Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Rio Grande Southern Railroad

The Rio Grande Southern Railroad was a narrow-gauge line that ran from Durango, CO to Ridgway, CO, along a roughly 160 mile route. (Right of Way)

Image: "Railway station at Ophir, Colorado" 1940. Via Shorpy
First founded in 1889, the road began construction the year after. "The RGS’s early revenues came mainly from the numerous silver and gold mines near Telluride, Ophir and Rico. Hauling hundreds of tons of precious metal ores and hundreds of passengers in and out of the area made the financial condition of the railroad extraordinarily strong for its first two and one-half years! " (RGS History)

RGS 461 at Ridgway, CO. Photographer: Richard Kindig. Forgotten Railways, Roads & Places Photo Collection.
Unfortunately for the line, the silver panic of 1893 meant the newly opened line would face unforeseen financial difficulties from then on.

RGS 2101 freight car. Unknown photographer: Forgotten Railways, Roads & Places Photo Collection.
Through most of its history, it was owned by the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, but operated separately, although often with second-hand equipment from the D&RGW.


Despite never being a highly-profitable route, the line survived longer than many narrow-gauge lines, finally being abandoned in 1953. Part of this can be attributed to creating the "Galloping Goose", a motorcar which allowed the line to carry passengers, mail, and small amounts of cargo along the line necessary to meet demand.

RGS "Galloping Goose #6" Unknown photographer: Forgotten Railways, Roads & Places Photo Collection.

Essentially a cross between a truck, bus and diesel railroad engine, they were replicated in a few other railroads around the world, but are best known for their use on the Rio Grande Southern.

"Photo by David Fluit #4 and #5 on the D&S at Tacoma, August 28, 2015 during Railfest. This was the first time the two "Geese" operated together since 1952." (RGS History)
The right of way is still traceable in spots, and follows US-160, and several Colorado State Highways.

Further reading: “Robert W. Richardson's Rio Grande Southern: Chasing the Narrow Gauge” (Amazon) (eBay) Note: This site may earn a commission using the provided links.

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