Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

This, in my opinion, is the numero uno heritage railroad in the USA.  It has run continuously since 1882.

I bring it to your attention for two reasons. One, two couples came into our layout recently bubbling over with enthusiasm over their ride on the Durango and Siverton. Two, I felt the same way after each of my rides.

As one of the United States’s most scenic historic railroads, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNG), with its  steam-powered locomotives and 1880s-era coaches, travels along the same tracks that miners, frontiersmen, and cowboys journeyed nearly 140 years ago. The Durango & Silverton stretch of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was completed in 1882. It was built to transport gold and silver ore from the more than 4,000 mining claims in and around Silverton, Colorado, to the smelters and mills in Durango, 45 miles to the south. But in the 1910s, the Silverton mining boom began gradually subsiding. The D&SNG was then promoted as a scenic route for travelers and tourists. It remains as one of a very few surviving narrow-gauge steam railroads in the United States.

As it leaves Durango, the train’s multiple-chime steam whistle can be heard reverberating throughout the town and along the Animas Valley. As it proceeds north, the train winds alongside the Animas River as it traverses the green pastures of the Animas Valley and then crosses through the spectacular San Juan National Forest. The remote and treacherous route through the mountains includes a dramatic and stomach-churning stretch along the edge of a narrow shelf carved into the sheer granite cliffs 400 feet above the river. The 45-mile route between Durango and Silverton crosses the Animas River five times, has an elevation climb of 2,800 feet, and takes 3-1/2 hours, with the train chugging along at no more than 20 miles per hour. With a layover of about two hours in Silverton, the round-trip is a full-day adventure.

If you haven’t been. here’s a 10 minute vid to whet your appetite.



Galloping Goose (Geese?) Railcars owned by the RGS (Rio Grande Southern Raiload)

We, the Mendocino Coast Model Railroad & Navigation Co.. own two. One is G Scale and runs on our layout. The other is an HO model and resides in our Museum/Library. The Galloping Geese have a fascinating story to tell:

Galloping Goose is the popular name given to a series of seven railcars (officially designated as “motors” by the railroad), built in the 1930s by the Rio Grande Southern Railroad (RGS) and operated until the end of service on the line in the early 1950s. Originally running steam locomotives on narrow gauge railways, the perpetually struggling RGS developed the first of the “geese” as a way to stave off bankruptcy and keep its contract to run mail into towns in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. There was not enough passenger or cargo income to justify continuing the expensive steam train service at then-current levels, but it was believed that a downsized railway would return to profitability. The steam trains would transport heavy cargo and peak passenger loads, but motors would handle lighter loads.

Motors were not only less expensive to operate, but were also significantly lighter, thus reducing impact on the rails and roadbeds. This cost saving meant that the first Goose was paid off and making a profit within three weeks of going into service. RGS built more Geese, and operated them until the company abandoned their right-of-way in 1952.

The RGS built its first motor in 1913, as a track maintenance crew vehicle. This was wrecked in 1925, but inspired the idea of using motors for scheduled service.

All of the “geese” were built in the railroad’s shops at Ridgway, Colorado. The first was built in 1931 from the body of a Buick “Master Six” four-door sedan. It was more conventional in its construction than the later geese, though it had a two-axle truck in place of the front axle. Part of the rear of the car was replaced by a truck stake-bed for carrying freight and mail; this was later enclosed and partially fitted with seating. It was used for two years to carry passengers, US Mail, and light freight before being scrapped.

US mail Galloping Goose

US mail Galloping Goose

A second “goose” was built in the same year from another Buick, but later versions used Pierce-Arrow bodies except for #6, which was constructed partly out of parts taken from the scrapped #1.

No. 2 and No. 6 were constructed with two trucks, with the rear truck powered on both axles. #2 had an enclosed freight compartment (like a very short boxcar), while #6 had an open bed similar to #1 (but larger). It was used only for work train service. The other four had three trucks and were articulated in the same manner as a tractor-trailer truck. In these, the second truck was powered, and the freight compartment was essentially a conventional boxcar.

Initially, the “geese” were painted in black and dark green. In 1935 they were all painted in a silver scheme which they retain to this day, though the style of lettering and heralds changed over the years. In 1945, #3, #4, and #5 were rebuilt with Wayne bus bodies (at least the front half) replacing the old Pierce-Arrow bodies. This provided more passenger seating and comfort. A year later they also received new war surplus GMC engines.

Crews taking up the narrow-gauge rails the Geese ran on, September 1952. In 1950, when the railroad finally lost its mail contract (in favor of highway mail carriers), #3, #4, #5, and #7 were converted for tourist operations, and the “Galloping Goose” name was officially recognized by the railroad. Large windows were cut in the sides of the freight compartments, and seating was added. A figure of a running goose and the words “Galloping Goose” were added to the carbody doors. This service lasted only two years, and the last work of the “geese” on their home line was to take up the rails.

It is unclear exactly where the name “Galloping Goose” comes from. It is mostly commonly suggested that it referred to the way the carbody and the freight compartment tended to rock back and forth on the line’s sometimes precarious track. It is also suggested, though, that the name arose because the “geese” were equipped with air horns rather than the whistles of the steam locomotives. The name was used informally for years before the tourist operations, though the railroad officially referred to the units as “motors”.

A similar unit was built for the San Cristobal Railroad, and was rebuilt by RGS in 1934–35. When the San Christobal folded in 1939, this unit was returned to the RGS railroad and dismantled, with some parts going to rebuild and maintain Goose No. 2.

After a fair amount of searching I’ve managed to assemble pics of Number 2 through 7.

Galloping Goose Number 2

Galloping Goose Number 2

Galloping Goose Number 3

Galloping Goose Number 3

Galloping Goose Number 4

Galloping Goose Number 4

Galloping Goose Number 5

Galloping Goose Number 5

Galloping Goose Number 6

Galloping Goose Number 6

Galloping Goose Number 7

Galloping Goose Number 7

Come to our layout and watch one run.

Rerailing a Steam Locomotive

Today we had two classes of local schoolkids visit the layout on a field trip. Fifty plus children generate a lot of excitement. Fifty plus schoolkids also generate a lot of questions. I give the kids a lot of credit – all but a very few of their questions were on the money. I did pretty good answering their questions. However one young lady stumped me when she asked if locomotives ever came off the track. That was easy, “Yes.” Had I ever been on a train that had come off the tracks? Again easy, “Yes.” I have been on the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad which ran six hours late because of two derailments.Then she asked, “How do they get them back on the rails?”.  Now if she’s asked what are the rules for a pooling of interest I’d have nailed it. Alas, this accountant couldn’t answer her question. As is my wont I wrote the question down and started searching for an answer. Rather than bore you with a lousy answer Have a look at this vid.

The vid is from the Fort Wayne historical Society. The volunteer crew made up of veteran railroaders, experienced mechanics and new recruits wrangled their 200-ton steam locomotive back on the rails. This was not an easy way to spend a Saturday. For those curious, the boiler was filled with compressed air to help move the locomotive.

Having watched the video twice my new answer is, “With a great deal of difficulty.”

Big Boy (UP’s 4-8-8-4) at Laramie Wyoming yesterday May 4th, 2019

They said it couldn’t be done. It was too heavy, too long, it burned too much fuel, and would cost too much to restore. But they were wrong. Union Pacific, Big Boy #4014, now holds the title of the Worlds largest operating steam locomotive. This locomotive underwent a frame up rebuild and is now better than new. She came to Laramie WY. May 4th,2010. This is the first time out since the complete rebuilt. Fist time under own power for 50 years.


A visit to the Stoomtram (Steam Train) at Hoorn in Holland

This is a story of serendipity. I was trolling through Haarlem when I came upon this print in a printer’s shop window.

Print found in Haarlem shop window

Print found in Haarlem shop window

I had reconciled myself to a holiday without a visit to a model railroad or a historic steam train so I was chuffed when I gazed upon this large beautifully executed drawing of a steam engine. A couple of days later the Tulip Parade – floats covered in spring flowers which starts in Keukenhof came into Haarlem. Because it was so cold we did not go and see it come into town late in the evening. The floats stay in Haarlem overnight and the whole world comes to see them the next day.

When we went to see the floats it was cold and clear. As I roamed through the crowd admiring the floats I couldn’t believe my eyes – a Gauge 1 (G Scale) loco and a couple of coaches were running to and fro in a stall. It also had a fab model of a steam loco made out of wood:

Stall at the Haarlem Flower Parade advertising the Stoomtam at Hoorn

Stall at the Haarlem Flower Parade advertising the Stoomtam at Hoorn

One of the guys manning the stall spoke english and he and I had a jolly old chinwag. He told me he was one of 330 volunteers who worked on the historic train at Hoorn. He gave me a couple of pamphlets and wife Sarah and I went back to our wee house to see whether it was “doable.”

We are staying in Haarlem and we determined that Hoorn was about an hour away from Harlem on an inter-city train. A visit was “doable.” When we arrived at Hoorn we looked at the poster below and decided to “do” the train and take the boat trip.

Poster showing the steam train and and museum ship

Poster showing the steam train and and museum ship

We weren’t the only ones taking the trip. The train was packed. The wooden seats shone with many coats of lacquer. We were on the late side and didn’t have time to inspect our loco. When we got to the end of the line I did manage to pop off a few shots:

The museum ship we we were due to ride didn’t leave for  an hour so we  traipsed into town to get a bite. Over lunch I had a bolt of lightening strike me – the loco that had pulled us was the one I had seen the print of in the shop window in Haarlem. Serendipity.

The museum ship like the train had been lovingly restored, The trip along the coast was smooth and enjoyable.

Our steamer - the Friesland - built in 1955 - she was originally a ferry

Our steamer – the Friesland – built in 1955 – she was originally a ferry

The town we landed at was called Enkhuizen, In the port was this beautiful old sailing barge.

 An old fashioned Dutch sailing vessel

An old fashioned Dutch sailing vessel

The town also had some interesting architecture and some feathered fowl:

This last photo you have to look at carefully. When an inter-city train stopped on the line opposite track two birds promptly jumped on the coupler and started pecking away. It was the first time I had ever seen such a thing. As usual lightening struck my feeble brain in  the  middle of the night whilst visiting – the birds were searching for insects killed by the train !!!!!!

An inter-city train comes into the station and look who hops on - never seen the likes of that before

An inter-city train comes into the station and look who hops on – never seen the likes of that before

A great day out!

Here are links to two vids of the Stoomtram. The first shows you the tulip fields that the train passes through. The second shows different locos that have been restored.

Skookum – The Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad Recently restored Steam Locomotive

Skookum is the world’s only operating 2-4-4-2. Skookum returned to operating service this year after a 15-year overhaul at the Oregon railroad on the former Southern Pacific Tillamook Branch. The 1909 locomotive has an amazing story that starts with its rejection by a Tennessee logging railroad, its acceptance in the Pacific Northwest, and its tragic derailment that left it abandoned in the woods. Enthusiasts saved the locomotive and over more than 60 years moved it to safety and eventual restoration.  Here is a photo of the “Skookum” unloading logs at a mill pond in 1953.

Skookum a 2-4-4-2 Loco

Skookum a 2-4-4-2 Loco

These two pictures which were posted in a Facebook page entitled Logging Railroads of the Pacific Northwest. The first shows her when she was wrecked and the second after her restoration.

The wreck of the Skookum

The wreck of the Skookum

The Skookum after resroration

The Skookum after restoration

On my bucket list? You betcha!


Leas Lift, (a funicular railway) Folkstone, Kent, England

Folkstone isn’t one of the better known holiday towns in England. It’s very close to Dover although it doesn’t have white cliffs.  It is is a port town on the English Channel, in Kent, south-east England. The town lies on the southern edge of the North Downs at a valley between two cliffs. It was an important harbour and shipping port for most of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Folkestone was a very important port in the First World War with approximately 10 million troops and others, including nurses, passing through the harbour. Some were troops embarking to serve on the Western Front and others were troops returning home because they had leave or were wounded.

There was a strong international presence in Folkestone, with Canadians based at Shornecliffe Camp and the Chinese Labour Corp camped at the bottom of Sugar Loaf Hill in addition to all the different nationalities who embarked and disembarked or were nursed at local hospitals.

However, Folkestone’s story is about far more than troop movements. It also encompasses the arrival of thousands of Belgian refugees who first landed at the harbour from September 1914. They were assisted by the people of Folkestone town, and then some remained in the local area, whilst others dispersed around the country.

The civilian population of Folkestone felt the War from the air with raids from Zeppelins and the German Air Force, and especially with the Tontine Street bombing on 25th May 1917. Lives were lost in different locations across the town as a result of this air raid, but Tontine Street had the greatest casualties with it being estimated that one device killed 71 people and injured at least 94.

So why am I telling you all this? The reason is that my Grandmother took me there in the period 1949 to 1955. She took me there to stay with her sister and Canadian husband. My grandfather had three horses shot from under him in WWI. The third one severely broke his leg and he was shipped to a hospital in Folkstone. I am not sure if Grandma and Grandad were engaged at that time but she visited him on a regular basis in the hospital there. In the bed next to Grandad was a badly injured Canadian who had no visitors at all. Grandma persuaded her sister to come with her to Folkstone and visit with Johnny in the next bed. Ultimately Grandma’s sister (Emily) and Johnny were married and settled in Folkstone where he continued to be an outpatient at the hospital. During the period of his lengthy convalescence Grandma visited Auntie Em taking me with her.

The great excitement of each trip was a visit and ride to Leas lift. Originally installed in 1885, in Folkestone, Leas Lift is a funicular railway which carries passengers between the seafront and the promenade. It is one of the oldest water powered lifts in the UK. The lift operates using water and gravity and is controlled from a small cabin at the top of the cliff. It has carried more than 50 million people since it opened, in a process that is especially energy efficient. The lift has a very small carbon footprint, as it emits no pollution and recycles all of the water used to drive the cars.

After Auntie Em and Johnny went to Canada I only ever saw her once more – when I emigrated to Canada in 1968. Remarkably Grandma and Auntie Em exchanged an airmail letter once every two weeks during Auntie Em’s entire lifetime.

North Yorkshire Moors Railway in England

As is my wont I was yammering to a bunch of visitors to our layout here in Fort Bragg last Saturday. One visitor cornered me and in a German accent asked me if I had ridden the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. I politely told him, “No.” He explained that his wife was from Whitby (in Yorkshire) and that they had recently visited said railway and had had a great time. He explained that once he’d had a couple of beers he had no trouble with the (broad) Yorkshire accent!!! He gave me a card and scribbled the words, “North Yorkshire Moors Railway” on the back. My conclusion having poked around the net a bit is that I have missed out on a great heritage railway.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) is a heritage railway in North YorkshireEngland running through the North York Moors National Park. First opened in 1836 as the Whitby and Pickering Railway, the railway was planned in 1831 by George Stephenson as a means of opening up trade routes inland from the then important seaport of Whitby. The line closed in 1965 and was reopened in 1973 by the North York Moors Historical Railway Trust Ltd. The preserved line is now a significant tourist attraction and has been awarded many industry accolades.

The NYMR carries more passengers than any other heritage railway in the UK and may be the busiest steam heritage line in the world, carrying 355,000 passengers in 2010. The 18-mile railway is the third-longest standard gauge heritage line in the United Kingdom, after the West Somerset Railway (22.75 miles) and the Wensleydale Railway (22 miles), and runs across the North York Moors from Pickering via LevishamNewton DaleGoathland and terminates at Grosmont.

The NYMR is owned by the North York Moors Historical Railway Trust Ltd and is operated by its wholly owned subsidiary North Yorkshire Moors Railway Enterprises Plc. It is operated and staffed by some 500 volunteers. Trains are mostly steam-hauled. At the height of the running timetable, trains depart hourly from each station. As well as the normal passenger trains running, there are dining services on some evenings and weekends. The extension of steam operated services to the seaside town of Whitby has proved extremely popular.

There are lots of vids of the railway. This one (I think) was the one recommended by the gentleman to whom I was talking:

Please get the impression that the moors are a place you go to sunbathe. Look at the trees and grass ……… bright green huh? Wonder why.