Category Archives: Railway Glory Days

From Railroad Glory Days – Glen Brewer

D&RGW narrow gauge in the twilight years

Chama, Silverton and Durango

Article and all photos © Glen Brewer

 

I first encountered the Denver & Rio Grande Western’s remaining narrow gauge lines in 1956. I was already a steam enthusiast, and the D&RGW’s narrow gauge was still steam. Somehow, by begging, pleading or nagging, I had talked my parents into stopping in Alamosa on a family vacation to Colorado. We stayed at Bob Richardson’s Narrow Gauge Motel and museum. While talking to Bob, he drew us outside to witness the early evening passage of a real, steam powered, narrow gauge, freight train headed west with two engines and a full trainload of large pipes destined for the oil and gas fields near Farmington, New Mexico. Two days later, our family rode the D&RGW’s Silverton Train behind Engine 476. It was all steam, narrow gauge, with vintage wooden cars and gorgeous Colorado scenery: I never got over it.

In 1880 General Palmer’s “baby railroad” began an unprecedented expansion pushing forward on many fronts simultaneously. That was the same year the railroad began the conversion to standard gauge. The “San Juan Extension,” was just one front in a competition to capture territory. It was built to tap the mining riches of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains near Silverton. The extension reached Chama and Durango in 1881 and was in Silverton by July of 1882.

But by 1965, only 299 miles of D&RGW narrow gauge remained: Alamosa to Durango with branches to Silverton and Farmington, New Mexico. This was the last remnant of a once extensive three-foot gauge system stretching from Denver to Santa Fe and Ogden, Utah as well as to Durango and Silverton. At the peak in 1889, the railway operated 1,861 miles of narrow gauge. But by 1965 most lines had either been converted to standard gauge or abandoned. The Denver & Rio Grande, as it was originally named, was one of the first narrow gauge common carriers in the United States, the most extensive and among the very last.

D&RGW system in 1965. Narrow gauge exteded from Alamosa to Durango with branches to Silverton and Farmington. From Alamosa to Antonito was dual gauge as was the yard in Alamosa.

 

Business had declined severely on the remaining narrow gauge, and abandonment seemed imminent when, by good fortune or ill depending on your frame of reference, there developed a heavy demand for oil and gas drilling supplies and especially for pipe to supply needs near Farmington, New Mexico. The railroad management had no interest in investing further in the line, so only minimal maintenance was provided. Steam power and wooden cars remained standard until the very end, and that end came much later than it otherwise would have.

Of course, after my introduction, I always wanted to go back, but I always feared I would be too late. There was always something to keep me away (school, family, a new job with little or no vacation), but when I quit my job in Houston and headed to California to attend graduate school, I seized the opportunity; I made the trip by way of Chama, New Mexico and Durango, Colorado. The San Juan Extension was still intact, but the pipe business was done, and except for the increasingly popular Silverton Train, clearly business was once again on the decline. I fully expected all would be gone very soon.

 

Chama, New Mexico, Tuesday, September 7, 1965

My first stop was Chama, where the railroad already looked abandoned. Chama was a railroad town; a division point on the railroad. In earlier years it had been a very busy place. Road engines were serviced there as well as helper engines to assist eastbound trains over the 4% grade to Cumbres Pass.

Rotary snowplow OM called Chama home. Some winters, plows from Chama and Alamosa were both needed to keep the 10,015 foot high pass open for business. But the winter before my arrival, the railroad had stopped trying, simply embargoing the line when the snow fell.

My first view of Chama. I found it to be a very quiet place.

 

D&RGW Depot at Chama.

 

Looking railroad east.

 

Rotary OM would never again plow snow for the D&RGW, but it did for the C&TS.

 

Two stalls were all that was left of the once much larger Chama roundhouse with a turntable. Both turntable and stalls were too small for the larger 2-8-2s.

 

Chama water, coal and sand facilities.

 

Looking westbound from near the yard throat.

While I was walking all over the yard, taking photographs, an employee approached me. At first I was concerned that I was about to be evicted, but he was quite friendly. It was clearly a lonely job being master mechanic in Chama with little to do. I asked if the rotary was usable. He replied that he had officially reported it ready, as was expected by management, but it wasn’t and no one really expected it to be.

Always aware of the urgency of pressing on, I took a few more pictures and continued on my way to Durango.

Durango, Colorado, Tuesday, September 7, 1965

I was delighted to see that things were much busier in Durango. The yard was full of freight cars, and there were several engines under steam. Some of these engines were freight locomotives. And, of course, the Silverton Train ran daily all summer.

Durango was also a railroad town. The railroad founded it while ignoring the older settlement of Animas City just across the river. The branch to Farmington, New Mexico left the main line not far out of town. A smelter was built to process ores from the Silverton area, and the Rio Grande Southern Railroad connected Durango with Rico, Telluride and the D&RG’s own line at Ridgway completing what was once promoted by the passenger department as the narrow gauge loop. Both the smelter and the RGS were gone by the time I was there.

Once again I prowled the yard at will. Even though there were more employees in Durango, no one paid much attention to me. Things were much more open and accessible in those days. Much has changed in the years since the end of regular freight service. The yard was contracted after freight service ended. When the Silverton line was sold, fences went up, and access was only possible with an escort.

At Durango, I found 478 being coaled up.

 

478 with a full tender of coal. In those days you could walk all around the property without being chased off.

 

Apparently 484 had been out with a work train earlier that day.

 

Engine 476 returned with the Silverton train.

 

Durango to Silverton, Colorado, Wednesday, September 8, 1965

Silverton was a real boom town when the D&RG reached it. In early days, the railway operated Pullman service as far as Silverton, but more recently the service had deteriorated to a less than a daily mixed train. Three other narrow gauge lines once extended northward toward booming mining areas.

By the time of my visit, freight service had become virtually a thing of the past. What little freight remained had been diverted to Rio Grande Motorway. Passenger service was another matter. Newly mobile tourists had discovered the beauty of the Animas Canyon and the uniqueness and charm of the narrow gauge. Passenger business was booming to the point of stressing the resources of the D&RGW for engines and cars.

This was the day to relive my trip of 1956 aboard the Silverton Train. I was delighted to discover that it had lost none of its appeal after nine years although the crowds had surely grown. In addition to very conventional photo shots, I managed to capture two of the old wooden water tanks, decrepit but still serviceable in 1965. They were later replaced with retired tank car bodies.

The water tank at Tank Creek. I was always fascinated by this tank — too bad it is gone now.

 

Needleton tank is still there, but is no longer used. Both these tanks have been replaced with tank car bodies.

 

Engine 476 and ten cars, not quite downtown. Later the tracks were extended another block to Green Street, Silverton’s main street. People have always liked to pose for pictures in front of the engine.

 

Back in Durango, the 484 was still hot and parked next to the roundhouse. That is derelict K-27 464 behind it. It looked so pathetic, I didn’t even take a picture of it. It now operates on the Huckleberry Railroad in Michigan.

 

Engine 484 is currently operating on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.

 

Durango, Colorado, Thursday, September 9, 1965

My last day in Durango, I followed the Silverton Train to Rockwood, where the tacks diverge from the highway for the rest of the way to Silverton, then I returned to Durango in plenty of time to see the freight extra leave on its two day trip to Alamosa.

Making up an Alamosa bound freight. Note the fancy brickwork on the back wall of the roundhouse.

 

478 doing the switching.

 

Engines for the freight are about ready.

 

Finally moving.

 

Off to the head of the train.

Thanks to Jimmy Blouch, Earl Knoob, Charlie McCandless on the Narrow Gauge Discussion Group, I now know quite a bit more about that train: Durango extra east with engines 493 and 484 departed Durango at 10:30 am with 8 loads and 26 empties. Engineer and fireman on the 493 were Holt and Rentfrow. On the 484, the crew was Headrick and Mayer. The conductor’s name was Henry. The train arrived in Chama at 6:50 pm with 13 loads and 54 empties. There was a bit of business conducted along the way. I watched at Carbon Junction as some pipe cars and idler flats were added into the train. I continued to follow for several miles, but with only a 55mm lens, most of the time the train was out of range. Finally, I said goodbye at a remote grade crossing and resumed my California travel. I never again saw a real narrow gauge freight.

On the 10th, the eastbound extra continued on to Alamosa at 1:00 pm after first making a Cumbres turn. The engines stayed with the trains, but an engine crew that had arrived from Alamosa on the 9th with a westbound freight extra returned to Alamosa with them. The Durango crew returned home with the westbound extra using its engines, the 487 and 483.

About ready to depart.

 

Pulling out of the Durango yard.

 

On her way to Alamosa.

 

Following the river below highway 550. Several cars were loaded with lumber.

 

At Carbon Junction, 25 minutes were devoted to switching and adding some pipe cars and idler flats into the train.

 

Crossing Highway US 550.

 

Note the crossing sign.

 

I said my good-bye there.

 

The end.

Excepting the Silverton branch, the last D&RGW narrow gauge train ran in December 1968. The line between Chama and Antonito was purchased jointly by the states of Colorado and New Mexico. They now operate as the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Rails were pulled up from Durango to Chama, and the Durango yard was condensed with a new turning loop. From Antonito to Alamosa the railroad, including yard trackage, had been dual gauge. The third (narrow gauge) rail was removed. The D&RGW continued to operate the Silverton line for several years, but finally sold it off in 1981. It now operates as the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge.

 

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Railroad Glory Days – Glen Brewer – Iron horses put out to pasture

Railroad Glory Days – Glen Brewer

Iron horses put out to pasture

Scenes from the Piney Woods

Story and Photos © Glen Brewer

In my youth, I was already a steam fan, but by the time I had means to explore and photograph, steam was about just about finished in the United States. My first solo trip far from home was to a new job in Houston after I finished my education. Where could still I find steam along the way?

Trains Magazine regularly documented the sad news of the demise of steam operations throughout the nation. One of the last holdouts was the Moscow, Camden & San Augustine in the east Texas “Piney Woods,” but I remembered reading that not long ago they had bought their first diesel, a GE 44 tonner. The steamers were no longer needed.

I remembered reading about this little short line in Beebe’s Mixed Train Daily. The single photo illustration by Charles Clegg showed a tall-stacked 2-8-0, Number 6, with an old style headlight and high pilot smoking it up with the daily (except Sunday) mixed train to Moscow. Beebe’s colorful prose spoke intriguingly of MC&SA’s other engine, the “Panama Mogul” – so called because it had started its long useful career on the Panama Railroad.

Even though I was too late to see them in steam, I had reason to believe that the locomotives were still in Camden and indeed they were. What I saw when I arrived in the little W. T. Carter & Brother’s company, lumber mill town was amazing. Not only did I find Beebe’s far famed Panama Mogul, MC&SA Number 201, and old Number 6, but also there were eight lumber company steam locomotives and a steam crane stored on the property. Old wooden log cars complete with link-and-pin couplers and lots of spare trucks were there too.

I found the Panama Mogul Beebe had written about — looking a bit worse for wear.

MC&SA Number 6, the engine in Mixed Train Daily, was there too, but the headlight had been changed.

W. T. Carter & Bro., in addition to owning the common carrier MC&SA, had an extensive lumber railroad. The rails into the woods were gone by then, but the locomotives were still there. Some clearly had not been used in many years: as evidence, there were two Number 1s and two Number 2s. In all I saw four Moguls, two Mikados, a Prairie, a Consolidation a Ten-wheeler and a Shay.

There were eight W. T. Carter engines on the property.

There was a lot of rust, and a bit of vandalism, but overall, they were a comely lot. Some had Rushton stacks; Mogul Number 2 had a flanged stack. It was thrilling to walk among these relics huddled together in the back pasture of the lumber mill, but I couldn’t help feeling a sense of gloom. Surely they were all domed — it could only be a matter of time until they, like so many other fine engines, were recycled into bailing wire.

Less than a year later, I learned from Trains Magazine that, when the new diesel required extensive servicing, one of the steamers would be used on the mixed train. For the month of January 1965, W. T. Carter 2-8-2 Number 14 was pulled out of the pasture to do the honors. It would be a farewell performance, and I was there to witness it and ride to Moscow and back.

Making up the train — that is my 1957 Chevy in the background.

A friendly wave from the fireman.

W. T. Carter Number 14 was built by Baldwin in 1923.

The railroads’ sole passenger car was combine 512 built in 1898 for the Long Island Rail Road. The MC&SA acquired it in 1927. The car had been painted red with a green roof, but it took close examination to see the colors in the scant paint remaining.

Both the little white Camden Station and the former Long Island combination car needed a little paint.

Train No. 1 left precisely on the 10:40 am advertised. I well remember this detail because I was standing in front of the engine, taking a nice 3/4 shot, when I heard the familiar two blasts of the whistle, and the train started up. To locals I must have appeared to recreate the old LIRR’s advertising image of the dashing commuter when I caught the rear platform of the combine.

Our train soon reached Moscow – it is only a distance of seven miles. There a man and his young son got off the train to join the wife and mother who had arrived with the family car. Our venerable conductor saw the two leaving and was clearly alarmed. He grabbed his black metal strong box and chased them across a field. He confronted them there and insisted that they had paid for a round trip fare, and if they were not going to return to Camden with us, they must be reimbursed. The conductor was adamant; the man tried to refuse but finally had to relent and accept his refund. The round-trip fare was an astonishing $.50.

Arrival in Camden — Number 14 was just a little too long for the Moscow turntable, so it had to run backward.

I returned several years later to find all the engines still there, although a bit rustier, with a few more parts missing and overcome by weeds.

After a few years, the weeds had taken over W. T. Carter & Bro. Number 1.

Mogul Number 1 was built in 1906.

Elsewhere on the property was a 2-8-2 also carring the Number 1.

Mogul Number 2 with a distinctive flanged stack.

Shay Number 2, Lima 1907, showing quit a bit of rust at the bottom of the tender.

Despite my fears, not one of these ten engines was scrapped. Even the steam crane, the Camden depot and the old combine survive to this day. The engines were scattered to many destinations in Texas and Arkansas. Some are on static display, but several have been returned to service.


Where are they now?

RR Number Type Builder Current owner, Location
W. T. Carter & Bro. 1 2-6-0 Baldwin 1906 Reader Railroad, Reader, AR
W. T. Carter & Bro. 1 2-8-2 Baldwin 1925 B-RI Railroad Museum, Teague, TX
W. T. Carter & Bro. 2 shay Lima 1907 Austin State University, Nacogdoches, TX
W. T. Carter & Bro. 2 2-6-0 Baldwin 1907 Reader, leased to Tavares, Eutis & Gulf R.R, Tavares, FL
W. T. Carter & Bro. 3 2-6-0 Baldwin 1907 Texas Forest Museum, Lufkin, TX
W. T. Carter & Bro. 4 2-6-2 Baldwin 1913 Reader Railroad, Reader, AR
W. T. Carter & Bro. 5 4-6-0 Baldwin 1911 Polk County Museum, Livingston, TX
MC&SA 6 2-8-0 Baldwin 1911 Texas Trans. Museum, San Antonio, TX
W. T. Carter & Bro. 14 2-8-2 Baldwin 1923 Private, Camden, TX
MC&SA 201 2-6-0 Alco 1922 Reader Railroad, at Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Ry, Eureka Springs, AR

 

Railroad Glory Days – Glen Brewer – Riding the Electroliner

Riding the Electroliner

The second Insull interurban was about to expire

Story and photographs © Glen Brewer



A ride to remember

My first train ride was on the blue and gray electric cars of the old Chicago Aurora & Elgin. When the end was obvious for the CA&E, I wanted to ride the lines west to Aurora and Elgin. Somehow I never got around to it; I have been kicking myself ever since.

But the CA&E was only one of three once related interurban electric railways. In the teens and twenties, Samuel Insull acquired control of all three of Chicago’s big interurbans. The other two were the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee and the Chicago South Shore & South Bend.

The interurbans, plus area trolleys and elevated railways, became a small part of Insull’s huge and complex Chicago area utility empire. What these railways had in common was that they were big users of electrical energy.



Under Insull management, many improvements were made to equipment and right-of-way. However, soon after the start of the depression, Insull’s whole empire failed. The company had strongly encouraged investment in the conglomerate, especially by employees. Many people, including many operating employees, lost significant savings just as the depression was worsening. When I was growing up in the suburbs, the name “Insull”, whenever it came up, was pronounced with unmistakable contempt.



By 1962, shortly after the CA&E was the first of the big three to be abandoned, prospects for the North Shore Line were looking especially grim. I was determined not to again lose the fleeting opportunity to ride. So, on summer break from college, I traveled into Chicago aboard the new, bi-level cars of the Chicago & North Western.

From my first trips to the Loop, I had thought of Chicago as a colorless place: The city seemed to me a study of grays and blacks. Years of layering of soot and grime, not only from locomotives, but from office, industrial and household use of coal had contributed. There always seemed to be a gray haze (we didn’t use the word smog then) hanging over the city. To add to this impression, most trains and motor vehicles were drably colored in those days immediately following the war – interurbans seemed always a striking exception.

By 1962, visible air conditions were improving, but much of the old grime remained. With the diesel and streamliner age, conventional trains were becoming more colorful but to me far less interesting.


8:00 A.M. Train No. 801: Electroliners 804-803 arriving Adams and Wabash. Motorman is white-haired Jim Wylie, age 82. Conductors Harry Cawley and John McMillan. (Caption details thanks to John Horacheck)

 

At the North Shore’s small main station on the Loop elevated at Adams and Wabash, I caught the 8:00 am, bright salmon and turquoise stripped Electroliner for Milwaukee. We traveled over the sooty Loop structure with its contrasting bright silver rails around some pretty tight curves, then on to the straight, fast, ground level Skokie Valley line, one of Insull’s costly improvements. Tunnels of steel supported the catenary supplying power to the trolley poles. Our speed increased dramatically.

The CNS&M had acquired the two streamlined Electroliners from St. Louis Car Co. in 1941 – the last new cars on the line. Each was an articulated train set of four cars permanently coupled with controls at each end. One of the center cars housed a small Tavern/Lounge – the only dining car service remaining on the line.

My train traveled the 86 miles in one hour and 58 minutes, as advertised. The trip was swift and uneventful, but on it I noted that the ideal place for a railfan like me was the first seat on the first car – just to the left of the motorman’s tiny compartment.

My Electroliner set (803 -804) standing in the Miluwaukee station awaiting the next departure. (Caption details thanks to John Horacheck)

In Milwaukee I had one hour to wait for the return of the same Electroliner. My original plan had been to wait for two hours over lunch in order to take a conventional train back. But now I was determined to stake out that perfect seat.

The first few miles out of the Milwaukee terminal were street running complete with traffic lights. I was surprised that the Electroliner had a foot-operated bell, just like many slow, conventional trolleys I have seen.

Then we entered private right-of-way, and the speed began to rise. Before long, the speedometer, which I could see through the operator’s compartment window, registered 92 miles per hour. We were still under conventional trolley wire, not the high-speed catenary hung wire we would see later in Illinois. It became obvious why the North Shore was the long time holder of the once coveted interurban speed trophy long ago an annual award by Electric Traction magazine.

I have since learned that the speedometer was not quite accurate, it read a little high, but I remain impressed by the speed attained.


A meet with a special (note the white flags).


From the front seat of train 802: At about 11:32 am, Train 411 is standing at the Racine station as our southbound Liner arrives: Cars in the 411 are 254-776-763-726. (Caption details thanks to John Horacheck)


Electroliner trains 802 and 803 (Liners 802 – 801) meet at about 11:56 am near the midpoint of the trip in Waukegan, Illinois. (Caption details thanks to John Horacheck)

I kept  my seat for quite awhile fascinated by the speed and the view. A little boy joined me, his father remaining in the seat behind. The boy sat transfixed, staring into the window, as I snapped the camera shutter, hand rolled the film ahead and lined up the next subject — always in a hurry to be ready when the next opportunity presented itself. I photographed the other Electroliner and conventional trains we met, but it was past lunchtime, and I was anxious to sample the famous Electroburger in the Tavern/Lounge.


Train 802 leaving Madison & Wells showing Liner set 803-804, with 804 closest to the camera. (Caption details thanks to John Horacheck)

 

I have often wondered if that young interurban enthusiast remembers to this day that blazingly fast ride and the privileged view we enjoyed together. I wonder if the experience changed him for life; I know I’ll never forget my only ride on the Electroliner.


 

Epilogue

On the Tuesday following my adventure, I drove up to the North Shore offices in Highwood. The building was ornate, although a little run down, and dated from 1905. I walked around the mostly empty building until I located a nice old gentleman. I talked to him about the possibility of a summer job. He listened and took an application but was clearly distracted, spending much of the time putting ant poison in bottle caps to combat an infestation in his office. I knew the chances were slight, and they certainly were, but I was sure that it would be an experience I would never forget to work, no matter how briefly, on the old North Shore Line. Nothing came of it, of course.


This Silverliner set was Train 414 which left Milwaukee at noon. Car 763 is in front at about 1:15pm, June 12, 1962. (Caption details thanks to John Horacheck)

On the way home, I stopped at the Highmoor station for a few more pictures. That was the last I ever saw of the CNS&M.

The last CNS&M trains finished their final runs about six months later, in the early morning of January 21, 1963. The two Electroliners went on to serve the Red Arrow Lines in Philadelphia where they were renamed “Libertyliners”. Both are retired now: train 801-802 may be seen at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois where it has been lovingly restored to its original 1941 appearance; train 803-804 is at the Rockhill Trolley Museum in Rockhill, Pennsylvania , still a Libertyliner.

Later that summer, I rode the South Shore, just in case.



Bibliography

Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee Railway in Color, Streetcars & Electroburgers, Vol. 1, by Geoffrey H. Doughty

Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee in Color, Vol. 2: Point of No Return, by Geoffrey H. Doughty

North Shore South Shore, by Russ Porter

Interurban Trains to Chicago Photo Archive, by John Kelly

Days of the North Shore Line, by George V. Campbell

North Shore Line Memories, by George V. Campbell

30 Years Later the Shore Line: Evanston – Waukegan, 1896 – 1955, A photographic rememberance of the Shore Line of the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad by Norman Carlson

The Memoirs of Samuel Insull: An Autobiography, by Samuel Insull

The Insull Chicago Interurbans: CA&E – CNS&M – CSS&SB in Color, by Gordon E. Lloyd

 


Where to see the Liners


Electroliner at the Illinois Railroad Museum in Union, Illinois. Photo by Brian Cazell.

Illinois Railroad Museum

Rockhill Trolley Museum

 

The Colorado Railroad Museum – Glen Brewer

 

Bob Richardson and the Founding and evelopment of the Colorado Railroad Museum

Story and photos

© Glen Brewer (except as noted)

 

I first met Bob Richardson in Alamosa, Colorado at the Narrow Gauge Motel and Museum. The year was 1956, and somehow, by begging, pleading, nagging and cajolling, I had talked my parents into stopping there while on a family vacation to Colorado. I was talking to Bob when he interupted and drew us outside to witness the early evening passage of a real, steam powered, narrow gauge, freight train headed west with two engines and a full trainload of pipes destined for the oil and gas fields near Farmington, New Mexico. Two days later, our family rode the Denver & Rio Grande Western’s Silverton Train behind Engine 476. It was all steam, narrow gauge, with vintage wooden cars and gorgeous Colorado scenery. I never got over it.

In 1953, Bob and a partner opened the motel conveniently located across the road from one of the last, still operating, all steam, narrow gauge railroads in America – originally the Denver & Rio Grande’s San Juan extension. The Denver & Rio Grande started out as an all three-foot-gauge railway and became the most extensive narrow gauge railroad in the United States. By the time of my visit, only this remote line from Alamosa to Durango, with branches to Farmington, New Mexico and Silverton, Colorado remained three-foot gauge.

Following World War II, steam locomotives everywhere were being junked at an appalling rate; there were not many left in service by 1956. Colorado’s remaining narrow gauge railroads, however, remained all steam simply because management had no desire to spend any more money on the narrow gauge.

From-time-to-time, Bob reported in his newsletter, “The Narrow Gauge News” (just send six, pre-addressed, stamped, Number 10 envelopes at a time). Most of the news, of course, was sad. Narrow tracks were being torn up, locomotives and cars scrapped and historic buildings, and records were being destroyed. Most dedicated enthusiasts either just took pictures or simply pined and wrung their hands over the tragic loss of some of their favorite things, but not Bob. He not only took many pictures — he collected on a grand scale. He saved papers, photographs, lanterns, uniforms, silverware, rail, switches, mileposts, station signs, locomotives and cars — in short, just about anything that he could.

Early days in Alamosa (photo courtesy CRRM).

 

Bob and his partner in Alamosa built a buff and brown, Rio Grande Southern type station building for the motel office. Inside the building, was a budding little museum, featuring various smaller bits and pieces Bob had collected. Outside were the bigger relics featuring several narrow gauge locomotives, freight cars and, Bob’s first rolling stock acquisition, D&RGW short caboose 0500. Motel room numbers, mounted on each door, were cast brass replicas of locomotive, smokebox, number plates.

The relocated museum building in Alamosa. It has since been moved again– this time to Monte Vista to serve the Rio Grande Scenic Railway as a depot.

 

When another enthusiast asked Bob why he did not save D&RGW 318, an engine slated to be scrapped, Bob replied in exasperation, “Why don’t you save it?” Cornelius Hauck did. A new partnership was born and made it possible to do much more.

Alamosa was not a good location to draw a crowd, and there was some disharmony there. About 1958, most of the growing collection moved to the present 15-acre location in Golden, although a few items, including caboose 0500, had to be left behind in Alamosa. The sale of RGS locomotive Number 42 helped to make it all possible. The new museum opened for business July 1, 1959.

Golden itself is a historic, railroad town. William A. H. Loveland promoted the town to be the major city of Colorado. The town actually was the territorial capital from 1862 until 1867. Both Golden and Denver vied to be the primary supply city to the burgeoning mines in the mountains to the west. The first rails into the area arrived in Denver, but to remain competitive, Loveland built the Colorado Central Railroad, only the fourth railroad to lay track in Colorado, serving Golden but originally bypassing Denver three miles to the north. At Jersey Junction, it connected to the Denver Pacific and the Kansas Pacific. The CC finally built directly into Denver four years later. West of Golden, the CC tracks followed winding Clear Creek at the bottom of a canyon and three-foot gauge was chosen. The goal was to tap the booming gold and silver mining towns of Central City, Blackhawk, Idaho Springs and Georgetown.

Golden is about fifteen miles west of Denver just into Colorado’s abrupt Front Range and along the banks of Clear Creek. The museum is on the southeast slope of North Table Mountain with Clear Creek and the huge Coors brewery below. Coors is still a major customer of the former Colorado Central (later Colorado & Southern and now BNSF).

The original museum building in Golden.

 

The big move made the collection much more accessible to a major population area and the gateway for many visitors to the state. In 1965, the Colorado Railroad Historic Foundation was established. Bob continued as executive director until he retired in 1991. Significant progress has continued since Bob left. The museum staff has grown to about thirteen, and there are many regular, dedicated volunteers.

Bob lived in an old farmhouse on the museum grounds. Near that site, the new Robert W. Richardson Library opened its doors in 1997. This attractive, brick, station-like facility houses and protects the museum’s extensive collection of photographs, books and records. It is a significant source for research, especially regarding, but not limited to, Colorado railroads.

The Robert W. Richardson Library building.

 

A new brick, five-stall roundhouse, complete with dual gauge turntable, enables indoor, year around restoration work. Formally known as the Cornelius W. Hauck Restoration Facility, the building opened in July of 2000. No longer do volunteers have to work outdoors in all kinds of weather and tote their tools to and from the work site.

The Cornelius W. Hauck Restoration Facility.

Inside the roundhouse, DL&G 191 is undergoing cosmetic repairs. The boiler for D&RGW 318 is in the first stall.

 

The original museum building houses offices, exhibits, an extensive gift shop featuring a comprehensive collection of railway books and a large HO scale model railroad in the basement. Outside are a G scale model railroad, and over 100 narrow and standard gauge engines and cars – not including the 40 locomotives and cars belonging to the former Georgetown Loop Railroad’s operator. Many track additions were essential for temporary storage of that equipment. During the time the museum had no operating steam locomotive of its own, the Georgetown Loop’s equipment served the museum well.

Things are beginning to move about on the museum property. A Colorado & Southern rotary snowplow and Union Pacific 0-6-0 Number 4455, isolated for 35 years, nearly out of sight, were moved across an irrigation canal and a road to the museum’s main grounds where they can now be seen close up for the first time. Office car 96 is now near the main museum building where Donald has found it easily accessed and a good setting for meetings.

New sidewalks avoid some of the old snow, slush and mud problems. Picnic tables and park benches invite visitors to make a day of their visit.

The museum collection has broadened in scope over the years, but it is still quite focused on railroads of Colorado. It is widely known as the place to go for Colorado narrow gauge enthusiasts, historians and researchers. By no means are these visitors all Colorado people or even residents the US. Within the US, Illinois, Texas and California visitors arrive frequently, but about 20 to 25 % of the visitors come from other countries with the UK, Australia, Switzerland, Japan, Canada and Germany well represented.

On August 24, 2006, Bob Richardson enjoyed his very first ride on the 0500. This D&RGW caboose was his first rolling stock acquisition for the nascent Narrow Gauge Museum in Alamosa. Photograph courtesy of Rod Jensen.

 

The summer before he died at the age of 96, in February of 2007, Bob Richardson was back in Colorado enjoying a grand tour of his old stomping grounds. Later, he wrote in a letter, “Trip enjoyable and seeing #9 run again after all these years was a real treat. That was the first time had a ride in the 0500, tho spent a couple of nights in it when motel crowded, so took a nap on a bunk while they had a night photo session at Rockwood.” It was fitting that Bob was finally reunited with his old caboose, which is now in charter service on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge.

 

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Railroad Glory Days – Glen Brewer

Railroad Glory Days 

Glen Brewer

 

USA Railways, Railroad Glory Days

 USA Railways

In the past, the station was one of the most important buildings in any small town or big city. This one was on the tracks of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (commonly “Santa Fe” to most of us, but “Atchison” to Wall Street). Texico, New Mexico is on the mainline at the Texas, New Mexico border — thus the composite name. The photo is from May 1972, and the station has disappeared from Google Maps).#transporttuesday #railfans #SteamySunday #RailwayWednesday
Missouri Pacific south-bound Texas Eagle at the International – Great Northern station in San Antonio, Texas February 8, 1970.”Jay Gould acquired control of the I&GN in December, 1880; due to his control of the Missouri Pacific and the Texas and Pacific Railroad, the three were operated as one system, though they each retained their separate corporate identities and seniority districts.”The I&GN became part of the MP in 1956. (Wikipedia)#transporttuesday #railfans #SteamySunday #RailwayWednesday
Shared publicly  –  Jan 9, 2015
 
  “W. T. Carter & Bro., in addition to owning the common carrier MC&SA, had an extensive lumber railroad. The rails into the woods were gone by then, but the locomotives were still there. Some clearly had not been used in many years: as evidence, there were two Number 1s and two Number 2s. In all I saw four Moguls, two Mikados, a Prairie, a Consolidation a Ten-wheeler and a Shay.” From “Iron horses put out to pasture, Scenes from the Piney Woods” — http://RailroadGloryDays.com/mcsa#transporttuesday #railfans #SteamySunday #RailwayWednesday
At Antonito, Colorado, the Denver & Rio Grande Western narrow gauge branch for Santa Fe passed this attractive stone depot on the left while the mainline to Durango, Silverton and Farmington passed it on the right. Three rail tracks extended here until the narrow gauge was abandoned. The photo was taken May 28, 1972.#transporttuesday #railfans #SteamySunday #RailwayWednesday

USA Railways, Railroad Glory Days

USA Railways

Railroad Glory Days

Tanglefoot Curve on the east approach to Cumbres Pass, Colorado back when the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad was still new — May 28, 1972. The train stopped, and those so inclined were allowed to step off and catch the train at the upper lever. Those boxcars were not the easiest for climbing on and off.

#transporttuesday #railfans #SteamySunday #RailwayWednesday

A friend accompanied me on the June 24, 1961 CB&Q mixed train to Oregon, and we rode on the gondola shown here. After boarding we positioned ourselves near the car side shown. My friend had his ticket in his shirt pocket ready to deliver. As soon as the train attained a little speed, that ticket was caught by the breeze and hit me in the face as it disappeared. The conductor took our word for it — my friend wasn’t required to pay again. I don’t remember the ticket price, but it was probably no more than $20.

#transporttuesday #railfans #SteamySunday #RailwayWednesday

I remembered reading about the Moscow, Camden & San Augustine in Beebe’s Mixed Train Daily. The single photo illustration by Charles Clegg showed a tall-stacked 2-8-0, Number 6, with an old style headlight and high pilot smoking it up with the daily (except Sunday) mixed train to Moscow. Beebe’s colorful prose spoke intriguingly of MC&SA’s other engine, the “Panama Mogul” – so called because it had started its long useful career on the Panama Railroad. See “Iron horses put out to pasture” at http://RailroadGloryDays.com/mcsa

#transporttuesday #railfans #SteamySunday #RailwayWednesday

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy switching the elevator siding at Watertman, Illinois. This was on the Mixed train to Oregon, Illinois excursion of June 24, 1961. More about this locomotive in excursion service here: http://railroadglorydays.com/cbq

#transporttuesday #railfans #SteamySunday #RailwayWednesday

Osier, Colorado back when the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad was still new — May 28, 1972.

#transporttuesday #railfans #SteamySunday #RailwayWednesday

 

 
  Missouri Pacific Train No. 1, the south-bound Texas Eagle stops at Austin, Texas February 8, 1970. Scheduled time was 11:32 am.

#transporttuesday #railfans #SteamySunday #RailwayWednesday

In 1971 the east bound City of Portland waits at Green River, Wyoming — trains from Portland, Los Angeles and San Francisco will be combined there to make a single train of 23 cars behind five diesel-electric units. At Cheyenne the combined trains will be separated into two trains.

#transporttuesday #railfans #SteamySunday #RailwayWednesday