SKIPTON & DISTRICT RAILWAY SOCIETY
Sn3 layout of the Skipton & District Railway Society
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
#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.
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
These in-house design and build units, comprised either
Pierce Arrow truck or Wayne bus bodies, with a boxcar body mounted on their
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.
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
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.
remain in the hands of either mixed trains, a coach/combine, or the
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.