Volume 3, No. 2 - June, 2000

A quick comment on the last issue. I have wonderful news from Mark Stoeckel, a member of the Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec organization. The 6300 series flat car 6314 will be rebuilt starting this summer. It's great to hear that the Friends have decided restore this rare and valuable car.

Also, I have learned that the 1499, one of the high side gondolas featured in Vol. 1 No. 3, is carrying an incorrect number. The actual car number is unknown, but an examination of the car indicates that it probably isn't in the 1250 to 1499 series.

The 1951 Rocky Mountain Railroad Club Excursion
Nine Stake High Gondolas

- Bill White-
A special thanks to Bill Graves, Don Smith, and Will Cheshire for information and help with this issue.

This issue is made up of two subjects. First, Bill Graves has written a wonderful account of the '51 Rocky Club Trip over the Rio Grande Southern. Second, Don Smith sent me a copy of a letter sent to him by John Maxwell concerning the nine stake, high side gondolas. The information contained in this letter led me to a whole new understanding of the history of these cars.

So decide which part you would like to visit first, and then click on the appropriate button at the bottom of the page.

A Railfan's Dream Trip

In 1951 the Rocky Club sponsored what I believe was the last major excursion run on the Rio Grande Southern. Even as the participants gathered to enjoy the smell of coal smoke in the crisp mountain air and the incredible scenery, they knew that the end was near for the RGS. I can't imagine what it was like. Much like a wake, I suppose. Perhaps it was different in the 50's, when the narrow gauge was being abandoned wholesale. Perhaps it didn't seem like such a crime.

I know there were some attempts to save the railroad, or parts of it, near the end. It is too bad that nothing came of these efforts. Those of us who were born too late can only imagine what it was like, when there was rail in all of those fabled places that now seem so silent and empty. I've recently completed a full size, O - scale model, of bridge 45A. It's huge. Can you imagine what the real one was like? I can't.

If the Rio Grande Southern was still in place, it would be the railroad attraction of, not just Colorado, but the whole world.

Unfortunately, it's mostly all gone now. We can visit the few scattered remains, build models, and talk to folks who were actually there. I am so excited that Bill consented to record his memories of the '51 fan trip and share them with the rest of us. We can look at all the pictures in the world, but it really comes alive when we talk to someone who was there.

It's interesting, Bill Garves' first visited the RGS was in '51, and his reaction was to remember the RGS by modeling it. My first visit was in '91, and my reaction was to immediately stop modeling the D&RGW and switch to the RGS. It's hard to believe that anyone could visit the railroad and not be moved.

Included in Bill's account are eight never-published photos that Bill took during the trip. By clicking on the small photo in the story, you will be able to see a larger version.

Nine Stake High Side Gondolas

After reading a letter originally sent to Don Smith by John Maxwell, I realized for the first time that my understanding of the nine stake cars and their significance was incomplete and flawed. I had always thought that some of the cars had nine stakes and that some didn't. End of story. Well, that's true, but it is a lot more involved than that.

I have included the portion of John's letter that pertains to this discussion, and I would like to thank Don for sharing it with us. There is also a list of published photos, and finally, a discussion of the twelve existing cars that are covered by this article.

So decide which part you would like to visit first, and then click on the appropriate button.

The 1951 Rocky Club Trip - 9 Stake High Side Gondolas

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