Volume 3, No. 3 - October,
Bunk Car 01789
The 01789 is the oldest freight car in Colorado, originally built in 1881 (Sloan) or in 1887 (Ferrell), depending on your source. Robert Sloan's book A Century + Ten of D&RGW Narrow Gauge Freight Cars, 1871 to 1981 has a short history of each of the Rio Grande's types and it is from this book that most of my information comes.
The 10 ton capacity car was originally numbered 3373 (Ferrell) or 3383 (Sloan) by the Rio Grande and measured 24 feet long (26 feet over the end sills). Sloan groups the car in his boxcar Class 3. These cars road on 3 foot 10 inch wheelbase trucks with 24 inch wheels. Starting in 1884, bad order cars of this type were rebuilt to 27 foot cars with 20 ton trucks. The 3383 was one of the first of these cars. At this time the car was equipped with "straight air" brakes and link and pin couplers. Sloan lists the rebuilt cars as Class 5.
In 1891 the Rio Grande was standard gauging much of their main line, and the Rio Grand Southern purchased many pieces of this now-excess equipment. The 3383 was one of the 371 boxcars to come to the RGS, which renumbered it 1789. In 1903 the RGS converted the car to automatic air brakes and installed automatic couplers. It is interesting to note that the car still has its split brake system which is almost nonexistent today on the narrow gauge. This set up differs from the much more common brake system by separating the brake cylinder and the air reservoir.
The car was taken out of revenue service in 1905 and rebuilt as a bunk car, original sleeping 8 men. It must have been mighty cozy! The car was scheduled for scrapping on several occasions but in every instance was saved by a sudden need. In its later years it was used by the man responsible for maintaining the railroad's water towers.
The car is now part of the collection of the Colorado Railroad Museum and was restored in 1989 by Bert Van Zyl. The drawings and photos presented in this issue are of the car as it appears today. The cars restoration is undoubtedly not 100% perfect but it's reasonably close.
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