Rio Grande dual gauge question

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Rio Grande dual gauge question
Posted by Leo_Ames on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 11:37 PM

The recent issue of Classic Trains brought to mind a question. How was a train composed of both standard and narrow gauge rolling stock? I understand that couplers on locomotives could be repositioned as needed, as seen in this picture I just pulled up off Google Images.

But for a mix of both types of rolling stock, I assume that they must've had transition cars or whatever you'd want to label them as, with a similar coupler arrangement as seen above?

Anyone have any details? 

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Posted by tomikawaTT on Thursday, December 18, 2014 12:19 AM

The transition cars were standard gauge short flatcars (possibly with ballasted floors) and had three coupler pockets on each end.  The standard gauge coupler was fixed, with the usual draft gear.  The narrow gauge coupler (one per end) would be put into whichever pocket matched the dual-gauge rail centerline, held in place by a large vertical pin.

There was one transition car at Antonito when I visited there many years ago.  Don't know if it's still there.

Chuck

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, December 18, 2014 7:02 AM

The photo shows the rather interesting safety instruction of "Keep Off Footboards".  Such an instruction became more common until footboards were outlawed by an ICC safety directive some time in the 1970's.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by MidlandMike on Thursday, December 18, 2014 9:09 PM

Beebe's book on the Rio Grande shows a steam switcher in link-and-pin days with the triangular coupler pattern: std guage switcher had a SG coupler in the center and two NG couplers below; narrow gauge switcher has a centered NG coupler with two SG couplers higher up.  

Toward the end of the NG era, NG engines often worked the SG local on the Antonito 3 rail line with the aforementioned transition car.  The caboose was SG or NG depending on the conductor.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Thursday, December 18, 2014 10:40 PM

http://www.ghostdepot.com/rg/images/rolling/mow/010793%20idler%20car%20coupler%20end%201995%20jrprn.jpg 

One of my books on the DRGW NG shows a narrow gauge train with a block of standard gauge cars going to/from stations along the dual gauge section.  An idler car at each end of the block, of course.

Jeff  

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Posted by Dr D on Friday, December 19, 2014 6:34 AM

When I saw the duel gauge trackage, I thought the offset couplers were a novel idea.  

What was really impressive were the duel gauge track switches.  The entire freight yard was very impressive and I realized for this to develop, that some railroaders had spent an entire lifetime shipping and working this duel gauge exchange.  It was designed to expedite freight through in spite of trackage variation.

From Alamosa to Antonito it was all duel gauge then a sign posted on the main out of town - "end of standard gauge" and only one set of rails trailing off into the distance.  From that point on, an entire narrow gauge mountain railroad empire was before me.  Yes I was looking at this still in operation in the United States as men were landing on the moon, and during the Vietnam War, it was 1968.

I guess there must still be some form of railroad interchange between the narrow gauge and standard gauge today.  I have not heard that the Colorado narrow gauge is cut off from the rest of the railroad world.  

I remember also, that there was a freight off-loading yard for what had to be trans-loaded between standard gauge cars and narrow gauge cars.  I was actually curious why they did the duel gauge track for that distance between Antonito and Alamosa as this seemed expensive for what was an obvious fact that the trans-loading had to be done anyway.

I guess the gauge exchange was a really big deal and needed a substancial facility to handle it.  Some trains could be handled in each town.  Alamosa was really all about standard gauge and Antonito was really about narrow gauge.

I also recall that during the American Civil War many railroads were not 4'8.5" but varried from state to state.  Then in one momentous day in the late 1860s all the nations railroads pulled rail and respiked and adopted standard gauge.  Before that the trans-loading of freight was commonly done in many places.

There should be some form of interchange yard in Pennsylvania on the East Broad Top and there was also a narrow gauge 3 foot line in Alaska at one time.  I don't know if Alaska railroad connects to any other railroad though, or if all or only part of it was narrow gauge.  I believe, however, it is still isolated from the US and Canadian rail system.

During WWII the US Govenment took seven of the ten 470 series K-28 2-8-2 D&RGW locomotives and used them on the Alaska White Pass and Yukon Railroad.  They were not returned to the Rio Grande after the war but were scrapped in 1946.  I believe the Alaska railroad today is all standard gauge.

Dr. D

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Friday, December 19, 2014 6:55 AM

What's left of the Colorado narrow gauge is strictly a tourist operation so there isn't any interchange with the standard gauge network.

Alaska Railroad has always been a standard gauge operation.  White Pass & Yukon is 36" gauge and no longer handles freight.  At any rate, WP&Y had containerized their freight operations, which eliminated the need to interchange rolling stock or perform transloading.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by rcdrye on Friday, December 19, 2014 7:29 AM

Both East Broad Top (36" Pennsylvania) and Newfoundland Ry/CN changed out trucks on standard gauge cars that they interchanged.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, December 19, 2014 6:40 PM

As has been stated, the remanent of the Cumbres Pass line is a tourist operation.  Further, there is no 3 rail left, and the SG and NG have been physically seperated in Antonito.

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Posted by Dr D on Friday, December 19, 2014 9:42 PM

Too bad, Colorado had an entire narrow gauge empire - the glory of the past all gone for nothing!  What a waste, just so a few railroad execs could show a small line item increase on the balance sheet!  The very substance of the nation - the very muscle of America gone to dust!  Well maybe the tourist railroads can recreate some of what could have been had for next to nothing.

Yes, the spirit of the old west and Colorado was in that narrow gauge empire - how our grandfathers created a civilization from that Rockey Mountain wilderness.  And that little railroad was so beautiful, so fantastically good looking too!  Made Colorado a place you wanted to be.

I never saw that railroad, that I didn't want to see more!  Steam trains whistling among the passes and along the rocky ridge - steam railroad cars ridden by those who saw statehood come, and who mined the gold and silver ore, and who owned the ranches and shipped the cattle.  Yes I saw them riding the horses on round up!  The "old west" still there but almost gone!  And where the hell are you going to get more "old west" when there is none? - just another damn fried chicken shack and more urban sprall - thanks!

And wow they just kicked in for a new Lobatto trestle bridge east of Chama - I think they need to kick in to lay down that missing main line between Chama and Durango at least there would be something of a railroad again!

Colorado - I'd like to aquaint you with the Mayor or Elkhart, Indiana - and the new vison of an America!  "With that old spirit gone that laughed and lived and played under the sun!"

Dr. D

 

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Saturday, December 20, 2014 6:45 AM

The narrow gauge died for a variety of reasons:  traffic sources dried up, lack of easy interchange, obsolescence, couldn't compete with trucks, etc.  The last point is especially telling, in its abandonment petition, Rio Grande noted that an Alamosa-Durango freight on the narrow gauge took 22 hours to complete its run, compared to four hours by truck, including Rio Grande Motor Way (the railroad's truck subsidiary).

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by Dr D on Saturday, December 20, 2014 2:22 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH,

Yah, I think I better become a fan of over the road trucking and give up narrow gauge railroading!  Its easier to live with and I won't need to worry about the glory of the "old west!"  For sure!

Dr. D

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Posted by mudchicken on Sunday, December 21, 2014 8:26 PM

DRD: Come pay the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, CO a visit. Transition flatcar AX-3050 (DRGW) can usually be found in the vicinity of the roundhouse.

(Tonight it happens to be accomodating props for the local Polar Express operation.)

The idler transition cars were carried as work train/ work equipment rolling stock that never left the railroad. Was interested to see the old DRGW VO-660 Baldwins with the unique transition couplers....They sure didn't look that way when they left the property to EMD in 1967 (a pair of S-2's also had this rigging, but were gone by 1963)

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
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Posted by Dr D on Monday, December 22, 2014 10:13 AM

mudchicken,

Thanks for the invite to Golden, Co. I will come for sure!  Are you part of the museum team there?

James Gorden Bennett Jr. was editor of The New York Herald newspaper in the 1870's, and began a new tradition in the United States of "agressive news reporting."  New services like newspapers he felt were required not just to "report the news" but "to effect the outcome of the news" with active participation in the news events!  A pretty progressive idea no doubt.

I think that readers of Trains Magazine should not just be impacted with news but inspired by it - and of course we all know and love Railroading!  So when I write for this forum, I try to write with just such vision! not to talk about some long rusty railroad train, but more, because there needs to be a change inspired for the future of railroading. 

Our America vision of the "Old West" alive and well in the movies for sure, but it is also preserved and captured with with railroads such as the D&RGW narrow gauge!  This railroad is our heritage!  And it is part of the America we should know about and not forget.  Its history and its preservation are something that needs to be carried forward with focus and into the future! - "over the road trucking be damned!"

I will share a favorite story with you,

"Last time I saw the D&RGW narrow gauge was when I finally convinced my wife Lani to ride with me on the back of the Harley Davidson to Four Corners, New Mexico.  She had never been on a cross country motorcycle trip before.  So we left Chicago following highway US 66, and by the time we reached the panhandle of Texas she was exhausted and ready to get off the bike and 'get a jet and go home.' 

After a quiet Coke in the air conditioned truck stop, she she decided to stay the course with me on the bike,  And so we rode up to Durango, NM - which came upon us like a "fantacy land."  The mountain passes of Colorado charmed us! and as they opened up before us so did the D&RGW "narrow gauge" of Durango.

  There in 2004, were the little puffing Mikes still at work!  So we followed the railroad off and on for several days enjoying the water tanks, frequent trains and short curves. There, at one photo opportunity, I observed her dressed in cowboy boots, black jeans and red dress shirt, and my little wife walked north up the "narrow gauge" track intent on some flower she observed.  Suddenly around the bend in the distance came the steam train, RG 473 and cars, headlight on, smoking its way along.  Like a proverbial deer, startled by the train, she ran down the track towards me - looking for all the world like cartoon character Betty Boop chased by a train in some antique movie!"

Made the whole trip worth it!  And I am still laughing today!  And to think I thought I already had all the little dreams the "D&RGW narrow gauge" empire could give!

Seasons Greetings!

Dr. D

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Posted by DS4-4-1000 on Monday, December 22, 2014 1:45 PM

The East Broad Top had a pair of standard gage switchers stationed in Mount Union.  They had both the standard gage and narrow gage couplers mounted.

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Posted by gbrewer on Thursday, December 25, 2014 12:58 PM

D&RGW dual gauge coupler car at the Colorado Railroad Museum.

Dual gauge coupler car

 

Glen Brewer
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