Sunday, April 7, 2024

Oscar Perschbacher's adventures on the C&S

Conductor Oscar Perschbacher had the sad honor of giving the final C&S narrow gauge train order to the engineer of No. 76 in Leadville. 

Boarding house Oscar helped build (behind the station)

Perschbacher had a long career with the C&S. While he later served as a brakeman and eventually a
conductor,  he began as a carpenter repairing bridges. He later moved to work at Alpine Tunnel around 1906. There he helped repair the tunnel and construct the two-story boarding house after fire had destroyed the facilities there.

A testimony to Perschbacher and his fellow crewmen's work: the boarding house stood for roughly 50 years after abandonment before its collapse sometime in the 1960s.

Remains of the boarding house today

Working in Alpine Tunnel

Inside Alpine Tunnel 1948 - Ed Haley photo from the Feb. 1991 Rocky Mountain Rail Report

Not long after his arrival at Alpine, a crew of men including Oscar went to work repairing some tunnel timbers. Oscar and some others perched themselves on scaffolding to insert the keyblock at the top of one of the arches. Nearby, others dug out rock or dirt debris (possibly from the ceiling work being done). It seems the scaffolding had been perched on or around some of this debris so that the digging inadvertently caused the scaffold to collapse. As he fell, Oscar saw the ceiling collapse as well. This came down on top of Oscar and the other workmen. He recalls the fear that the torches (kerosene torches drilled into the timbers) would go out and plunge them all into darkness. 

Thankfully, others dug them out. Oscar credits 'Tuck' Simpson's help in getting dug out.

Train Consists on Alpine and Boreas Passes

Eastbound train leaving Pitkin (H.L. Curtiss Photo)

Oscar remarked that trains running over both Alpine and Boreas Pass had four engines. Two led up front while two pushed from the rear, just in front of the caboose. Due to the ice in winter on these lines, it was hard to get a stopped train moving again without at least four locomotives.

Ignoring the Rules for Georgetown Loop

The Loop High Bridge today

Procedures were different on the Clear Creek division of the C&S. One time Oscar and some other trainmen from the South Park division were called over to the Clear Creek Line during tourist season. He recalls being conductor on a train “racing” a doubleheader over the Georgetown Loop’s high bridge. He didn't know that the railroad had concerns about how much weight could be put on the bridge. Someone in the coach asked if he knew that they were supposed to take one engine over the bridge and then bring the rest of the train with the second engine. Oscar simply replied “No. I don’t, but it’s too late now!”

Speeding Through the South Park

Relaid track in the South Park today

Speaking of speed, Oscar marveled at the speed of the fast freights from Denver to Leadville. As a brakeman he rode on top with his brake club in hand and enjoyed what he called a “wild ride.” Sometimes that speed came to trouble, particularly in the South Park at night. It was hard to see what was on the tracks and a few times his trains hit cattle. 

Dips in the track due to a slight washout were another issue. The daring engineers, whom Oscar called “hogheads,” seemed to fire through them at speed to get over the inverted humps. He commented, “They killed a lot of good men that way.”

The adventures on the C&S never cease to amaze a flatlander like me!

The stories above were gleaned from an article in the Summer 1974 Slim Gauge News entitled "Recollections with Oscar" by Elwood Bell

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

C&S 1113 photos (1959)

While researching the history of C&S refrigerator car 1113/RGS 2101, I came upon a number of photos taken by Ralph Hawkins' father John C. Hawkins and Ralph's mother Lucille Hawkins. Ralph graciously shared his photos with me. Visit for more of his and his father's work.

The photos below were taken June 1959 at Ridgway, Colorado.  You will also see a Rio Grande Southern coach and RGS caboose 0400. The caboose was used in the 1969 movie True Grit and later acquired by Jerry Albers. He owned it from 1973 to roughly 1990. The story of his acquisition and restoration of the caboose can be found here.

John C. Hawkins above

C&S 1113 in 2023 and 1959

Saturday, March 23, 2024

C&S Refrigerator Car 1113 History: C&Sng at the CRRM

Back in September of 2023 my family had the chance to visit the Colorado Railroad Museum. Since I hadn't been to the museum since my teens (in the 1990s), this was my first visit with the only known C&S narrow gauge refrigerator car in existence (It was acquired by CRRM in 2002). One side and end is painted for the C&S where the car began its life while the other side and end is painted for the Rio Grande Southern where it spent the second part of its revenue life.

The video I made below tells the main pieces of the car's history.

(There is one error in my video. Don Drawer did not buy 1113. The D&RGW gave it to him as they wanted it "out of the way.")

For a more full story of the CRRM C&Sng equipment, see my series The Railroad Riches of Golden.

You can find 1113's specific story here.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Visit Sherrod Loop today - video

 Sherrod Loop was the reverse curve that helped the South Park Line climb up to the over-11,000-foot-high Alpine Tunnel. Eastbound, the curve was the gateway to the more famous spots on the line including the Palisades, Split Rock, numerous other rock walls, and the Alpine Tunnel enginehouse. This video highlights the route from Woodstock to Sherrod as it exists today.

Sherrod Loop is at the far right. Alpine Tunnel is reached via top track alignment at left.

Historical sign at Sherrod

Relaid track (presumably laid by the Forest Service). View: eastbound

View: eastbound

View: westbound

View: westbound

View: westbound

View: eastbound, past relaid track

View: eastbound

A short bit upgrade, eastbound, is this telling sign

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Would you like to buy the Town of Sherrod?

 The former Town of Sherrod, site of Sherrod Loop is for sale! 

from Poor's DSP&P

Check out the listing here.

Here is the description:

Don't miss your opportunity to own a very historic piece of Colorado property known as the Town of Sherrod. This 40 acre parcel was the town site of Sherrod and part of the Sherrod loop on the Alpine tunnel loop. The town of Sherrod was founded in 1903 and had a 3 year span known for its rich silver lodes in the surrounding mountains. The town had 2 hotels, 2 stores, a newspaper and several log cabins. In 1904 the Colorado & Southern Railroad constructed a train depot and a rail spur to move mining ores. Later on that depot was moved down to the town of Ohio City. Elevation of this property is 10,950.

Here is a great photo from the listing site:

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Footage of the C&Sng in the 1930s

I wanted to bring attention to a great video called Excursion to the Thirties which includes a good stretch of C&S narrow gauge film footage.  

I originally posted a clip from a Youtube channel that posted it. Later, I found out that the DVD is still commercially available. In light of this, I removed the video link.

The video is available for purchase at a number of sites including...


Railfan Depot

Trainfan Video Depot

In the video you'll see:

Clear Creek segment (1938 and 1939)

Here you'll see...

On August 11th, 1939 C&S 70 working in Idaho Springs.

C&S 69 running light past the Argo Mine

C&S 70 backing with a train of gondolas to Black Hawk

C&S 70 and train returning to Forks Creek

    -you'll see the crew perform a flying switch with caboose 1003

    -keep an eye out for the brakeman when he steps between the caboose and a rapidly approaching boxcar!

C&S 70 and train now eastbound heading for Golden

You'll see C&S 9 and 65 (with one as a midtrain helper) along with caboose 1003 traveling from Golden to Forks Creek on July 19, 1938. C&S 9 is now on display in Breckenridge. 

Leadville Segment (1938)

Here you'll see...

the Leadville depot

the Leadville engine house

C&S 74 switching cars in the Leadville yards on July 6th, 1938 for the Molybdenum mine. The train then heads towards Climax with what appears to be caboose 1009.  C&S engine 74 and caboose 1009 are both now at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden.

Boreas Pass Segment (1938)

Here you'll see..

C&S 71, 8 (dead), and 69 leave Breckenridge for Como on an equipment transport prior to abandonment. C&S 71 is now on display in Central City.

    -Watch for two crew members riding the front of 71 apparently keeping an eye on the unmaintained track

C&S 73, westbound, with a scrap train traveling through Webster on July 19, 1938

The train climbing to the top of Kenosha Pass. 

The train running through Kenosha summit. Track has been relaid at the summit near the site of the wye used to turn helpers.

Later in the day, the same train climbs eastbound up out of the South Park with 69 as helper

After reaching Kenosha summit, C&S 69 uncouples and backs up light to Como

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Big Train Tours - Way Car to Caboose: C&S “Bobber” No. 1009

A few days ago, the Colorado Railroad Museum posted another one of their "Big Train Tour at CRRM" videos. The focus this time was on C&S caboose 1009. It's a fantastic look at the history of the car that trailed the very last narrow gauge C&S train in 1943.  The video also includes photos I hadn't seen before of 1009's time in Buena Vista as a shed.

Additional info:

Here is a segment of a series of articles I wrote about CRRM's history and acquisition of C&Sng equipment.  This segments puts 1009's acquisition in historical context.

Below is the text from CRRM on this video:

Welcome to another Big Train Tour at the Colorado Railroad Museum! Today, we’ll be taking a look at Colorado & Southern caboose No. 1009. This interesting, narrow gauge “way car” dates to 1882, and the early days of the legendary South Park Line’s expansion in Colorado. Acquired by the Museum in 1961 as just a body, this rare survivor has been restored to operating condition and is today proudly displayed in Golden. 

Our subject today is a diminutive, four-wheel narrow-gauge “bobber” caboose built in the shops of its parent railroad. Like many rail vehicles from the 19th century, caboose 6 number 1009 started its life with a different appearance, and it was known as a Way Car for its first two to three decades of service. Renumbered several times during its life, it was rebuilt and modernized, then retired and almost lost. Its very existence today provides a powerful connection with Colorado freight railroading, 9 changes in the railroad safety environment, and the many railroad workers who have helped shape the expansion and settlement of the Centennial State.

Join Executive Director, Paul Hammond as we explore the history of this "Way Car" caboose! 

Here is a post and video I made on C&S 1009 from a fall visit to see her and other C&Sng equipment this past fall.