Rio Grande Southern RR - Historical Timeline (1900-1909)

Below, in tabular form, is a summary of the history of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, which ran from Ridgway to Durango in Colorado. Each entry has references included, with the name of the book or document abbreviated. The references are hyperlinked to another page where full details for the references can be found.

This list is still under construction, and somes dates are only approximate. As I get through more of my sources, more exact dates will be used. Remember, this is just a beginning!

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1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s Post 1953

1900 - 1909






Early 1900 The branch from Ute Jct (near Hesperus) to the Ute Coal and Coke company is torn up. Ssj, p87
2-2-1900 Rotary #2 sent to D&RG to clear Cumbres and Marshall passes, but breaks a wheel and is taken to Alamosa for repairs. Meanwhile, blizzards strike the San Juans and completely block the RGS, isolating Telluride, Ophir and Rico. [Snow] Ssj, p264
2-7-1900 Another blizzard strikes, lasting 2 days, undoing the week's worth of snow clearing RGS crews had just finished and closing the line again. [Snow] Ssj, p264
2-10-1900 The storm breaks somewhat and 5 locos and a flanger depart Ridgway, reaching Lizard Head's sheds on Feb 11th. Another storm then hits, isolating Telluride again and closing smelters in Durango for lack of coal and ore. Rotary #2, meanwhile, is repaired and clearing Cumbres pass again, heading back to the RGS with Superindent Lee aboard. Mgmt was having second thoughts about ever selling Rotary #1. When Rotary #2 finally returned, the RGS was cleared without much difficulty. [Snow] Ssj, p264
5-2-1900 Superintendent W.D. Lee's private car turned over near Dix. [Accident] W. George Cook
6-7-1900 Engineer Charles Talbert is killed when the #2 derailed and turned over near Mule Shoe Curve. His brother, Grover, was engineer on the rescue train dispatched from Durango behind D&RG #171 and didn't learn of the death until he arrived at the scene of the accident. See article, although the names are different; seems unlikely two accidents would occur on this date, so one of the references must be incorrect. [Fatality] Ssj, p113
Daily Journal
10-22-1900 Engineer Frosty Williams was bringing 14 cars of ore south through Burns Canyon, toward Rico, with locomotive #19. An air hose flopped loose and the train lost most of its brakes (straight air). Williams whistled for brakemen to set hand brakes, but the train was moving too fast by then. Conductor Brown pulled the pin (link-n-pin couplers) on the caboose and stayed with it. The rest piled up at MP 64.6 (Winkfield). Fireman Bill Morrisey broke his leg, and all 14 cars were thrown 40-50' down the hill. The RGS took several years trying to collect the spilled ore. [Accident] Crum, p175
11-30-1900 A half-dozen buildings in Ophir are destroyed by a large fire (apparently arson, set about 2 am). The Glendale Hotel was destroyed, as well as a warehouse used by Mr. Skillen. This storehouse exploded when the fire reached the basement, where some powder was stored; the flying timbers seriously injured a man shoveling snow on bridge 45-A (which helped save it), some 200' away. Bridge 45-A was only slightly damaged. The explosion did manage to prevent the fire from burning Mr. Skillens store and the Ophir depot, though. A freight car on the other side the creek was also burned. A train was able to pull a number of other cars from the siding, saving those. There are many more details in this newspaper article. [Fire] Daily Journal
1901 The Black Hawk-Enterprise branch above Rico, with its 5% grades, is seldom operated during the winter after 1900, since the snow was difficult and the mining sporadic. Ssj, p265
4-1-1901 A newspaper article is published announcing the creation of the Perrins Peak coal mine, owned by the Boston Coal & Fuel Co. There's lots of details here about the new mine, it's tunnels, and the land nearby. The tunnels looked like they were 'built to last', and were wide enough for parallel mine tracks, and were over 6' in height. This was very generous for the time, I understand. Each of the two tunnels was expected to eventually extend 1750' into the hillside. The company owned 640 acres, and the work was overseen by the young BC&F president - Mr. George C. Franklin (who wasn't even 30!).

The article also announces the construction of the 4-mile branch from the RGS to serve the mine (departing the RGS at what became known as Franklin Jct). Supervisor Wigglesworth (who laid out much of the RGS's south end) was doing the surveying work. The article notes that BC&F would own its own locomotives and rolling stock, and would operate them into Durango themselves, under supervision of the RGS.

If you check my route listing under MP 159.3 (toward the bottom), you'll find links to maps, photos, and many other details about this mine.
Durango Democrat, 4-4-1901
4-21-1901 Snow slides near Mancos block the line for about 3 hours. [Snow] W. George Cook
4-23-1901 More slides block the line between Vance Jct and Ophir, for about 8 hours. [Snow] W. George Cook
4-26-1901 A.A. Rust is furnishing lumber to the Uranium district, delivering it to J.H. Lyton's ranch at MP 100.4. Dolores Star
May 1901 The Boston Coal & Fuel Co hires Thomas Wigglesworth to locate and build a branch from the RGS to coal deposits at Perins Peak. The junction became known as Franklin Jct (3 mi W of Durango). The branch was 4.7 miles long, and climbed at a steady 4.5% grade. Ssj, p387
5-4-1901 The RGS is forced to dynamite a large rock, which was blocking the line around MP 79. [Rocks] W. George Cook
5-20-1901 The highest river levels since 1884 washed out sections of track from Rico to Big Bend / Dolores. [Floods] W. George Cook
Summer 1901 A.A. Rust hires civil engineers Gibbs and Greenwood (of Telluride) to build a logging railroad from his newly-relocated lumber mill (near MP 98 on the RGS, about 4.5mi n of Dolores). Three steep switchbacks were required to lift the line from the RGS grade to the plateau above. The logging line was 2mi long at first, but was later extended north to Bean Canyon, about 4mi north of the RGS jct. Ssj, p388
6-3-1901 Freight wreck near Durango. [Accident] W. George Cook
7-23-1901 Line blocked at Bear Creek switch. W. George Cook
8-21-1901 A.A. Rust writes RGS superintendent W.D. Lee, saying he's in a great hurry to complete the switch between his logging railroad and the RGS, near MP 98. The line actually crossed the RGS, w/a spur joining the two tangents. Ssj, p388
9-20-1901 A box car got loose at Rico Wednesday morning and started for Dolores behind the freight. It caused considerable anxiety among railroad men until the report came that it had left the rail at mile post 70. The remains would make good kindling wood. [Accident] Dolores Star
11-2-1901 Quoting... "On Saturday last (November 2) one ton of uranium ore was shipped from this station by Frank Silvey, and was consigned to John C. Wiarda & Co. of Brooklyn, New York. This ore was sorted very carefully and was sent out as a test. It is thought that a profit of $60 can be realized by the owner of uranium claims on each ton of ore shipped, over and above all expenses of mining, transportation and treatment, and this shipment was made to demonstrate that idea. Should the returns justify, other and larger consignments will follow." Dolores Star
11-15-1901 The D&RG used a special pay train to distribute pay to the RGS employees in the early 1900s. The Dolores Star paper reported a number of those trips:
11-15-1901     "The railroad boys smiled a little more pleasantly than usual last Wednesday the pay car was on its monthly spree." [11/13/01]
03-28-1902     "The Denver & Rio Grande pay car tricked the employees on the Southern last Saturday." [3/22/02]
05-23-1902     "The railroad pay wagon was in evidence yesterday." [5/22/02]
09-19-1902     "The D&RG pay car fattened the pocket books of the southern railroad boys to-day." [9/19/02]
12-19-1902     "The pay wagon made the railroad bays happy today." [12/19/02]
01-23-1903     "The railroad boys see just twelve happy days each year when the pay car comes around, and enjoyed the first one for 1903 last Tuesday." [1/20/03]
2-26-1904     "The pay car gladden the hearts of the boys on Saturday." [2-20-04]
9-24-1904     "The pay car passed through northward."
9-21-1906     "The Rio Grande pay car went through enroute to Rico Wednesday." [9/16/1906]
6-22-1906     "The Rio Grande Southern pay car stopped over night on Wednesday, after cheering the boys with their monthly checks." [6/20/06, Mancos]
Dolores Star
11-25-1901 Boston Coal & Fuel Co's branch line is officially opened, and their Engine #1 (ex-RGS #35) pulled 397 excursionists over the line that day, using 4 RGS flat cars fitted with benches. A newspaper article in the local paper had a full report the following day. Ssj, p387
Durango Democrat
11-26-1901 A head-on collision occurs just south of Glencoe. Engine #4 is destroyed, and engine #16 damaged. A dispatcher forgot to alert the northbound extra with #4 that the regular southbound freight was going to run ahead of schedule; he quit before he could be fired. Only minor injuries. [Accident] W. George Cook
Crum, p176
12-27-1901 "A venturesone cow took a ride on the engine of freight No. 11, yesterday morning, and carelessly got off on the river bridge near the middle, but far enough to one side to let the train pass in safety, where she remained until the section crew got in its work. Aside from securing a limp and a number of bruises she is all right, but will probably profit by experience and not get in front of moving trains in the future." Dolores Star
1902 A.A. Rust builds a logging railroad from his mill (4.5 mi N of Dolores, near MP 98), and the RGS installs a crossing where the lumber line crossed the RGS. Rust purchased a D&RG light 2-8-0, #56, for its operations. The loco arrived in Ridgway on Nov 16, 1902. Ssj, p388
11-2l-1902 A.A. Rust rents RGS flatcar #625 for 50 cents/day, using it to haul rails as he constructed his logging line. Ssj, p388
3-17-1902 Boston Coal & Fuel builds a water tank near Franklin Jct to provide water for it's operations. Prior to this, they paid $5/car to the D&RG for a water car from Durango. W. George Cook
1903 Bridge 9a, the 'high bridge' which crossed Pleasant Valley Creek on a howe truss 134' above the creek, is replaced by a large fill which Mark Deti and his section crew had been working on for several winters. Enginemen complained that the original bridge vibrated so much that water sloshed out of its fire buckets when a train crossed. Ssj, p166
1-30-1903 The passenger train schedules and equipment changed, sparking a interesting quip from the Dolores Star paper:
"The passenger trains have gone glimmering and it is now mixed trains. Yes, we agree that they are mixed, decidedly mixed and thoroughly mixed. So badly mixed that they will be on time about once in six months or longer, provided the time card stays in effect that long. George Gould needs a little competition to cause his to appreciate the fact that the people in this part of Colorado are human and as such are entitled to the accommodations a rail road is supposed to give."
Dolores Star
2-3-1903 Snow slides between Vance Jct and Ophir. [Snow] W. George Cook
4-10-1903 Snow blocks the line near Lizard Head for 3 days. [Snow] W. George Cook
4-17-1903 Rock slides all along the RGS close the entire line for a week. [Slides] W. George Cook
6-11-1903 A bridge north of Ophir is washed out, and the line is blocked. [Floods] W. George Cook
9-24-1903 The annual report on the Southern is issued, and was reported by the Telluride Journal. Income was $563k (down about 3%). Freight revenue was down a little (to $411k), but passenger revenue was about the same ($104k). Telluride Journal, 9-24-1903
11-24-1903 36 cars of militia, horses and supplies are hauled by the RGS to Telluride, to quell labor problems there. Ssj, p139
11-24-1903 An RGS #22 arrives in Telluride pushing a pilot car loaded with militiamen, 18 bales of hay, and a Gatling gun. Ssj, p150
11-25-1903 All section track men were utilized for track walking Nov 22-25 because of State Militia movements over the line between Ridgway and Telluride, due to labor problems in Telluride. Ssj, p138
12-4-1903 Monthly report from the superintendent in Ridgway to the general superintendent in Durango notes that 40 lb rail was laid near Stoner Creek, with the replaced 30 lb rail used to replace worn 30 lb rail on the outsides of curves elsewhere on the line. Report notes culverts in very bad shape all along the line (making washouts likely), and other more limited track problems. Ssj, p138
12-4-1903 Same report notes that section crews spent 9 days unloading company coal into storage bins, Nov 9-18. Remember that the RGS had only manually-loaded coal bins, and they had to filled by men shoveling coal from high-side gondolas into the bins. Ssj, p138
12-4-1903 Same report notes that car shortages have caused 20% cuts in coal & lumber shipments, and that good miners and saw-mill employees are leaving the region because the lack of cars means they can work only part-time. Ssj, p138
12-4-1903 Same report notes only 9 freight and 3 passenger engines in servicable condition, and that the passenger engines were too expensive to operate, given their small size. Ssj, p139
Jan-1904 A southbound freight, from Rico to Durango, picked up extra loaded coal gondolas at Ute Jct, but late at night and in extreme cold, the train couldn't generate enough air (straight air brakes, still), and ran away, finally managing to stop near Pine Ridge where the grade leveled out. They proceeded (after some debate), and ran away again, through Porter, over bridge 160-A, through Wild Cat Canyon, finally stopping just at the grade leading into Durango. And then... couldn't get started and had to double the train into the yards. Crum, p177
2-22-1904 A passenger train derails south of Ophir, and the line is blocked for 3 hours. [Accident] W. George Cook
3-1-1904 Three cars of cartontite (uranium oxide) are shipped from Dolores, one to New Jersey and then Germany, and two to New York and then France. Dolores Star
7-8-1904 Rock slides north of Rico (Burns Canyon?) block the line for 2 hours. [Slides] W. George Cook
8-2-1904 A bridge is damaged north of Mancos. W. George Cook
1905 Gold strike is made near Hesperus and the May Day Gold Mining Co paid for a 1.87 mi branch to their mine. Elevation on the branch topped 9000'. Ssj, p139
1905 The last of the 60 stock cars owned by the RGS are retired. These were purchased in 1891-1892 from the RGW. D&RG stock cars were used for stock rushes from this time forward, until Victor Miller's purchase of 45 stock cars from the C&S in 1938. Ssj, p204
1905 Interested folks from Arizona travel to Durango to try and work out rail access from the nearby coal mines to Bisbee and Morenci in AZ, where both locals and copper mine owners wanted cheaper coal. There's a longish story behind this - copper mines in Bisbee (Copper Queen Mining Co) and Morenci (Phelps-Dodge) used huge amounts of coal, and wanted cheap coal locally, from the coal areas near Durango. When access from Durango didn't work out, they purchased coal interests in Dawson NM, and built their own railroad (actually, two railroads) from there to AZ. The first was the El Paso & Northeastern, and the second the El Paso & Southwestern (from El Paso to Benson). These were eventually purchased by the SP in 1924.
2-9-1905 Rotary #2 frees a passenger train stranded near Hesperus. [Snow] W. George Cook
2-10-1905 Heavy snow closes the D&RG line over Cumbres Pass for 14 days. [Snow] W. George Cook
2-15-1905 Rotary #2 breaks down, and is sent to Ridgway for repairs. W. George Cook
2-23-1905 A 40' section of the Lizard Head snowshed collapses the afternoon after the local agent had wired for a section gang to come and clear the snow off it. [Snow] Ssj, p264
2-24-1905 The D&RG line over Cumbres Pass is finally opened. [Snow] W. George Cook
4-10-1905 Snow slides in Lost Canyon block the line for 6 hours. [Snow] W. George Cook
4-11-1905 Snow slides near Hesperus block the line for 5 hours. [Snow] W. George Cook
4-12-1905 Snow slides block the entire railroad for a day. [Snow] W. George Cook
4-19-1905 A passenger train, including Superintendent Meldrum's car the Rico (later B-21), was running south from Rico when it hit very soft roadbed about 6 miles north of Mancos. The Rico derailed, and pulled all the cars over. That same day, the northbound passenger derailed two miles south of Mancos (the baggage derailing, and pulling the rest of the train over). Only one brakeman was seriously injured, between the two wrecks. [Accident] Crum, p177
5-3-1905 Snow slides block the line north of Rico. [Snow] W. George Cook
5-22-1905 High water blocks the line south of Rico. [Floods] W. George Cook
5-23-1905 Flooding blocks the line from Rico all the way to Dolores, for 3 days. [Floods] W. George Cook
6-2-1905 Flooding washed out part of the line north of Dolores.[Floods] W. George Cook
6-6-1905 Flooding washes out a bridge near Mancos, blocking the line for about 2 weeks. [Floods] W. George Cook
6-7-1905 About this time, washouts close the line up Keystone Hill, blocking the line to Telluride. [Floods] W. George Cook
6-8-1905 Flooding north of Dolores blocks the line. [Floods] W. George Cook
6-9-1905 The line to Telluride is reopened. [Floods] W. George Cook
6-21-1905 About this time, the bridge rebuild near Mancos is completed, and that portion of the line is reopened. [Floods] W. George Cook
7-9-1905 The south end of the RGS is opened at last. [Floods] W. George Cook
9-26-1905 At the same location as the April 19th wreck 5 months earlier, just south of Millwood and about 6 miles north of Mancos, the baggage car (same car as before...) derailed again and pulled the rest of the passenger cars over. Twenty seven were injured, and one, Mary Wedell, died a few days later. [Fatality] Crum, p178
10-15-1905 The standard-gauge branch from Durango to the oil fields at Farmington opens. There was no interchange of oil between the SG and NG, but when the branch was narrowed some years later oil shipments north over the RGS began, providing a good deal of badly-needed traffic. W. George Cook
10-18-1905 An advertisement for the RGS appears in the Durango Democrat. Durango Democrat
10-21-1905 A local newspaper reported a wreck on the RGS near Placerville: "A Telluride special, dated the 21st, says: Train No. 8, the passenger leaving Telluride at 9:05 for Montrose, was partially wrecked this morning about one and a half miles below Placerville, caused by a broken rail. The tender, baggage car and combination mail car and smoker were ditched. Baggage man Wm. Cuthbertson was cut and bruised about the body but not dangerously hurt while Engineer "Dad" Phillips escaped with a sprained ankle. The above were the only ones injured. A wrecking train was sent from Ridgway and the toad cleared about five hours afterward." [Accident] Silverton Standard
12-15-1905 The RGS is finishing up a new wye on the Dolores baseball grounds. This replaces the old wye, which was located in the residential part of town. Dolores Star
12-1905 Arthur Ridgway (son of the RGS's builder) makes a survey for the D&RG (who controlled the RGS at this time) for a 65mi logging railroad north and west of Dolores. Although near the eventual location of New Mexico Lumber Co's line to McPhee, this survey was never used. Ssj, p393
12-24-1905 Fire destroys the bunk house at Vance Jct. [Fire] Ssj, p140
1-12-1906 Fire destroys the Ridgway roundhouse west of town, destroying two locomotives. A new brick roundhouse is build just south of the depot. [Fire] Ssj, p140
Dolores Star
1-20-1906 Snow slides close part of the RGS for 2 days. [Snow] W. George Cook
3-9-1906 Snow blocks the line from Vance Jct to Rico for 7 days. [Snow] W. George Cook
5-9-1906 Robert Heyer, of Rico, a conductor (on the RGS?) dies in a wreck at Bear Creek. There is no record of this accident that I know of, but Mr. Heyer's death certificate in Dolores and his tombstone in Rico both give this date. Al contacted me about this, but his return email didn't work and I've lost contact w/him. His wife's great- grandparents were the parents-in-law of Mr. Heyer. [Accident] Al Rothe
5-21-1906 Washouts block the line between Telluride and Rico. [Floods] W. George Cook
5-22-1906 Four boxcars roll over, blocking the line between Rico and Dolores for a day. [Accident] W. George Cook
6-?-1906 A bridge 6 miles east of Dolores burns. [Fire] W. George Cook
7-1906 The D&RG surveys a line from Dolores through Paradox Valley to Cisco, Utah (which was on the D&RG's mainline). With the New Mexico Lumber Co purchasing timber holdings in this area in a checkboard fashion, all other logging operations was effectivly blocked so this survey was laid aside, just like the Dec 1905 survey. Ssj, p393
8-25-1906 The bridge gang, working on bridge 57-A (the upper Gallagher trestle) stopped for lunch, but the left part of the bridge on jacks and went to supper, believing the bridge safe. A train arrived, and the bridge collapsed as the last few cars moved onto it. Conductor A.K. Brown, in caboose W409, died when the stove broke loose and crushed him. Two brakemen, riding on top of cars, jumped when the cars started to drop and were both injured, one breaking his back. RGS #10, pushing just behind the caboose, stopped on the brink but lost her diamond stack and headlight from the shock. The bridge crew foreman was later fired. Brown's blood-stained time book has been on display at the Colorado RR Museum. This newspaper article has more details. Leo Croonenbergs took this photo. [Fatality] Rgs v4, p356
Ssj, p176
Daily Journal
12-1906 A.A. Rust's lumber is exhausted by the fall of 1906, and his mill and railroad cease operation (he stayed in the lumber business, but used horses & big wheels instead of railroads). By Dec the railroad is removed and sold to Montezuma Lumber Co. The crossing at Rust was removed by the RGS in Nov 1908. Ssj, p390
12-1906 The Montezuma Lumber Co begins building a logging railroad north from Glencoe to reach farther stands of timber. To reach the mesa, it was built with 3 steep switchbacks. By 1913 the line stretched for 25 miles, and included a small coal mine, which served both the former A.A. Rust Co locomotive and the mill. RGS trains would sometimes use the line, to save time in loading ties. However, the line was re-laid so often that one RGS conductor remarked 'You never knew what to expect." Ssj, p392
12-1-1906 Boston Coal & Fuel Co is sold to the Utah Fuel Co, who puts operations under the Calumet Fuel Co. The branch is leased to the RGS, which operated the line until it was abandoned in 1926. For 20 years, the mine supplied the D&RG with 80 cars of coal a week, and up to 40 cars a week for the RGS. Ssj, p388
1907 A new 2-story brick office building is constructed near the new roundhouse, replacing rented space which cost $900/year. Ssj, p140
1907 32 miles of 30 lb rail south of Dolores, and another 7 miles on the Telluride branch is replaced with 50 lb rail. Ssj, p140
1-4-1907 An accident on the Calumet branch kills 2 men (Raymond Anheir and E.L. Ware) and seriously injured a 3rd (engineer Ellis Roberts) when a rail broke on a sharp curve, while a train of empties was climbing the branch. The rail broke under the locomotive, and it fell 40' down a steep embankment. See this article for more details. Although I'm not sure, these photos from Leo Croonenberg might show this accident, with locomotive #15: p1, p2, p3. [Fatality] Ssj, p392
Daily Journal
1-30-1907 A heavy 8-car train (1 flanger, 6 ore, 1 merchandise) was descending the 4% grade on Keystone hill (on the Telluride branch) lost traction on the snowy track and became a runaway. The engine crew put the locomotive in reverse and then jumped. With no remaining crew, the conductor ran the length of the train, setting hand brakes, and then ran back over the cartops to the caboose, all while the train was accelerating down the hill. A newspaper articles in the Telluride Journal has more details. The article states that the remained with the train and derailed, but didn't turn over. Other accounts say the caboose was uncoupled and stopped w/hand brakes. In any case, the rest of the train jumped the track at better than 60 mph. An additional 10 empties were saved, because the conductor had set them out at Keystone siding at the top the hill, as a precaution (because of the snow). No one was injured, and the pileup missed Colonel Vance's cabin, which was nearby. RGS #19, nearly destroyed, was retrieved for repairs. The newspaper claimed this was one of the RGS' best freight locomotives, and was thus often assigned to the steep Telluride branch. The tender was left at the site, until at least 1984! The merchandise car had 2 tons of explosive powder, but thankfully did not explode. The freight cars and flanger were completely destroyed.
Larry Spencer notes that the tender's current location probably isn't where the wreck occurred. He feels the wreck site was further up the hill; based on the damage to the tender it looks like it jack-knifed into the locomotive. He speculates that perhaps the wrecking crew, while salvaging the RGS #19, removed the trucks then shoved the tender remains further downhill to get it out of the way, and then it was somehow never retrieved.
    Photos from 1965:   p1   p2   p3   p4   p5   p6   p7  
    Photos from 1975 (Jerry Halbert): p1   p2   p3  
    Photos from 1984: p1  
[Accident] Ssj, p177
Crum, p179
Telluride Journal, 1-31-1907
2-1907 The Montezuma Lumber Co purchases 6 old 10-15 ton RGS flatcars for $100 each. These had previously been acquired 2nd- hand from the D&RG in 1891 and were in such poor condition that they were never outfitted w/automatic air brakes or automatic couplers. Ssj, p392
3-18-1907 Two D&RG cars of lumber were hit by a slide above Ames and taken 1/4 mile into the canyon below. The cars weren't even discovered missing until a week later. [Snow] Ssj, p266
8-1-1907 A bridge near Keystone Hill is washed out, and the line to Telluride blocked for 2 days. [Floods] W. George Cook
9-6-1907 The rebuild of bridge 57-A is completed, and the line re-opened. W. George Cook
12-24-1907 Records at the CRRM indicate a number of worn-out cars were destroyed: 313, 321, 366, 367 and 502. W. George Cook
3-1908 A head-on collision occurs at Lizard Head, inside the snow shed. A northbound freight with engines #2 and #10 had arrived, and #2 was involved in switching while the conductor was getting orders, which said to to meet the southbound Telluride branch train (with #20) at Lizard Head. But #2 was already out switching, and met #20 head-on. Only minor injuries, but a machinist's strike kept #2 and #20 out of service for 3 months. [Accident] W. George Cook
Crum, p180
3-30-1908 A bridge near Hesperus burns. [Fire] W. George Cook
5-2-1908 A bridge near Lost Canyon burns, and the line is blocked for over a month. [Fire] W. George Cook
6-3-1908 Another bridge is destroyed by fire, about 9 miles east of Mancos. [Fire] W. George Cook
6-5-1908 The history of the Porter Fuel Company on the Ft. Lewis website states that on the night of June 5/6 1908 all the Porter Mine buildings except the blacksmith shop and power house were destroyed by fire (possibly of suspicious origin). It goes on to state that attempts were made to reopen the mine. The history gets a little confusing at this point as the Hesperus Fuel Company apparently operated some of the properties until about 1931. [Fire] Rod Jensen
Ft Lewis
6-8-1908 Rebuilds of the both the Lost Canyon and Mancos bridges are completed, and the line re-opens. W. George Cook
Aug 1908 Driver brakes are installed on 15 steam engines. Ssj, p140
8-02-1908 The fill which had replaced the original bridge 9-A (the 'high bridge' over Pleasant Valley Creek) in 1903, is overwhelmed by a flash flood and is completely washed away, leaving 182 feet of track dangling 68 feet in the air. Here's a picture from Ft. Lewis. [Floods] Rgs v1, p169
Ssj, p166
12-11-1908 Records at the CRRM indicate D&RG car 4989, damaged by a fire at Rico on 10-25-08, is rebuit into a flat car. W. George Cook
1909 Although I don't know the exact date, the 1.87 mi branch to the Ute coal mine, from Ute Jct, is abandoned by this time. Rgs v9, p202
1-23-1909 (morning) The RGS had a hard time today: Train 5 from the 22nd was trapped at Ophir with 5 engines. Train 11 from the 22nd was stuck in snow in Rico. Train 12 from the 22nd lost one of its 3 engines to a derailment near Montelores - that crew used another engine and flanger to try and free 11, but it also derailed. A slide near the old Ophir depot ran and carried 4 boxcars into the canyon below. Ophir and Telluride reported 6" of new snow, and storm continued to rage. [Snow] Ssj, p265
1-23-1909 (evening) Train 5 still trapped at Ophir, 12 still stuck near Montelores, but 11 was shoveled out in Rico and was on its way to Montelores to rescue 12 from the 22nd. Today's 12 had 3 engines and a wedge plow left Durango w/equipment to retreive the derailed engine near Notelores. Bridge 66-B lost 9 panels to a slide, while bridge 64-A was completely buried. Storm is clearing. [Snow] Ssj, p265
1-24-1909 (morning) Rotary left Rico last night to free 12 from the 22nd near Montelores, and section men departed for Ophir to try and shovel out 5. Although I'm not sure where this photo was taken, it's a good shot of the rotary working thru deep snow. And here's another photo. [Snow] Ssj, p265
2-12-1909 All the snow delays cause the Dolores Star to quip "For the past three weeks trains have been due when you see the smoke. [Snow] Dolores Star
4-17-1909 A locomotive is wrecked at bridge 108-A when #1 derailed and turned over, killing fireman Charlie Talbert and severely injuring a brakeman. The bridge foundations had been weakened by spring flooding, and sank as the locomotive began crossing it. There are more details in this newspaper article. Leo Croonenbergs captured this photo, which I think is of this wreck. I hiked the area in 2007, and captured these photos which I believe are the remains of bridge 108-A: p1   p2. [Fatality] W. George Cook
Daily Journal
Crum, p217,223
Summer 1909 A pay train derails, wrecking business car "Rico". It was sent to Alamosa for repairs, and was wrecked again enroute. With the car now requiring a complete rebuild, superintendent C.D. Wolfinger took the opportunity to rename it "Montezuma". The name "Rico" was distasteful to Wolfinger since he'd lost his job as a bank teller in Rico when the silver panic hit and had disliked the town's name ever since. [Accident] Ssj, p140
6-16-1909 A fire destroys most of the Lizard Head snow sheds. A passenger train from Durango arrived at the summit about 5 pm and found it engulfed in flames. Seven loaded cars from an earlier freight and a snow flanger were in the siding, and were also destroyed. About 15-18 men from the passenger train destroyed the shed on either side of the flames, then formed a bucket brigade from a nearby stream and finally contained the fire. About 500' of the shed was destroyed. A newspaper article from the following day has more details. An interesting note is than an entrance into the depot building was 'effected' (meaning they broke in?), so a telegraph message could be sent to Telluride. Apparently sparks from the freight started the fire, on the northern (Ophir) end of the shed. [Fire] Daily Journal, 6-17-1909
8-13-1909 The first #25 runs out onto a non-existant fill over Starvation Creek, where a culvert had become clogged and water had washed away the fill, leaving the ties & rail suspended in mid-air. The passenger train wasn't able to stop quickly enough, and the locomotive ended up suspended over (but thankfully not in) the creek. Leo Croonenberghs photos: p1   p2   [Accident] Ssj, p140
9-05-1909 Heavy rains cause two Telluride Power dams to burst, and the resulting flood washes out every bridge in its path. Track and grade at the mouth of Trout Lake were completely destroyed, as were 12 miles of track between Vance Jct and Placerville. Ophir trackage was spared, but cut off as flooding on the other side of Lizard Head pass washed out the Rico engine house, wye and yards. A newspaper article from the next day has more details. [Floods] Ssj, p140
Daily Journal
Fall 1909 Otto Mears is hired to rebuild the RGS in the area of the flood. He had new outfit cars built from old boxcars, 101 men, 4 foremen and a timekeeper. He supervised from onboard the "Edna" (formerly his personal business car "San Juan"), just as he had 20 years earlier while building the railroad. During this time, a twisting section of track was built around a washout near Trout Lake which became known as "Ottto's Puzzle." [Floods] Ssj, p140
10-25-1909 The Telluride branch reopens, accessible only from the south. An article in the Daily Journal (Telluride) reported on the opening the following day - the first train from Durango in 54 days to reach Telluride. The article reports that the RGS was using 5 engines on the south end, plus 4 rented from the D&RG, and perhaps several more would be sent from Ridgway via Salida. Four freight trains - perhaps 4 daily - were expected out of Durango. [Floods] Ssj, p140
Daily Journal
11-5-1909 The snowsheds at Lizard Head (see 6-6-1909 entry above) are being rebuilt. Daily Journal
11-29-1909 The new brick enginehouse at Rico is completed, and tracks to it spiked into place a few days later. This enginehouse replaced the original wooden one. The yards and wye at Rico were relocated east of the mainline, and a new coaling chute constructed near the south end of the yard. Cost for all this work was about $24,680. [Floods] Ssj, p141
Dec 1909 A steep, mile-long aerial tramway is built by the Alta Mine, and a large tramway terminal is constructed over the tracks near the Ophir depot. Ssj, p361
12-17-1909 Flood repairs are completed in the north and the line from Vance Jct to Placerville reopens. Costs for this northern damage is $134,000, $70,000 of that paid by the power company. [Floods] Ssj, p140

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