shipment of sheep being sent to market in Denver. A sharp eye will note smoke at the rear of the train. Cut in ahead of the caboose is Engine 488, shoving on three Gramps Tank Cars, used to fill out maximum tonnage for the trip up Cumbres Pass. Once this train reaches the top of the hill at Cumbres, all of the stock cars will be placed in one train with 492 leading for the trip to Alamosa. There the sheep will be unloaded, fed and watered, then placed in standard gauge car for the ride to Denver.

The 4% grade passing Cresco Tank

It is the late afternoon of October 4, 1961, and Denver and Rio Grande Western 486, with an assist from rear end helper 494, is working hard on the 4% grade passing Cresco Tank with a load of empty pipe cars, being returned to Alamosa to be inspected and loaded for another trip to the San Juan Basin. (All eastbound trains out of Chama would be filled to maximum tonnage whenever possible.) Cresco Tank looks as if it is on its last legs in 1961, but the tank still stands today, and waters the engines of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.

Three miles north of Antonito, Colorado

Denver and Rio Grande 486 clatters along with an eastbound freight about three miles north of Antonito, Colorado on October 4, 1961. This train consists mainly of empty pipe flats being returned to Alamosa to be loaded and sent west again. The tank cars were loaded at Chama, filled from a pipe that came from the Gramps Oilfield, located about eighteen miles north of Chama. The oil was an important source of revenue for the railroad, as regular shipments of crude oil were necessary to keep the refinery, located at Alamosa, operating. Heavy snow on Cumbres pass could and did wreak havoc with production schedules. In 1964, the refinery shut down. After the closure, the railroad shut down for part of the winter, then all of it. Unfortunately, abandonment followed four years later.

South Alamosa Yard, Colorado

Denver and Rio Grande Western Engines 493 and 482 are at South Alamosa Yard, Colorado on May 29, 1958. Their train for Chama has been assembled and is waiting for them in the three-rail yard. They are doing some last minute switching, however, and it will be at least half an hour or more before they assemble the train and make an air test. But the ninety-three mile trek to Chama will get underway soon enough.

 

 

 

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