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Modeling 'The Gilpin Tram' - pt.II
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 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2019 12:03 am
421st Post
Jon Dierksheide

Joined: Sun May 27th, 2018
Posts: 18
Two questions from the above comments:

Did the brakeman crawl over the loaded cars to apply brakes to multiple cars,
or would there be brake men posted every few cars that just braked the two where they were standing?
There were no roof walks like the old boxcars had.
Abbot p 56-57 shows a 31 car loaded train with 3 brakemen,
but I don't know if braking 6 cars would be enough.

Second, on the operations:

There was a warming house to thaw the ore cars overnight.
Did the ore bins freeze up in the winter, too?  Nice wet ore and a cold night?
As I think about it, some of the mines had the bins inside and the tram was loaded in a tunnel below,
but not all, like the Old Town.
And I can't imagine a pot belly stove would keep a mine house very warm, let alone the bins.
Did the smaller mines (like the Grand Central) just keep the ore in mine ore cars,
and dump them when the Gilpin delivered a car and/or use the Gilpin cars as the ore bin?

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 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2019 02:23 am
422nd Post
Keith Pashina

Joined: Sun Nov 4th, 2012
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
Posts: 733

For some of us, operating the layout can mean run trains back and forth, or around a loop.
Others prefer to make it more of a game, as discussed by Traingeekboy in the previous post.
I am in the latter camp, but model railroading has broad interests, and we're all having fun.

I think Traingeekboy gave an apt description about it being a simulation game.
In fact, you can carry it to an extreme and not build any actual physical models, but do it all in the virtual world.
Mark Baldwin, the creator of the Gilpin Gold Tram website, has done this,
and has a some video clips of operating Gilpin Tram trains on his virtual railroad.
You can watch it  here.

I haven't done any gaming since the old Avalon Hill Squad Leader games, or the old Empire game (by Mark Baldwin).
However, from what I know of that hobby, there are many creative ways to create scenarios and many of these could be adapted to model railroading.
Some of you readers are playing games on your smartphone, and some of the ideas there could be put into practice on a model railroad..

This beautiful sketch is by Joe Crea, and depicts ore cars loaded with coal being delivered to the boiler room coal dump track at the Gunnel Mine

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to review the Gilpin Traffic records that I could find, and tabulate them in Excel.
Some of these records were presented in this thread, back in Part 1.
Many of the others were published in previous Gilpin Railroad Historical Society newsletters.
If there is reader interest, I can publish all or most of them here on this thread.

Some things I realized about the records is that there are large gaps in the record,
only a fragment of the paperwork that was created at the time has survived until now.

I found scattered records at the:

  • Denver Public Library (Denver)
  • Colorado Historical Society (Denver)
  • Gilpin Historical Society (in Central City)
  • Colorado School of Mines (Golden)
  •  Norlin Library at University of Colorado (Denver)
  • Old magazine scans on Google Books
  • Paperwork in Ferrell's, Hollenback's and Abbott's Gilpin Tram books
These records showed that in general, traffic varied A LOT from month to month at individual mines.
Some mines might ship a lot for a few months, then cease for months or years afterwards.
The amount of traffic varied, from maybe 1 or 2 cars at a time, to 10 or more per day (such as at the Old Town Mine).
Traffic with coal shipments and various other merchandise also varied widely, too.

It helped me that the mines i chose to model had no surviving written traffic records - this was by coincidence, not intent. 
Therefore, I could try to create traffic inspired by real events, but adapted with my best guess for my own little world in my basement.

Example from my previous layout configuration summarizing traffic using an Excel spreadsheet

Before using switchlist programs for my layout (such as Minirail and Switchlist), I used the physical two-part card system.
Earlier layouts used homemade cards, and about 12 years ago I switched to the preprinted car and traffic cards sold by Micro-Mark.

For this card system, I laid out the traffic using Excel.
I created a separate spreadsheet line for each individual shipment.
For example, an ore load from the James Henry Mine to the Polar Star Mill.
Eventually, i had created 69 individual cards for what I was operating.

The spreadsheet example above shows part of this spreadsheet, and is a breakdown of the traffic generated by each type of traffic.
I manipulated the traffic generated by each of the industries, until the proportions were about right.
You can see that about 50% of the traffic is gold ore, 14% coal, and a surprising 20% mine supplies.
The mine supplies could include hoisting equipment to the boiler works for repair, mine timbers for bracing tunnels, new hoisting cable, etc.

Shay #5 is switching ore cars loaded with coal into the Old Town Mine boiler house. Photo courtesy of John Robinson collection

The spreadsheet excerpt above shows the breakdown by mining industry shippers.
I adjusted traffic so that certain mines were the "big shippers", and others less frequent.

Of course, in Switchlist software that I am using, I just make changes in the simple database pages on the fly, and can adjust as I go along.
This software is very easy to use, and it sounds more complicated in my attempts to describe it than it really is.

Traingeekboy in his previous post has brought up a lot of good ideas on how traffic could be generated.
I previously used a random traffic generator on the previous layout to do this and probably should reactivate it.
My approach, being old school, was to shake a pair of gaming dice that had numbers  - 18 on them.
This creates very different probabilities than the typical 6-sided dice with numbers 1-6. 
Depending on the roll of the dice, I looked up that number on a sheet.
Number 14, for example would refer to a line with a special train movement.
Most of the numbers 2-36 were "no action".
If I shook these dice at the beginning of each operating session, more than half of the time nothing out of the ordinary happened.
This suited my style of operations.

Some examples of special train movements were:

  • Run a work train to repair damaged track at Quartz Hill (a station stop on my previous layout)
  • Run an excursion train to Yankee Hill station
  • One yard track in Black Hawk out of service that session due to a derailment
  • Move snowplow from engine house to Yankee Hill

These are some of the different movements that added even more variety to operations.  

Another twist was when I had the 2005-2012 layout, and the Polar Star Mill and Ore Chutes scene was on the layout.
I modeled a short section of dual gauge track (2' and 3' gauge).
I could switch C&S gondolas for loading at the ore chutes with the Gilpin engine.
This was based on prototype practice - there are surviving records where the Gilpin Tram billed the C&S for car movements each month. 

Operating the layout is very satisfying and engrossing.
I am surprised at how much fun I can have just switching a few cars, making and breaking up trains, and going to and from stations.
I tend to run for maybe 1/2 hour at a time on sporadic days,
and find that my operations sessions, using the Switchlist generated lists, takes me days or weeks to eventually get through one!

Loaded ore train headed downgrade at Smith Road Crossing. Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library, Western History Collection.

Jon also asked some operations-related questions on the prototype:
Did the brakemen crawl over the loaded cars to apply brakes to multiple cars? My answer is that I think so, as I agree that tying down 6 cars out of 31 would give adequate braking power.

I own a real Gilpin Tram "Pay Roll" report, dated June 1907.
This lists 15 railroad employees that month:

  1. Louis Pircher - General Foreman
  2. Louis Meyers - Blacksmith
  3. Jos. Wriship (sp?) - Watchman
  4. Jack Mackey - Engineer/Machinist
  5. John Tierney - Engineer
  6. Ernest Klein - Fireman/Conductor/Brakeman
  7. Ray Thompson - Conductor/Machinist
  8. Chas. Niccum (sp?) - Conductor
  9. Joseph Schroeder - Fireman/Brakeman
  10. D.W. Taylor - Agent
  11. Frank N. Jones - Clerk
  12. Joseph Brails (sp?) - Transfer/Switchman

So, that's a pretty small payroll, and apparently only 2 brakemen on the railroad!

Regarding freezing of ore, Jon asked about whether the ore bins froze up, too?

Jon, that is a good point, because the mines varied a lot in how they handled ore.
Some mines had interior bins, that either were protected enough to prevent freezing, or could have been easily heated.
Some that come to mind are:  Grand Army, Phoenix-Burroughs, Pewabic, Watauga, California, and Barnes.

It seems like most of the other mines had open or exposed ore bins or ore loading points.
Mines such as the Grand Central had no bins - the track leading to the waste rock dump doubled as the loading track,
it passed over the Gilpin Tram spur and ore was loaded directly into the ore cars.

So, how did the shippers on the Gilpin Tram handle cold weather, and prevent ore from freezing before it was loaded? 
Me, I really do not know.
Maybe another reader can provide some information or speculation based on practice in other mining areas?

It's musing about these questions, and (sometimes) finding the answers is what makes the Gilpin Tram so fun to model!


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 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2019 06:15 am
423rd Post
Jon Dierksheide

Joined: Sun May 27th, 2018
Posts: 18
Thanks for the answers, or at least your speculation.

I never would have thought about frozen ore,
except that they went to the expense of building a big structure just to heat the cars,
so it must have been a problem.
I don't know of any other railroads that had a warming building,
and there were lots that operated in colder climates with separate, exposed ore bins.

As far as I know, there aren't many dry mines, and not after they invented the water drill to keep dust down.
Maybe Gilpin ore was more valuable and they didn't want to leave any in the car - doubtful.
Or those end slopes on those darn ore cars were just not steep enough for the ore to slide down easily.
I think most ore bins I've seen had pretty steeply pitched bottoms.

Interesting list of employees. Were they all full time?
Looks like only 7 actually ran the trains. Seems like a lot of titles for such a small railroad.
I doubt they had demand to run two trains and a switcher every day.

They had 3 engines, but only two engineers and only two firemen/brakemen.
It would be hard to do both on one train!
Is the Transfer/Switchman the local switcher engineer?
Or would they have had a switchman that didn't operate the brakes, or is that just part of that job?

Plus 3 conductors. I assume the conductor filled out the paperwork.
Makes you wonder if there was some title creep,
and the conductor's role included brakeman as part of the job (even if it wasn't called out).
I would guess some of the titles were for training and safety as well as pay rates.

Interesting, and as you said, what makes it fun.

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 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2019 11:20 am
424th Post

Joined: Wed Oct 6th, 2010
Location: Twickenham, United Kingdom
Posts: 978
Crikey Keith, that's one heck of a headlamp on the ore train loco,
no doubt needed to spot fallen rock on the line!

Presumably kerosene or acetylene powered.



Updah Creek
My Flickr albums
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 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2019 01:36 pm
425th Post
Kevin Fall

Joined: Thu Nov 9th, 2017
Posts: 22
And while we're on the subject.

Here is a Gilpin RR Co Report from February 1908,
indicating origins and destinations of cars with types of shipments.

Doesn't seem like they made much money the entire month of February.
Note that all of the water cars originate from the Roundhouse.
I seem to remember Keith talking about the Gilpin's water shipments in a past post.

Interesting assortment of shipments.
Lots of lagging and B flues for Old Town Mine and Pewabic Mine.
Perhaps adding some new boilers or rebuilding them?

Had to upload in two parts.
Anyway, for your perusal.

Happy modeling!


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 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2019 01:53 pm
426th Post
Michael M

Joined: Thu Jan 26th, 2017
Location: San Bernardino, California USA
Posts: 1211
Iron ore up Minnesota way could freeze in the ore Jennys and the docks used sheds to thaw out the ore.

"Having seen steel mills trying to unload the stuff it is a wonder the cars ever survive the trip. 
Some will be beaten to death by a vibrator hung in a bracket if equipped. 
Others will be heated with massive torchs - that's why the sides are all rusty. 
If all else fails get the bucket from the overhead crane on the ore bridge that feeds the blast furnace conveyer,
and beat the cr** out of the car from any side you can and then drop it in the car to break up the ice. 
I've even seen crews get one up to about twenty miles an hour and cut it loose to let it ram the bumper on the end of the track. 
None of it is pretty and most of it is ineffective. 
That's why ore docks had thawing sheds for the iron ore because they had the same problems only colder (usually). 
Never volunteer to unload coal in a steel mill or anywhere else in the winter.

Nye, Inyo & Esmeralda Railroad
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 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2019 05:15 pm
427th Post

Joined: Sun Apr 7th, 2013
Location: Brandon, Mississippi USA
Posts: 48

Great photos,
yes, Darel can find the smallest treasure during hiking the Gilpin.


Monte Peaeron
Brandon, MS
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 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2019 05:32 pm
428th Post
W C Greene

Joined: Fri May 4th, 2007
Location: Royse City, Texas USA
Posts: 8104
As can be imagined...when the ore is brought to the mill/smelter, it seems to be "average" quality.
But when an ore car derails and spills the load, the ore was "high quality".
I suppose that makes sense.


It doesn't matter if you win or lose, its' how you rig the game.
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 Posted: Tue Feb 12th, 2019 05:44 am
429th Post

Joined: Sun Aug 28th, 2011
Posts: 450
That set of old documents is gold.

It really shows so much about the traffic on the line. I will have to examine it more.


Did I ever mention that I like trains?
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 Posted: Wed Feb 13th, 2019 02:23 am
430th Post
Keith Pashina

Joined: Sun Nov 4th, 2012
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
Posts: 733

Proud firemen pose in front of Shay #3 at the Black Hawk enginehouse and yards - from an article in the 1903 union magazine


Lots of intriguing questions and information in the recent posts!
The 1908 Gilpin traffic report posted by Kevin is full of information about a month in the life of the Gilpin Tram.

That list of employees previously shown is a rather sparse group of people to operate the railroad.
There are photos of triple-headed Gilpin Tram trains, so they had at least three engineers at one time.
I wonder if the list of employees that I had posted excludes the extra board trainmen, and part-time employees?  

The Gilpin Tram firemen were union members for at least part of the 1900s,
as evidenced by a brief article in the January-June 1903, "Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen's Magazine" -
that issue had a photo and brief blurb about running Shay #3 on the line. 
So, if there were "extra", non-full-time workers, perhaps that explains where the additional workers came from when needed.

From previous documentation on the Gilpin Tram, it appears that it ran 7 days a week and on holidays.
Recall that there was a fatal accident on Christmas near the roundhouse.
With 3 locomotives on the railroad, it could be only two of three were in steam at any one time, and the third either undergoing repair, or held in reserve.

I don't know what a full day of running a train actually included - we have records showing the train going up to different mines and picking up cars and returning.
Which crew switching around the mills in Black Hawk? Was that a second locomotive? 
There are many questions I can ask, for which I cannot find any answers.


The original handwritten traffic slips were sometimes difficult to read, so here is a typed version of two of them -
the first train picked up cars on Winnebago Hill, ran up the Phoenix-Burroughs Branch,
to Russell Gulch and Pewabic Mountain, and down the Anchor Mine Branch, 

The second train ran from Black Hawk to Pewabic Mountain, and also down the Anchor Mine Branch.
I don't know where the Ophir Mine listed above was located - anyone have any knowledge of this mine?

I mentioned previously that I had gone through the Gilpin Tram traffic records that I could locate several years ago.
This is the list of the months and years that I had access to:


So, Kevin's addition of the historical documents adds more information about monthly traffic, and gives hints of other goings-on.

Besides the ore and coal traffic, there was some miscellaneous traffic hauled, too.
This is a summary of some of this traffic in October 1907 - it is quite varied.
I wonder what the "Merchandise" hauled was? 


Using this month and the other records I could find, the breadth of non-ore and coal traffic included this freight hauled, at one time or another:


 Well, that was fun - more to think about.
So many modeling subjects, so little basement...
Until later,


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