Chapter #298: Durango, CO - Engine #476 - 1965 - December 4, 2013

The author, Jim McGillis inspects Engine No. 475 at the Durango, Colorado Depot in 1965 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Ride the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad from Durango to Silverton, Colorado in 1965 (Part One)

On August 12, 1965, my father, Dr. L.N. (Duke) McGillis and I arrived in Durango, Colorado. At the time, we were midway through a Grand Circle Tour of the Four Corners Region. Early that evening, we saw news reports that much of South Los Angeles was in flames. On our black & white motel TV screen, “The Watts Riots” were playing out live. Each evening, for the next several days, we watched our native Los Angeles represent racial, political and economic unrest in America. The contrast between the TV images and our idyllic sojourn to Durango was obvious.

In 1881, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad had organized the town of Durango for business, not for pleasure. In fact, Durango, Colorado was named after Durango, Mexico, one thousand miles to the south. In keeping with the exuberance of the times, the company planned a rail link that would one day connect the two Durango towns. As with so many Steam Age plans, that route never came to pass. The southern branch line never extended beyond Farmington, New Mexico, fifty miles to the south. In Durango's heyday, tracks ran south to Farmington, New Mexico, east to Alamosa, and west to Mancos and Dolores, Colorado.

Durango, Colorado Depot in 1965 - Engine No. 476 at full steam - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)The original purpose of the railroad hub at Durango was to serve the San Juan mining district. For seventy-five years, ore trains, smelting and the transportation of refined metals dominated the Durango economy. Although both gold and silver mining played out by the turn of twentieth century, as late as World War II uranium was still the hot
mineral in town. In several of our 1965 Durango Depot photos, a large white mountain sits in the background. The old American Smelter tailings pile, along with its attendant chimney was still a dangerous reminder of the uranium business in Durango.

Until the early twentieth century, the Rio Grand Railroad and horse trails were the only ways to reach Durango. In fact, the first automobiles to enter Durango did so by train. Ringed by high mountains, watered by a perpetual stream, Durango fits nicely into the green and verdant Animas River Valley. From its beginning, Durango ranked as the dominant commercial and transportation center within the Four Corners Region. Despite its strategic location, Durango did experience trouble. In the 1950s, as rail transportation and mining crashed, only the tourist trade kept Durango alive. During the 1960s, the population of Durango slipped from 10,530 to 10,333.

By the time of our 1965 visit, there were three “must see” attractions in and around Durango. Thirty-six miles to the west on U.S. Highway 160 was Mesa Verde National Park. Stretching north, the “The Million Dollar Highway” (U.S. Highway 550) connected Durango and Silverton, Colorado. Third and most interesting to me was the narrow gauge railroad that also linked Durango and Silverton.

Often called simply the “Rio Grande”, the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) was then a company in transition. By 1968, Durango lost both its eastern and southern rail connections. Only the Durango & Silverton line remained operational. With little ore to transport and the Million Dollar Highway replacing its passenger service, the precursor to today’s Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad struggled to survive.

With a blast of steam up the chimney, Engine 476 moves out of Durango Depot in 1965 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)After visiting Mesa Verde and driving the Million Dollar Highway, there was only one thing left for us to do in Durango. On our third day there, we traveled on the steam train from Durango to Silverton, and then back again. In those days, there was no motor coach alternative. Today, passengers can take the bus from Durango to Silverton and then ride the train back to town. Alternatively, they can ride the train up to Silverton and then return by bus. Stalwarts and diehards ride the train in both directions..

Although we had reservations on the second train that day, we arrived early to see Engine 476 preparing to pull the early train out of the Durango Depot. Pulling a line of mismatched passenger cars, the forty-two-year-old engine continued to serve its original purpose, which was to pull passenger trains. Until DRGW ended its Durango-Alamosa passenger service in 1968, Engine 476 likely served on both the Silverton and Alamosa lines.

In 1923, the Schenectady Locomotive Works built ten 470 Series (or 2-8-2 K-28) for the Rio Grande Western Railroad. With its 2-8-2 wheel-plan, the 470 Series engines had both a lower center of gravity and higher capacity boilers than is possible with older style 2-8 wheel-plans. Sporting a diamond chimney shroud, the locomotive evoked the style of the Orient. Thoroughly modern when constructed, in 1965 Engine 476 looked every bit the “Mikado” that it was.

The class name "Mikado" originates from a group of Japanese type 9700 2-8-2 locomotives, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works for the Nippon Railway of Japan in 1897. The Gilbert and Sullivan opera "The Mikado" had premiered in 1885, so the name was still on the minds of many in America, where the opera achieved great popularity. Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Modern Major-General’s Song”, in “The Pirates of Penzance”, had helped popularize the word “modern”.

In 1965, Denver & Rio Grande West Engine 476 launches at the camera - (http://jamesmcgillis.com)With great optimism about the future, the 1920s represented the epitome of modernity in American Life. As soon as the ten new K-28 engines joined the DRGW fleet, those powerful, compact Mikados became the favored engines for short-haul passenger and freight routes throughout the system. In a nod to the nacient Streamline Moderne style, their forward mounted air-brake systems and their Japanese Mikado-style chimneys fit the modernity of their time.

It is sad to say that somewhere along the line; all three of the Durango & Silverton K-28 engines have lost their classic chimney shrouds. In each of their places now stand a vertical pipe and cylindrical black shroud. In the interest of historical integrity, it would be nice to see the D&SRR add historically correct diamond-stack chimney shrouds to all three remaining 470 Series Mikados. As these utilitarian engines approach their hundredth anniversary, the recreation of an authentic historical style should be a priority.

That day in 1965, as we waited for the early section to leave the Durango Depot, there was tension in the air. Upon arrival, we observed a steady stream of black coal smoke emanating from the chimney of Engine No. 476. Before we arrived that morning, the yard crew had attached the engine to the train. When the engineer finally climbed aboard Engine No. 476, we knew that the action was about to begin. With his Nikon F 35-mm film camera ready, my father stood astride the tracks. Standing behind him and to his left, I held my vintage Mamiya 16-mm film camera at the ready. Not wanting to miss the action, we soon walked across West College Drive and then along the tracks. From our new vantage point, we would see the engine coming toward us, almost head-on.

With its steam whistle blowing photographers off the track, Engine No. 476 departs Durango Depot in 1965 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)On that day in August 1965, Engine No. 476 appeared historically correct and ready to go. First, the steam powered whistle wailed. As the fireman stoked the firebox, the engineer opened the throttle valve, sending superheated steam into the cylinders, thus driving the pistons and turning the wheels. Another valve sent steam up the blast pipe and out through the chimney. That blast of steam increased the draft across the fire grate. As this powering-up took place, steam and coal smoke shot high into the morning sky. Already “up to steam”, the locomotive soon began to move along the tracks.

In order to capture the scene, my father had positioned himself astride the tracks. Not being as brave as he was, I positioned myself off the tracks, behind him and to his left. In those days, after snapping a picture, the photographer had to advance the film with a thumb-lever. Only after advancing the film could he snap his next picture.

Once the train began to move, it accelerated more rapidly than either of us had expected. To my surprise, my father stood his ground, snapping a photo of the train as it headed straight for him. Somewhere in all of that excitement, he was able to get one more close-up of the approaching engine. For my part, I got one shot of my father astride the tracks and another as he turned and ran. Although he was smiling in my second shot, he also appeared giddy with fear.

To this day, I am not sure how close Engine No. 473 came to my father and me. Being one who has observed the sheer power of a K-28 Mikado steam engine coming toward him on the tracks, I can say that the experience is enough to instill both respect and fear. Once we had calmed down, we sauntered over to the depot. There we boarded our own train, pulled by the venerable K-28 Mikado Engine No. 478.

This Part One of a two-part article. To read Part Two, Click HERE.


By James McGillis at 03:30 PM | Travel | Comments (0) | Link

Blog Search

 →  Recent Posts

Snow in Death Valley National Park
The Colorado River's Demise - 2023
The Four Corners Region - Part 5
The Four Corners Region - Part 4
The Four Corners Region - Part 3
The Four Corners Region - Part 2
The Four Corners Region - Part 1
Mammoth Lakes, Summer 2020
Morro Bay, CA - Fire Season 2020
Camping at Panamint Springs, Part 2
Camping at Panamint Springs, Part 1
Camping at Mojave Preserve in 2020
Death Valley Winter Camping 2019
Edward Abbey & Friends at UNM Ch. 5
Edward Abbey & Friends at UNM Ch. 4
Edward Abbey & Friends at UNM Ch. 3
Edward Abbey & Friends at UNM Ch. 2
Edward Abbey & Friends at UNM Ch. 1
Planned Desecration of The Book Cliffs
Thompson Springs, Utah - History
Visit Historic Thompson Springs, Utah
Santa Susana Field Lab Contamination
Classmate Bob Lovejoy (1948 - 2018)
Titus Canyon and Titanothere Canyon
2018 - Is The Future a Mirage?
Return of the Moab Burro Crane
Moab - Desert Rocks Festival 2011
Moab, UT - Negro Bill Canyon Remains
Yosemite High Country Devastation
Furnace Creek - Death Valley, Calif.
Zabriskie Point - Death Valley, Calif.
Crescent Junction, Utah - New History
NTSB Final Report Omits Critical Data
Winter Camping in the Mojave Desert
2017 - Burbank Rose Parade Float
Sarah Thomas - World Record Swim
A Family Visit to Kaua'i, Hawaii in 1988
2016 - Cow Springs, AZ Trading Post
Metrolink - Meager Track Maintenance
'16 Beverly Hills Concours d'Elegance
It's Time to Audit Metrolink Operations
Ventura County - Deadly Rail Collision
Ventura County, CA - Rail Safety 2016
Metrolink Ignores Mismatched Brakes
Agencies Ignore Rail Safety Issues
Nevada - Vote Now to Bring Back Solar
Ventura County Rail Deaths Scandal
Google Pop Car- Rail Safety Plan
BNSF Locomotives on Metrolink Trains
2015 - Time to Phase Out Lake Powell
Navajo Power Plant Heat Island Effect
Of Mudflats and Methane Volcanoes
Metrolink Anti-Derailment Blade Failure
Metrolink to Spend $338 Million
The Glenn Steele Memorial Overpass
5th & Rice - A Deadly Railroad Crossing
The One, the Only - Plush Kokopelli
Metrolink Train Crash, A Personal Story
Moab, Utah - Lions Club Park - Part 2
Moab, Utah - Lions Club Park - Part 1
Deadly Crude Oil Trains Coming Soon
Metrolink Oxnard Train Collision Report
2015 Rare California Rain Barrels Help
So. California Lakes Soon to Disappear
C.Proietto - Cattolica, Cafe Eden Roco
Hollywood: "Violence is the New Sex"
2014 Spanish Valley Vineyards
Durango & Silverton Railroad Story
Is it Too Late to Save Moab, Utah?
BLM & SITLA - URLEA Subterfuge
Moab Pile to be "Moab Pit" - 2029
Moab in Springtime - May 2014
Old Mesquite, NV - Gone For Good
I-15 North - Mojave Desert Tour
Grand Co. Plans to Desecrate Site
Moab - County Plans Fail the Test
2014 - Quantum Leap in ATM Theft
Moab Kiley - Peaceful BLM Protest
Stop The BLM-SITLA Land Swap
Utah Recreational Land Exchange
Burro Cranes - A Complete History
Moab Burro at Seven Mile Canyon
Brightsource Solar's Flawed Design
Trend - Horsepower Mitigation Fees
Moab Rim Campark Sold in 2014
Durango, CO - Engine #478 - 1965
Durango, CO - Engine #476 - 1965
Red Lake Trading Post, Tonalea, AZ
Deconstruction at Cow Springs, AZ
Cow Springs, Navajo Art - 2013
Navajo/Hopi, New Energy Dilemma
Peabody Coal Stripmine Disappears
An Arizona River Dies in the Desert
Black Mesa Coal - Water & Power
2013 - The Great Western Drought
Homolovi State Park, AZ - No Ruins
C.Proietto Paints at Lago Maggiore
American Bison Herd Threatened
I-40, Twin Arrows - Both Old & New
Simi Valley Brush Fire - Air Power
I-40: Highway Tax Dollars At Work
Kristi Frazier - World Citizen Award
Sierra Nevada, CA - 2013 Drought
Desolation Canyon Wilderness Area
The Holbrook Basin Potash Project
Moab - Revisit Seven Mile Canyon
Moab - Greater Canyonlands N.M.
Thomas Kinkade - Yosemite Valley
C.Proietto Paints Lugano, Gandria
Paso Robles, CA - Wine Adventure
Colorado River Dine & Unwind Moab
Kodiak 100 --> Moab Charter Flight
The True Cost of Mineral Extraction
Moab Truck - 1950 Chevy 3100
Disappearance --> Reemergence
Edward Abbey - His Spirit Returns
Edward Abbey - Monkey Wrenching
Edward Abbey - Lake Powell 1965
Edward Abbey - Desert Solitaire 65
A New Message From AAMikael
C.Proietto Paints Bad Kreuznach
New Jersey - The New Atlantis?
Moab - A Rare Beech B-45 (T-34A)
Howell Mountain, CA - Winemaking
Oakville, CA - Robt. Mondavi Wines
Crescent Junction, UT - in 1955
Craig Childs - Apocalyptic Planet
Mammoth Lakes, CA - 1st. Snowfall
Mesquite, NV - A Disappearing Act
The Mystery of Hovenweep Road
Moab Airport - Canyonlands Field
Moab, UT - Save Ken's Lake Puddle
Jeeps & Downtown Abbey in Moab
Moab Valley vs. Spanish Valley, UT
Moab, Utah - Go Behind the Rocks
Moab Adventure Xstream Race '12
Face on Mars - Is it John Lennon?
C.Proietto - Paints The Dolomites
Moab Tower - The Wireless Story
Brendel, Utah - A History Mystery
C.Proietto - New Mystery Painting
Tsunami Risks Up in Crescent Bays
"Moab Native" Potash Comments
C.Proietto - And The Glory of Rome
L.A. to Australia, by 34-ft. Sailboat
Interstate I-70 East through Utah
Mesquite, NV - Opportunity Lost?
Las Vegas, NV "Drive-by" - I-15N
Ivanpah Valley, CA - Mega-Solar
Pearblossom Hwy. - Palmdale Road
C.Proietto - Venice Sunset, Sunrise
24-Hours of Moab 2012 to Happen
C.Proietto - A Portrait of the Artist
AOL & Yahoo Mail Getting Hacked
ATM Retail Technology - New & Old
C.Proietto - Solving An Art Mystery
Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles, CA
Hollywood - To The Sign & Beyond
Hollywood - Legendary Paul Pink's
Kokopelli Credit Union - New ATM
#1 Google Ranking & How to Get It
C.Proietto - Two New Oil Paintings
LACoFD Truck 8 at Hollywood Bowl
I-405 Golden Crane Air Hazard
Beware: Hoax/Scam Phishing Sites
A Quantum Leap in Super PAC $$$
I-405 Mulholland Bridge Update
Moab Skydiving Video - May 2011
Tonopah Desert, AZ Thunderstorm
Anticline Overlook - Ancient Spirit
ATM Bank Robbery Now Easier Still
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
Chaco Canyon - Kin Klizhin Sunset
Chaco Canyon - Kin Klizhin Ruin
Chaco Canyon, Spirit of Lizard Man
Chaco Canyon, NM - Campground
White Mesa, Utah - Uranium Mill
Hidden Costs in Biofuels Revealed
Arches National Park Threatened
Moab Rail - The U. P. Potash Local
Toxic Purple Dust Covers Moab, UT
U.S. Highway 191 in Moab, Utah
Kindle Fire Tablet vs. Nook Tablet
Ken's Lake 2011 Update, Moab, UT
24-Minutes of Moab Kids Bike Race
24-Hrs. of Moab, The Final Sunset?
24-Hours of Moab 2011 Race Start
24-Hrs. of Moab Race Live Webcam
The Long Run - Eagles Tribute Band
Petrified Forest, Going, Going, Gone
Nuclear Dust Storm Hits Moab, UT
Moab Rainbow - August 1, 2011
C.Proietto - The Man From Amalfi
I-405 UCLA Rampage - 11/22/66
Moab Rim RV Campark - 2011
C.Proietto Paints the Amalfi Coast
C.Proietto - Modern Impressionist
I-405 Mulholland Drive Bridge
Moab Pile - Countdown to Disaster
Wigwam Village - Holbrook, AZ
Kathy Hemenway - World Citizen
Desert View Mobil - Needles, CA
Mojave Desert Transit in May 2011
Colorado River Basin At Risk - Ch.4
Holbrook, AZ Water Crisis - Ch. 3
Holbrook Basin, AZ Potash - Ch. 2
Little Colorado River Basin - Ch. 1
Port Orford, Oregon - Tsunami
Hope for Atlantis - Chapter 4
Future of Atlantis - Chapter 3
The New Atlantis - Chapter 2
Atlantis, Myth or Fact? - Chapter 1
Kevin Rutherford - Freightliner RV
WindSong - Ericson 35 Sailboat
Moab Pile - The Mill Tailings Train
Moab Pile - Here Comes the Flood
24-Hours of Moab 2010 - The Race
24-Hours of Moab 2010 - The Start
24-Hours of Moab 2010 - Pre-Race
Moab, Utah - Winter Snowstorms
Happy New Decade - 2011
Save Ken's Lake, Moab, Utah 2010
UPS Air - Moab, Utah Style
Crescent Junction & Brendel, Utah
Green River to Floy, Utah - Video
Moab Ranch - The Movie & Webcam
An Oregon Cascades Range Sunset
The Port at Port Orford, Oregon
Simi Valley, CA Two Live Webcams
Two New MoabLive.com Webcams
Ave. of the Giants, Humboldt, CA
Port Orford, OR - Of Bears & Deer
Goodbye Arizona - We'll Miss You.
Port Orford, OR - A Forest Home
Sun, Moon and the Chakras of Gaia
2010 Super Bowl Advertising
Navajo National Monument Sunset
California Redwoods Elk Herd
A New Decade - The 2010's Begin
Moab - Could Floods Happen Here?
Spanish Valley, UT - Wine & Water
24 Hours of Moab Race - 2009
CA - Rainforest or Dustbowl?
Edward Abbey House, Moab, UT
Kayenta, AZ to Blanding, Utah
U.S. Highway 89 N. to Navajoland
Quartzsite - Black Canyon City, AZ
Simi Valley, CA to Quartzsite, AZ
Phoenix, Moab, The Grand Canyon
Colorado River - A New Challenge
Moab, Utah - The Shafer Trail
2009 - Moab Live Webcam Update
Moab, Utah - Potash Road, Part 2
Moab, Utah - Potash Road, Part 1
SITLA Deal Threatens Uintah Basin
Moab Wildfire Near Pack Creek, UT
Moab Ranch - Plasma Flow Event
Mill Creek Canyon Hike - Part Two
Mill Creek Canyon Hike - Part One
Memorial Day 2009, Burbank, CA
A Happy Ending for the Moab Pile?
The Old Spanish Trail - New Again
Mesquite, Nevada - Boom or Bust
Larry L. Maxam - An American Hero
Winter Camping in the Desert 2009
Theory of Everything - Part Four
Theory of Everything - Part Three
Theory of Everything - Part Two
Theory of Everything - Part One
Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah
Access New Energy Now - 2008
The Four Corners States - Part 5
The Four Corners States - Part 4
The Four Corners States - Part 3
The Four Corners States - Part 2
The Four Corners States - Part 1
BC Buckaroos in Panama
Elton John T-shirt, Now Available
Arches National Park Threatened
BC Buckaroos Are Heading South
San Francisco, A New Energy City?
Seven Mile Canyon, Craig Childs
Matheson Wetlands Fire, Moab, UT
24-Hours of Moab Bike Race Finish
24-Hours at Moab Bike Race, Start
New York - The New Atlantis
Translate to Any Language Now
Marina del Rey, Summer Weekend
Seattle Shines in the Summertime
Oregon Battles With Itself - 2008
The Motor Yacht, Princess Mariana
Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park
The Mojave National Preserve, CA
Navajo National Monument, AZ
La Sal Mountains Loop Road, UT
The Moab Rim, Above and Below
Colorado Riverway Recreation, UT
Hovenweep - Twin Towers Standing
Aztec, New Mexico - Ancient Ruins
Kin Klizhin Ruin at Chaco Canyon
The Spirit of Pueblo Bonito, NM
Chaco Canyon, NM Sand and Rain
Homolovi Ruins State Park, AZ
ATM Bank Robbery Made Easy
Outstanding World Citizens, Fiji
Planning an Archetype Party
Sir Elton John - The Lost Concert
Start Writing Your Own Blog
My Unification Theory - 2008
Frito-Lay Beach-Trash Explosion
The Great Attractor, Revealed
Vibrational Thought & String Theory
The Long Run - Eagles Tribute Band
2006 Midterm Elections, Revisited
The Lost Murals of Denis O'Connor
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 10
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 9
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 8
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 7
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 6
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 5
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 4
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 3
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 2
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 1
Save Natewa Bay, Fiji Islands
The Fiji Islands - Paradise Lost?
Face on Mars
How Water Helped Make The West
Yahoo! - Fighting Its Last Battle?
Helium Gas, Neither Earth nor Mars
Megatrend vs. Meganiche - 2007
German Hydrogen Bomb Ready
Passing The $100,000 Bill
Google Wins - Microsoft Withdraws
A.Word.A.Day, You Ought to Know
San Fernando Valley Winemaking
Divine Inspiration, Or Nearly So
Japanese Win The Space Race
2007 eCommerce - Made Easy
Discovering The Great Reflector
Navajo National Monument, Arizona
Moab, Utah Memories - 2007
Fall Color, Silverton, Colorado
Autumn Equinox in the Rockies
Hasta la Vista, Taos, New Mexico
Megatrends 2010 - The Book
The Quantum Leap, New Mexico
Chaco Canyon Memories 2007
Flame-Out in Phoenix, Arizona
Annals of Homeland Security '07
Quartzsite, AZ - RV Camping
The Quantum Leap Celebration
Welcome to my new weblog 2007!

Colorado River
Current Events
Fine Art
Moab, Utah
Mojave Desert
Personal Articles
Railroad Safety
South Pacific

‹‹ April 2024 ››
Wk M T W T F S S
14 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
15 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
16 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
17 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
18 29 30          

Please visit our other sites in the MoabLive network.


© 2007 JamesMcGillis.com - All rights reserved. | Contact Me | Privacy Policy | Sitemap | RSS | Atom | Admin | Design: Nicholas Savalas | Author | Publisher | Top