Volume 2, No. 4 - December, 1999


Some Thoughts On The Previous Issue

I would like to thank everyone who read and made comments on the History of the 74 article that appeared in the last issue of this web page. I believe it was the most popular issue ever. All the comments we received were very positive, with little or no nitpicking. The article did spark some lively discussion about the green paint which was applied to the boiler by the RGS in 1949. Several people took exception to this. Here is the text of the reply that Mike sent to those who had asked about it.

Regarding the green boiler jacketing, it was green. We found traces of the green paint in places left on the jacketing around the boiler bands and piping and hardware around the sand dome. That there is almost no way to tell green from black in old B+W photos is unarguable, but it is not only my knowledge, but also others who painted the 74 in '83 that we found green paint hiding in obscure places from what could only have been '49. There are very good color shots from '51 that show no evidence at all of green, so it's clear the green paint had to come from '49. No way it came from the C&S.

I agree too that the fading of old black paint can go to kind of a gray/almost green tint over the years, and we found that in abundance on the old engine, too, but we were absolutely convinced beyond doubt as you would have been if you had seen it. Gray black is gray black, green is green. I believe #20 often had a green boiler late in her career, also. We were aware of the controversy that has at times swirled around about whether the 74 ever had a green jacket on the RGS, and I can assure you as a primarily C&S enthusiast, I have no ax to grind either way on the subject, but I saw it with my own eyes. Ed Haley also thought it was from his memory, but we could not tell anything from his old pictures, even some color ones.

An enormous amount of research, time, and effort went into this article. Mike is to be commended and I would like to thank him again for making it available for all of us to enjoy.

Also, to those of you who visited the page early and found several problems with how it worked, thanks for pointing them out to me, and thanks for being patient while I got them fixed. I also apologize for my tardiness in getting this next issue posted. The next two issues are already underway and should be posted much faster.


Atomic Age Narrow Gauge

Uranium and the Rio Grande Southern Railroad

Stephen S. Hart

Most fans of the RGS have heard that the railroad was somehow involved in the production of the first atomic bombs. These weapons brought World War II to an abrupt end and, in the process saved as many as 1 million American lives. It is astonishing to realize that the uranium that made these weapons possible began its long journey to Hiroshima in ancient wooden freight cars pulled by the antique locomotives of the RGS.

In fact, vanadium, radium, and uranium, which were all found together in the same ores, had a major impact on the Rio Grande Southern. Ever wonder why Madame Curie, came all the way from France to visit Placerville and southwestern Colorado? Radium. Did you know that early in World War II serious consideration was given to moving the RGS, lock, stock, and fishplates, to Alaska? Know why they didn't? Uranium. Ever wonder why the government loaned all that money to the railroad to keep it going during the war? They told everyone it was vanadium, but it was really uranium. Ever wonder why all of those highways were built in southwestern Colorado? Highways that would eventually spell the doom of the railroad? You guessed it, uranium.

The relationship between the railroad and these materials is fascinating and considerably more intimate than is generally known. I think you'll find this article, which was originally written by Stephen as college term paper, interesting and informative. The format is slightly different than our previous articles, plus it is heavily footnoted, but that doesn't stop it from being a great read.


An Update on the 74

The last issue of this information page was devoted to the history of Rio Grande Southern locomotive number 74, which was originally built as Denver Boulder & Western number 30. This locomotive still exists and, it would seem, its history is far from over. Work is proceeding to evaluate the condition of the engine and to decide on its future. If the locomotive's condition warrants it, and the news is good so far, then it may even be returned to service. We have thus included an update of the work being done on the 30/74 and will continue to do so in future issues.

I'm sure that all of our readers join Mike and me in thanking all who are volunteering their time and efforts to the restoration of this locomotive. We wish them the best of luck with whatever course of action they choose.


Before we go on to the rest of this issue, I would like to say that this marks the third time I have published an article that was written by someone else. I invite and encourage anyone who is reading this and has something that might be of interest to the rest of the RGS community to please get in touch with me about getting it published. I have a professional editor go over the page before it is posted so don't worry about getting all of your commas where they belong. The content is what's important. If you have information please share it with the rest of us. That's what the Internet is all about.

Atomic Narrow Gauge 30/74 Revisited

Atomic Narrow Gauge - 30/74 Revisited

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I hope to continue updating the page quarterly, so please come back to visit. Please feel to write me bdwhite@orci.com with any comments on the page, good or bad, or just to chat.