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Dolores Album
Dolores Plan


Goose #4 stands at the Depot in Dolores.


Sn3 layout of the Skipton & District Railway Society  

Dolores has recently undergone a major rebuild resulting in a layout approximately 3ft (0.92m) wide and 31ft 2in (9.49m) long. The rebuilt layout appeared at Skipton Exhibition 2011, where the rebuilt trackplan was successfully tested under exhibition conditions. The layout is now regarded as exhibitable and invitations from exhibition managers are invited.

Type of Layout: 
3ft gauge Rio Grande Southern Railway in Colorado, USA. Dolores was an important staging post and had extensive facilities for handling sheep and cattle.

Sn3. 3/16in:1ft scale, 9/16in track gauge

Number of Operators: 

Transport Requirements: 
Transit Luton van or similar.

Next Appearances:
Dolores Mk5 Huddersfield Railway Modellers at Holmfirth 24/24 October 2015; Pennine Model Railway Society, Birchencliffe, Huddersfield, 6 August 2016.

Past Appearances:
Dolores Mk1. Skipton 2000, Wakefield 2001.
Dolores Mk2. Model Rail North West (Bolton) 2002, Skipton 2002, Derby 2003, Narrow Gauge North, Leeds 2003.
Dolores Mk3. Skipton 2004,
Keighley 2005.
Dolores Mk4. Skipton 2006.
Dolores Mk5. Skipton 2011.

Trevor Shaw
24 Nursery Lane

LS29 0TN
Tel: 01943 831935


Note: The above email address is an image and cannot be used as a link.

Layout Description

The Rio Grande Story

Two hundred miles southwest of Denver lie the 4000 square miles of Colorado’s "Silver San Juan" region, and between the mountains from Ridgeway to Durango lay the Rio Grande Southern Railroad.

This 3ft narrow gauge line commenced in March 1890 from Ridgeway via 142 bridges and trestles for its 162 mile run to Durango - a distance of only 60 miles as the crow flies - where it arrived in December 1891.

The Rio Grande Southern was developed by its president Otto Mears to serve the numerous gold and silver mines along its route.  From these early beginnings grew the coal, ore, timber and livestock traffic, for which it became better known in later years.

The township of Dolores was an important source of production and shipment of the latter two items, although passenger services were not far behind in the railroad's early development.

The Rio Grande Southern also performed a secondary function by connecting at either end of its route with the Denver & Rio Grande Western to form a "Narrow Gauge Circle" within the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  Nevertheless, the somewhat isolated location of the line saw passenger services dwindling by 1931, and the line became freight only by 1942 – a situation which continued until its demise on the 27th of December 1951.

We have modified some of this history. The layout depicts the township in about 1946, a period which reflected the use of the company’s "Galloping Geese" to "fill-in" (and in some cases replace) the need for a locomotive complete with a baggage car, one smoking car, and a ladies coach. However, with the exception of the geese, the traffic we run is typical of an earlier and busier time. See Operation.

Following abandonment in 1951, lifting of the track-bed was completed in the spring of 1953, but for those with an interest in life in the old west, this breath-taking route can still be followed by car.  And ... the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow is live steam in the form of the preserved Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad at Durango!  

The Layout

The layout is now in its fifth incarnation. The original (Mk1) Dolores baseboards were built from 9mm-thick medium density fibreboard (MDF). Plain track was Shinohara, using code 75 FB rail in plastic sleeper bases. Turnouts, all with the prototypical stub points, were hand-built from code 75 FB rail, soldered to copperclad paxolin ties. After only a very short life and having attended only 2 exhibitions, it became apparent that the chosen materials were insufficiently durable. The MDF baseboards sagged badly, despite being braced at 1ft intervals, and the Shinohara plain track was not strong enough to withstand the rigours of transportation; the rail was too easily torn out of the tiny spikes in the plastic base. 

The decision was made to rebuild the layout entirely, using 9mm ply baseboards in place of the MDF and code 75 FB rail soldered to copperclad ties for plain track as well as the turnouts. Only the buildings and the existing copperclad turnouts were saved from the original layout. After seven exhibition appearances, the infrastructure of Dolores Mk2 remained in good condition and certain modifications had been made. These included enlarging the turning wye at the right hand end of the layout and adding (and later removing) a representation of the Dolores River along the front of the layout.

Dolores Mk1 and Mk2 were built to the same trackplan in which the left hand end of the layout swung forward through a right angle to form an L-shape. The enlargement of the turning wye at the right hand end made the layout shape a shallow U. This reflected the actual geography of the track at Dolores but it made the model extremely difficult to fit into all except the largest exhibition halls. Including operating space, the model occupied an area of about 5m x 9m. We believed that the size and shape of the layout was making it unpopular with exhibition managers and we decided to "straighten" the original L-shape before its appearance at our own exhibition in August 2006, but the turning wye and the oil depot that had previously bee on the shorter arm of the L still remained. We were pleased to collect provisional invitations for Dolores Mk4 to appear at two major exhibitions but these did not come to fruition.

Eventually, we decided to get rid of the wye and the oil depot which had previously occupied the short leg of the L. The new trackplan still included scope for almost all of the interesting operational movements. A trackplan of Dolores Mk5 is here on the website and was exhibited at Skipton 2011.

Rolling Stock

The Dolores layout runs some unusual types of narrow gauge stock. It is of course all of American narrow gauge prototype and some items of stock were bespoke units of RGS design and build.

Steam Locomotives

Between its inception in 1890 and its final demise, the Rio Grande Southern owned a total of 46 steam locomotives, but in the period being modelled only six remained in service, of which the layout features five:-

#20, 4-6-0, built by Schenectady in 1899 for the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad, and inherited by the "Southern" in 1916.  This engine can still be seen at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Colorado.

#74, 2-8-0, built by Brooks in 1898 for the Colorado & Northwestern and later sold to the Denver, Boulder & Western prior to its RGS ownership.  This loco is now the property of the City of Boulder, Colorado.

#271, 2-8-0, (Class C-19) could be seen throughout the mid-forties switching the McPhee Lumber yards, and interchanging its flat-cars with the RGS at Dolores .

#455, 2-8-2, built by Baldwin in 1903 for the Denver & Rio Grande Western. This K-27 Class engine was acquired in 1939, wrecked in 1943, re-built in 1947 and eventually scrapped in 1953.

#463, 2-8-2, built by Baldwin in 1903, was again a D&RGW K-27 "Mudhen" (nicknamed on account of their low-slung appearance), and was a regular loan item on the "Southern" in its latter years.

Galloping Geese

As passenger traffic began to dwindle, and the cost of crewing and maintaining a full fleet of coaching stock increased, the "Southern" developed an unusual form of mixed traffic carrier known as the "Galloping Geese".

These in-house design and build units, comprised either Pierce Arrow truck or Wayne bus bodies, with a boxcar body mounted on their chassis.

Named for the way they "waddled" down the track, the Geese handled mail contracts, rail express and less than car-load lots of luggage and general merchandise.

Models of #3 (Pierce Arrow design) and #4 (Wayne Bus origin) can be seen working the layout.

Freight Cars

For the most part, these are of proprietary kit manufacture, such as PBL, Berlyn Models, Tomalco etc., and have been built to represent the mainstream traffic handled by Dolores and its environs.

They include boxcars and refrigerators for the valley's agricultural products and stock cars for the movement of cattle, horses, mules, sheep, goats and hogs.

Many gondolas (low sided open freight cars) were needed to ship coal and concentrated ores, together with numerous flat cars for the transfer of logs and cut timber from the McPhee Lumber Co. working on the mesas above the town.

Dolores also had both Conoco and Texaco oil depots, and these are serviced by tank cars from the "Gramps" line, or owner liveried vehicles.


The operating sequence of our 1946 era model is based on the known workings described in an Interstate Commerce Commission Report dated 1920 i.e., during busier and more prosperous times.

Passenger workings remain in the hands of either mixed trains, a coach/combine, or the Galloping Geese.  

Buildings & Scenery

We have been greatly assisted by a magnificent series of books on "The RGS Story" published by Sundance Publications of Denver, and a range of working drawings from Mike Blazek of Colorado.

The photographic backdrop you see, really is Dolores, the buildings are prototypical and many of them remain in situ around the township even to this day.

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