Rio Grande Southern RR - Caboose 0400
This page is dedicated to the story of RGS Caboose 0400, for the years from 1952 until today. Most of this story comes from Jerry Albers, who purchased the caboose in 1973 and sent the following letter to me in Oct 2002.
The Lost Years
A lot of rail fans were surprised to see RGS caboose 0400 when it appeared out of nowhere in 1988. The caboose had a new home in Silver Plume, but where was it all these years?
The caboose was the first one on the Rio Grande Southern and was in use until the railroad ceased operation. It sat derelict in the Ridgeway yards until 1962 when it was sold at a sheriff's auction.
Here's a photo from Hart Corbett of the caboose, reefer 2101, and coach/outfit 0260, sitting very alone at Ridgway in July 1960 (click to enlarge):
The Better Business Club of Ridgway purchased the car for $400.00, to be used as a display at the entrance of town. The car was the subject of a lot of vandalism until it was moved into town to be used in the John Wayne movie True Grit in 1968. (The movie was released in 1969). After being repainted bright red and lettered 'MKT' the caboose was put on display in the city park. Little or no care was taken in moving the car. As a result, a lot of damage was done to end sills. The little caboose sat forlorn, being vandalized and used as a toilet until 1972 when I first visited Ridgeway.
My father, Elton Albers, worked for the D&RGW for 35 years and I grew up in a railroad outfit car. As a result, I had a love for railroads. As a young adult I became very interested in Colorado narrow gauge and here was a narrow gauge caboose needing some attention and love. It took me several months to find the owner of the car, but with the help of the local Postmaster, I found that the car belonged to the Better Business Club, a group that disbanded several years earlier. A local resident named Gertrud Perotie was one of only three people left that were members of the club. I looked her up and expressed my interest in restoration of the car. She contacted the remaining members and they reorganized the club for one last meeting. They voted to sell me the car and in May of 1973, with the help of heavy machinery, I moved the car to my home in Clifton, Colorado.
Here's a series of photos from the move and early work (click to enlarge):
Now I had he task of putting the whole thing back together. Most of the interior was missing. A lot of it had been torn out to be used for campfires in the park. One of the doors had been taken off and used as a picnic table. There were no out houses in the park, so the caboose became the next best thing. Also someone had tried to start a small fire where the caboose stove USED to be. About all that was left inside was the sink and the bunk in the middle of the car. Most of the rest was gone, including the cupola seats. The outlines remained for most everything, so I was ready to start.
My father had recently purchases and old section gang house, to be torn down for the lumber. The house was built in the early 1900's, so the full dimension lumber was perfect for the caboose. After replacing the letter board replacing one rotted and broken end sill, and repairing/replacing the doors and windows, I repainted the car and lettered it "Rio Grande Southern." Now the task came to replacing the inside. Walt Hudson, The old gentleman that lived across the street from me, used to be a brakeman on the RGS. He lived for in Rico for many years, and remembered the caboose quite well. Once when he was injured, he rode in the 0400 from near Trout Lake, to Rico for medical attention. With his recollection I was able to rebuild the interior to what I believe it looked like.
I painted the walls a lime green color. This was one of the many colors I found by scraping the walls. When the car was used in TRUE GRIT half of the inside was painted white. This would be the half that the camera would see. The rest of the car was aluminum silver. I'm sure this was done by the RGS in the final days and was painted that color because it's what they had. The next layer down was the lime green. Then there was an assortment of other colors, including dark green, boxcar red, blue and a real ugly yellow.
A lot of standard gauge outfit cars were being scrapped in Grand Junction in the 70's, so it was easy to get pipe, a caboose stove, metal backing for behind the stove, break wheels and stuff like that. The stovepipe and cabinet hinges were new. The steps going to the cupola were found in a Grand Junction scrap yard. In 1976 I finally completed the caboose. Now it was time to get it some friends. In all, I ended up with 5 narrow gauge cars including Rio Grande boxcar 3001, and D&RG RPO/Outfit car 0120. I also was able to obtain a lot of car parts and track form the Rico yards when the mines we cleaning up in the late 70's. During that clean up time, I was asked if I wanted to Rico water tower. My answer was YES. My request to the mines was to put a fence around it so it would not be buried and burned as the old car bodies were. I have never claimed ownership to the water tower. I just happy it's still standing.
I had started working for Lindsay Ashby in 1972 when he had the Colorado Central Narrow Gauge in Central City. Over the years we became good friends and I always told him if I ever decide to put the caboose on display, it would go to him. In 1988 my wife Theresa and I decided it was time for the rail fans to get reacquainted with the 0400. We moved it to Silver Plume, knowing it would get a full restoration in the near future. The Rocky Mountain winters were rough on the car until restoration time came along. As of this point in time, the caboose is NEW again.
[SJH - by the way, Jerry reported that during the restoration, he found that the body was boxcar red, the roof was metal with black tar paper roofing, and the grab irons were silver.]
I hope this sheds a little light on where the car was all this time. It has been safe and loved. I am looking forward to its new life on the Georgetown Loop Railroad. [SJH: Epilogue 2007 - with the Ashby's no longer operating the Georgetown Loop, all of their equipment was moved to the Colorado RR Museum, in Golden, CO, for storage, and where some of it is occasionally operated. A final destination for all of this equipment hasn't been determined yet.] If anyone has any questions or comments, feel free to contact me at
Jerry L. Albers
Bill's RGS Tech pgs:Interior Photos Drawings
Photos from Jun 2007:pics
Photos from Shane Schabow:(click to enlarge)
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