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Tales of Colorado Narrow Gauge
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 Posted: Tue Nov 13th, 2012 02:06 am
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Ohkwari
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Hi all you narrow minded folks,

Herb suggested I start a new topic in the Narrow Gauge forum where I will share some tales (none of them tall but some will be fish stories) of my involvement or at least adventures with both the D&RGW and the RGS. These will just appear like magic from time to time so if you have some interest check back periodically. Just so there is no misunderstanding let me make this disclaimer up front: I never actually worked for either of these railroads. However I do come from a long line of both narrow and standard gauge railroaders and so it has always been in my blood. I decided to start this with a brief family history so here we go. Some of the dates and facts are courtesy of both the Ridgway Railroad and the Colorado Railroad Museums and some will be based on memory so if I get something wrong or you have any input please don't hesitate to add to or correct any of this.

My great-grandfather on my mother's side, Edward Rice was a brakeman/fireman on the Rio Grande Southern from 1892 until sometime in the early twenties. He managed to produce eleven children many of whom either became or married railroaders. I don't know the order of their births but I do know that one of his offspring, Claude Rice hired out on the RGS as a fireman in 1921 and later became an engineer He was employed by the RGS until sometime in the early thirties. Another of the boys whose name escapes me was a brakeman for the D&RGW and was killed when he was knocked off the top of a boxcar by a hobo. At least one or two of the sons worked for the Colorado Midland and another was with the C&S and possibly with the DSP&P but I can't establish that other than from memories of my grandmother talking about them. One of his sons, Arthur Rice, was the Master Mechanic for the RGS in 1927 out of the Ridgway shops and later for the Rio Grande standard gauge. One of the girls, Kathryn Rice, married Robert Lutzkiewicz (pronounced Lu-kiv-ige) who was a boiler maker for the D&RGW in Grand Junction and later in Alamosa. My grandmother, Marguerite Rice, married Terrell Ellington (I'm named after him) who was not a railroader. He was the Postmaster in Grand Junction for many years. However he along with
Uncle Art and Uncle Bob play major roles in future tales. I came along in 1943 (OMG, how did I ever live this long). I grew up in Montrose and went to college in Durango. The rest of the stories will be mostly from personal memory along with whatever documentation I have come up with. There are also some photos I will share from time to time.

I realize this introductory post is rather long but I think it is important to lay the ground work for my "Tales of Colorado Narrow Gauge". I hope many of you will both enjoy and expound on this as we go along.


Last edited on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 02:46 am by Ohkwari



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Terry

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 Posted: Tue Nov 13th, 2012 02:06 pm
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mwiz64
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Wow... That's quite a family tree full of railroaders you have there, Terry. I'm looking forward to reading your "Tales of Colorado Narrow Gauge" series of posts.



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Mike
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 Posted: Tue Nov 13th, 2012 02:22 pm
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Ohkwari
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Hi Mike,

Thanks for the note of encouragement!!



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Terry

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 Posted: Tue Nov 13th, 2012 05:06 pm
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W C Greene
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Yes, please keep this going. We all want you to continue, the stage is yours.

Woodie



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 Posted: Sun Nov 18th, 2012 06:32 pm
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Ohkwari
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Tales of Colorado Narrow Gauge

Episode I


Having given much thought as to where to start I have decide that my earliest memory would be a good place. This does not mean that future episodes will be in chronological order but for now first is first. My earliest adventure with railroading starts with the standard gauge Denver & Rio Grande Western in Grand Junction. GJ was also the terminus for the Colorado Midland Railway (standard gauge). The Midland was built from Colorado City (just west of Colorado Springs) west across the middle of the state as far as Glenwood Springs. The steep grades and sharp curves of this route ultimately led to it's demise. From Glenwood it was granted trackage rights by the D&RGW to Rifle where it became co-owner of the Rio Grande Junction Railway into Grand Junction in 1890. The end of the CMRY came in 1920. This little tidbit of history has nothing to do with me because I wasn't born until 23 years later. However, try as I might I just could not resist tossing it in.


For those of you who do not know GJ was and still is a major yard and engine facility for the Rio Grande. It even had a hump yard at one time but the hump was removed when the Union Pacific acquired ownership of the Rio Grande. There was a roundhouse and turntable along with all the other necessary facilities to maintain steam locomotives. This is where my story begins. My great-uncle Bob (Robert Lutkiewicz) was a boilermaker for the Rio Grande employed at the GJ shops. This was an honorable and important profession without which locomotives would not steam and if they don't produce enough steam they don't go. When I was just a little shaver, probably 5 years old at the time, Uncle Bob took me down to the roundhouse and we went for a ride on the turntable with a huge steam locomotive. I don't remember the number or even the wheel arrangement but he told me it was an L Class and that stuck with me. Rio Grande L Class were 2-6-6-2, 2-8-8-2 or 4-6-6-4 articulated locomotives something else I did know at the time. What stands out most of all is looking up at those huge wheels (the drivers) and thinking these are even taller than Uncle Bob.


Enough standard gauge stuff...on to the narrow gauge part of this tale. Shortly after that Uncle Bob was transferred to Montrose for a time and then on to Alamosa until he retired in the late 1950s. At both locations his job was to keep the narrow gauge locomotives operational. He and his family moved back to Grand Junction where he busied himself building a large model railroad. In 1962 I scratch built an HO freight house for his railroad which I gave him for Christmas. I knew about scale at that time but did not know that his railroad was American Flyer S scale. Much to my chagrin my freight house was a bit undersize but Uncle Bob didn't care and it occupied a place of honor on his layout for many years. When he was in his 80s he got a call from Robert Richardson of the Colorado Railroad Museum. They had a locomotive there that was being restored. Although several others had worked on it the darn thing just would not steam properly. Richardson asked Uncle Bob if he would please come to Golden and see what he could do with it. It wasn't long until this expert old boilermaker found the problem, fixed it and that locomotive still operates at the museum to this day. So ends Episode I, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Next episode when I get a rountuit. For now I have a railroad to build. Oh yea, one more thing...Happy Thanksgiving to all.



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Terry

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 Posted: Sun Nov 18th, 2012 07:00 pm
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W C Greene
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Terry, thank you for this great "tale". History is what makes us live and I will wait for more when you get the notion. I am sure that there are many here to delight in this, keep going.

Woodie



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 Posted: Sun Nov 18th, 2012 07:25 pm
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Ohkwari
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Woodie, I really appreciate your words of encouragement. I must admit I entered into with some fear and trepidation. Cheers!!



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Terry

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 Posted: Sun Nov 18th, 2012 08:57 pm
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Herb Kephart
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Fear? trepidation?

Terry, we haven't banned anyone yet this week for what they wrote.

Oh yeah--that's right it is the first day of the week----hmm.

Keep up with the stories--just watch out for Woodrow--don't sound like you're selling something or his eyes will glaze over, he will start to tremble uncontrollably, and will mumble --spammer---spammer---spammer---must delete---delete--delete---delete.

Looking forward to more tales.


Herb



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 Posted: Sun Nov 18th, 2012 11:03 pm
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mwiz64
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Nice write-up, Terry. Thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us.

Sincerely...



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 Posted: Sun Dec 2nd, 2012 05:21 pm
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Ohkwari
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Tales of Colorado Narrow Gauge

Episode II

 In the introduction I mentioned that all of these tales would be true but occasionally there would be a fish story. Now fish stories usually consist of “I caught one THIS BIG” with the fisherman’s arms stretched out as far as possible. I can’t remember exactly how big the fish were but I promise not to exaggerate about the size. We would, however, have probably been in trouble with the game wardens about the quantities. That is if they had caught up with us which fortunately they never did. This is all definitely narrow gauge related so here goes.

In the mid-1950s I would go to Durango to stay with a cousin for a couple of weeks during the summer. We had lots of adventures; some of which got us in trouble but those are stories better left untold. The highlight of these trips was always those days when we would grab our fishing equipment and head for the D&RGW Durango yards early in the morning. We had a special arrangement with the train crews who were still operating freight trains to Silverton. We would hop on the caboose and up the canyon we would go. There was a spot where you could get to the Animas River without climbing down a cliff and the engineer would stop the train so we could get off. We would hike down to the river and spend a very productive day catching a mess of Rainbow Trout. As the train returned the engineer would start blowing the whistle up the canyon so we would have time to grab our gear and fish and hike back up to the tracks. The train would stop and we would climb aboard the caboose for the trip back to Durango. The tradeoff was that the train crew always had fresh trout for dinner that evening. Once we rode all the way to Silverton and spent the day watching the crew switch cars in the yard. Sadly at that age I thought that would go on forever and never took any photos but it sure was fun and a most memorable experience.  Now that is all under the ownership of the Durango & Silverton tourist train and although that is a great ride and I doubt they would stop to allow for fishing.

Another summertime treat was Dad would take the family fishing at the lakes above Ophir. There were three lakes there and you could cross the first two on a ford to get to the area where we liked to set up camp. You could hike over the hill behind the campsite to the third lake and there the fishing was great, lots of 16 to 20 inch Rainbows as well as some 10 to 12 inch Brook trout which are definitely the better eating. Once my cousins from California went with us and the older boy, Dale, decided to go wading in the lake. Well, that didn’t last long, that water is REALLY cold. We would hike up the mountain to the mine that shipped ore down the tram to the loadout in Ophir. It had been abandoned for many years and was pretty much in ruins. We were lucky we didn’t fall down the shaft. That mine was at 11,500 feet elevation so the air was pretty thin which caused us to stop and catch our breath often. This all occurred shortly after the RGS had been abandoned but the town and the trestles were still there. Again, I was too young to appreciate what I was seeing so no photos, DUH!! How can a guy who had been model railroading since he was seven be so dumb? Of course I was only ten or eleven at the time and like most kids thought it would always be there. I’m sure you’ve never done anything like that. RIGHT, you betcha!! Now there is a paved road there and the fishing sucks.

My grandfather, Terrill Ellington, had a cabin in the Black Canyon where we would go fishing in the Gunnison River. There is a lot more to tell about that cabin but that is for a later episode. Grandpa taught me to fly fish and once we drove the abandoned D&RGW roadbed to an area just east of Iola to fish during Willow fly season. When the flies hatch out in the spring there is such a swarm that you can hardly see and the trout go into a feeding frenzy. We would stand in the water, grab a Willow fly out of the air, stick him on a hook and cast upriver. The fly would barely hit the water and BAM, instant hit!! We could catch enough trout in half an hour to have a supply of trout in the freezer for months to come.

So much for the narrow gauge related fish stories. I hope you enjoy this tale and will be watching for Episode III. The next story will be based in Telluride on the Fourth of July. Until then I am working on my On30 Cimarron yard and from there I will begin laying track through the Black Canyon. Fortunately I will not have to deal with the many challenges the railroad faced. Cheers!!



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Terry

May you always have smoke up your nose, cinders in your eyes and a smile on your face.
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