RGS Water Towers

All of the water towers on the Rio Grande Southern Railroad looked similar and were built to the same basic design. A closer inspection however, reveals that there were several major variations of this design. The most notable variation is in the base of the tower -- some have twelve posts (2 in front then 4, 4, and 2 again in the rear) while others have fourteen (3 in front then 4, 4, and 3 again in the rear). In addition to the base configuration, the water source, type of roof, and type of foundation are also listed. Many minor variations also existed which, taken together, resulted in each tower being individual.

The majority of information presented comes from field notes taken by the inspectors during the 1919 valuation inventory. Like everything else, the towers changed over the years and pictures from a later date may exhibit differences from the information shown here. I suspect that concrete, which was rare in 1919, became more common in the foundations in the later years. My copy of the notes is very poor quality and at times hard to read, but I am reasonably certain the information in the table is correct.


Table of Water Tower Characteristics

 Location  Mile Post  Water Source  Base Configuration  Roof  Foundation Type
 Ridgway   0  City Water  14 - 7ft Posts  Round  Wood Block
 Valley View   9.7  Gravity  14 - 6.5ft Posts  Round  Stone
 Brown   22.2  Gravity  14 - 7ft Posts  Round  Stone
 Deep Creek   34.3  Gravity  14 - 7ft Posts  Round  Stone
 Ames   41.3  Gravity  14 - 8ft Posts  Round  Stone
 Trout Lake   49.1  Gravity  14 - 8ft Posts  Round  Stone
 Coke Ovens   60.5  Gravity  12 - 8.5ft Posts  Round  Stone
 Rico   66.2  City Water  12 - 8.5ft Posts  Round  Wood Block
 Priest Gulch   77.3  Gravity  12 - 10ft Posts  8-Sided  Stone
 Stoner   87.4  Gravity  12 - 10ft Posts  Round  Stone
 Dolores   102.3  City Water  12 - 10ft Posts  Round  Stone
 Mancos   122.5  City Water  14 - 7.5ft Posts  Round  Stone/Concrete
 East Mancos   130.6  Gravity  12 - 9ft Posts  Round  Stone
 Hesperus   145.6  Gravity  12 - 11ft Posts  Round  Stone
 Porter*          

*The water tower at Porter was removed sometime between 1910 and 1919 for an unknown reason.


General Patterns

Several patterns emerge if the table is studied closely:

First, if city water was not available, gravity was used to provide water for the towers. The previous issue of this web page explained how this worked. None of the 14 water towers required any pumping activity by the railroad to keep them full.

Second, with one exception, the 12 post base was used on the south end and the 14 post was used on the north. Perhaps this is a result of two B&B gangs with differing styles working at the same time, one in the south and the other in the north, as the railroad was being built. Why the Mancos tank doesn't conform to this trend is unknown, but I am sure there was a reason at the time. Also note that the height of the posts varried. This is how the tower height was adjusted to compensate for the ground level and the height of the foundation. The posts were made taller or shorter as necessary so the spout would be at the proper level above the track.

Third, Priest Gulch, for no apparent reason, is the only tower with an 8 sided roof. Perhaps the original was damaged and the 8 sided version was a replacement.

Fourth, all of the towers had sandstone foundations with the exception of Ridgway and Rico. Perhaps because these two cities were division points, suitable timbers for a foundation were readily available.

Increased water consumption caused by heavy grades and the location of available water determined the exact placement of the water towers. The water towers were usually ten to twenty miles apart with the closest towers being Rico and Coke Ovens (heavy grades) at just 5.7 miles, and the farthest being Dolores and Mancos (light grades) at 20.2 miles


Field Notes

Here is an example of how the water tower field notes read. Coke Ovens was chosen because this part of the book seems to be the most legible with only a few words eluding me. Remember these are just notes and as such are some what cryptic and hard to follow at times. Explanations for the abbreviations are given in parentheses.

Water Station -
Tank -
Tub 24' diameter x 16'
3"Cypres staves
Flat hoops
Conical W. S. (wood shingle) roof -
Joists est. (estimated) 6" x 16" - 2' on center with
underside cribbed 1" x 6" dam 24' diameter
Joists on 4 - 12" x 12" caps on
12 posts 12" x 12" x 8'6"on
2 sills 12" x 12" - 14'
2 sills 12" x 12" - 24'
on 2 rubble in mortar sandstone
piers 2'6" x 24' - on
footing 3'6" x est. 3'

2 piers as above except 15' long

Exc. (excavation) - 4: 1/2 E. (earth) 1/2 L.R. (large rocks)

8" CI (cast iron) Outlet std. (standard) spout rigging

Frost chamber 8' x 8' x 9' on
2 dry rubble S.S. (sandstone) walls 2' x 8' x 4'

16' wood gauge - 1
32' wood ladder - 1
Hose box -1

Overflow - 3" C.I.P. (cast iron pipe) 69'

Supply from Coke Oven Creek -
3" C.I.P. ? ? (this is the line from the inlet to the tank but the exact words are illegible) - 940'
3" hub gate valve - 1
3" hub ells - 2
Excav. (excavation) avg. (average) 4' 1/2 E. (earth) 1/2 L.R. (large rocks)

Intake box 4' x 6' x 6'
walls 12" Dry rubble stone
Cover 3" on 6 x 6 Curb (?)
Excav. - 6'

Inlet box 8" x 8" x 35'
2" fir


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