And Then There Were Five:
The Stories of the Remaining Five C&S Locomotives
By Kurt MaechnerOn a cold winter morning in 1975 C&S 71 was hauled up onto a flatbed truck in Central City. The destination was the newly reconstructed portion of the Georgetown Loop route. The engine got away, but much to their surprise, when they tried to move the tender, they were met by a string of Central City residents barring its passage out of town. They gathered in protest like Greenpeace stopping a whaling ship. What is it about these little engines that pulled people out of bed to protect it? Why do we still haggle on internet groups about the fates of these relics of a bygone railroad? Perhaps they each say something about life, even about us. Maybe we can even learn from their stories.
Five engines remain of the C&S from its roster of 69. Each has an intriguing story of how it outwitted the grim scrapper. These are their stories…and a little about what each says about life.
The Other 64A vast majority of the C&S engines met the scrapper one way or another. 35 of the 69 were scrapped by the C&S itself. 29, though eventually scrapped, were sold or traded to various companies and lumber railroads including Morse Brothers, Hallack & Howard Lumber Company, Manistee & Luther R.R., Clarkson Saw Mill Company, B.G. Peters Salt & Lumber Company, Oak Grove & Georgetown R.R. Co., J.J. White Company, Ed Hines Lumber Company, and the Montrose Lumber Company. A few notable exchanges include C&S 55 that was sold to the Milwaukee Road and operated on their Bellevue & Cascade narrow gauge line. Number 64 was moved to Mexico to run for the Sosa & Garcia Company. Two engines (no. 69 & 70) went to the White Pass & Yukon Route in Alaska. Finally, two of the C&S’ last and largest engines, no. 75 and 76 were eventually purchased by the Central Railway of Peru to be used for the Cerro de Pasco Copper Corp. There are several hearsay reports that one of the engines tumbled to the bottom of a canyon due to an unrecorded derailment. Other sources claim to have found a photo from the ‘60s of one of the battered remains in a long-forgotten scrapyard in Peru.
And then there were five.
71: All Roads Lead to HomeDo all roads really lead to Rome? In real life, all roads lead to home. In all its small positive and negative nuances, our home affects us more than any other influence in life. Whether we love it or have run from it, it must be reckoned with. One C&S loco was adopted by a town, and despite unsuccessful efforts to remove it, and successful efforts to abuse it, it remains affectionately at its adopted home.
When the railroad finally received permission to abandon the entire narrow gauge route through Clear Creek they made an offer to any town along its line: A free narrow gauge locomotive to stuff and mount. Despite the number of people who protested the abandonment of the line, not a single town along its remaining rails took them up on the offer. However, one town, Central City, who had lost its railroad connection 10 years earlier, said yes. Engine 71, that had the unfortunate privilege of being used on many scrapping operations on the line, was chosen. Along with gondola 4319 and combination car 20, it was taken to the end of track at Black Hawk in April of 1941. It was then hauled by truck and found a home on exhibit near the site of the Central City depot.
There it would remain for a little over 45 years.
Puffs of steam would return to the air in Central City, however, in 1968 as the Colorado Central Narrow Gauge tourist railroad laid track to Packard Gulch. They ran trains with two Central American locomotives. This group, along with the locos and rolling stock, eventually moved to take over operation of trains on the Georgetown Loop project in 1973. The Colorado Historical Society (CHS), who owned the track, had the idea of also taking 71 to Silver Plume to restore it and run it on the Loop. The engine was indeed taken to Silver Plume which lead to much consternation in Central City. A town newspaper referred to the situation as the “Great Train Robbery.” When the CHS then tried to move the tender, this is when some city residents came out to stop it. Their town had requested the locomotive and they wanted to keep it. Following this incident, the engine was promptly returned home.
Steam rose again from the bear trap stack of 71 from 1987 to 1990. Another organization stepped in to run the Central City line, this time named The Blackhawk and Central City Narrow Gauge Railroad. They had their eye on 71. There is a lot of discussion on the efficacy of the running of the locomotive in these years. That being said, she did live again, if even for a brief moment of relived
history. The group certainly had big goals. A tourist guide from 1988 states the railroad as planning “to reach Blackhawk in the next five years.” This, unfortunately, was not to happen. The railroad folded and 71 sat again, still, with her gondola and combine until she was moved once again. Casinos came to the City of Central in 1991 and she was eventually placed high up with the combine on a display track by Harvey’s Wagon Wheel Casino. The gondola sits in a park near Eureka Street. There’s much consternation over her most recent appointment, but, let’s face it, she’s at least at home.
74: Being left behind may be a part of the planWe are all prone to asking, “What might have happened if…” Regret and longing make us wonder if we had not been left behind by some person, job, or opportunity, would we have found what we really wanted? Then again, maybe being left behind was part of the plan, a far greater plan than our own. 74 may have wondered this as it sat lonely at Morse Bros. Machinery in 1948.
World War II either saved or destroyed many an engine. Many of the unemployed locos were scrapped for the war effort. Others were used where needed. C&S 74 had the privilege of working with two sister engines on the last remaining narrow gauge portion of the railroad between Leadville and Climax. Molybdenum was a hot commodity in the war effort and Climax had a lot. So much, in fact, that they needed to standard gauge the line, which they did in 1943. Numbers 74, 75, and 76 were then placed on flatcars and shipped to Denver. They were sold to Morse Bros. Machinery and sat on their property for three years. That’s when a Peruvian railroad came looking for some narrow gauge motive power. They took 75 and 76. 74 was left behind to wallow away alone. Left behind.
Two years later, though, another life awaited 74. In 1948, the Rio Grande Southern was wheezing out its last breaths. The Galloping Geese had bought it a few more years, but the light was fading. The Rocky Mountain Railroad Club knew their chance to see and ride the line was dwindling. They wanted to plan as many excursions as possible. When the club approached the RGS receiver about this, he remarked that it was too costly to lease a D&RGW engine to haul their trains. The Club countered by suggesting that they buy a locomotive. For whatever reason, they took the bait and purchased 74.
One member of that railroad club was a man named Dr. John B. Schoolland. He was very interested in the Colorado & Northwestern Railroad which ran through his resident town of Boulder and discovered that 74 had started its career on that very railroad. Recognizing that the RGS was near its terminus, he set out to save the engine so it could be displayed in Boulder. The city’s community started various fundraisers that eventually ‘bought’ 74 and had her shipped via rail. 74 returned home in August of 1952 and was placed in Central Park along with a D&RGW coach and RGS caboose.
9: Sometimes reinventing yourself opens new doors.Most of us like to stay on the rails marked out for us. With change comes friction and we like to avoid it at all costs. But complacency can also destroy us. Some of us learn that to find life anew we must reinvent ourselves in some way: physically, occupationally, or spiritually. Sometimes that reinvention comes whether we like it or not. This is the story of little number 9, a mogul that has lived more lives than any other C&S engine.
If ever there was controversy surrounding a C&S locomotive, number 9 takes the cake. Built by Cooke in 1884, the loco started out on the South Park Line. She had the honor of pulling the last scheduled passenger train from Denver to Leadville in 1937. She spent two more years on the Clear Creek line and South Platte branch, but an opportunity in 1939 put the engine out of scrapper’s hand. From 1939 to 1940 New York hosted the World’s Fair. Many railroads sent representative trains. The Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy, which now owned the C&S, decided to send number 9 as a narrow gauge representative along with a C&S coach and RPO car. CB&Q then kept the little train in storage at their Aurora, Illinois shops until 1948 when Chicago held its railroad fair. The engine and her coaches were leased to the fair to be run as a quaint old time western train. Painted for the defunct Deadwood Central, labeled “Chief Crazy Horse”, and sporting a hack false balloon stack, the engine chugged around a small track pulling visitors.
Twenty-four years later, in 1981, the Colorado & Southern was finally absorbed into the Burlington Northern and the controversy began. By 1986 BN and the Black Hills Central entered a legal fight over the ownership of the mogul. The end result was that BN decided to send it home by giving it to the Colorado Historical Society. They had it stored on Morningstar siding near Silver Plume on the Georgetown Loop RR. It was relettered on one side in alignment with C&S days, though it still retained a red cab for some time. Its greatest surprise was yet to come.
When the CHS, who owned the GLRR trackage, and the folks who owned and operated the railroad
There was already an uproar over the changing of GLRR operators, but the furor was somewhat tempered by the excitement of seeing a real C&S loco run again. When number 9 was pulled out of service due to mechanical problems before the end of the season in 2006, many people’s anger erupted. Regardless of opinions on all sides of the issue, number 9 was traded to the town of Breckenridge. They had an old Sundown and Southern locomotive at their Rotary Snowplow Park. This engine seems to have more promise to have the power to pull trains on the Loop and is being refurbished.
31: Age MattersPopular culture (read: those trying to make money) bombard us with a belief that whatever is young and new is better. It wasn’t that long ago, however, when age was venerated, when being older made your opinion and insight valuable to others. Today, it seems, all it takes is being young, trendy, and having the ability make a hit song. C&S 31 comes from the former era and it holds a title: the oldest locomotive in Colorado; and that counts for something.
While this consolidation doesn’t seem to have quite as storied of a process as the others, it bears learning
Finally, in 1973, through the efforts of the Colorado Railroad Museum, the engine was moved back
home. She was restored to her appearance as DL&G 191 and is believed to be the oldest surviving locomotive in the state at 130 years old. Within the past few years 191 received an entire cosmetic make-over and has been proudly displayed on numerous publicity materials related to the museum. For at least a few of us, yes, age matters.
60: It’s better to die on the job. Please see this link for a correction on this storyFor those who relish the goal to eat, drink, and be merry, life’s twilight years hold little promise. But for those who believe their lives hold a greater purpose, one that outshines occupation, we want to, as the saying goes, “die on the job.” One of the five C&S survivors did just that.
C&S 60 began her life on the Utah & Northern in 1886. She eventually joined the DL&G and ultimately the Colorado & Southern. The engine was being used to scrap the remainder of the Clear Creek line in 1941 when, well, she just broke down in the town of Idaho Springs. In classic gospel form, her death brought life. The loco was subsequently donated to the city for display. A C&S coach was also
In recent years number 60 also was taken into consideration for operation on the Georgetown Loop. This was decided against, of course, but the consolidation still sits proudly not far from where she died doing the work she was created to do.
History has led these five locomotives down a trail as serpentine as the grades they once climbed. Where will history take us? It might, like 71, take us back where we came from. We might find ourselves left behind like 74, but it could turn out better than we expect. Maybe we’ll find ourselves in a situation that requires us to reinvent ourselves like number 9. For those of us who’ve earned our keep, we may need to remember that age matters like C&S 31. Yet, no matter what life brings our way, no matter when we might finally stall like number 60, there’s a calling to keep doing the work we were created to do until we change trains at that great Union Depot that awaits us all.