2015-04-20

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Announces Lease To Fully Restore T-12 Engine 168

Colorado Springs City Council has approved a lease of D&RG 168 by the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad for the purpose of full restoration to steam. It was initially proposed to the city in October and surprisingly--Nathan Holmes of DRGW.net called it "a rare moment of sanity and agreement"--they accepted. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic's eventual success in restoring D&RGW 463, one of two surviving Mudhens, probably influenced the council's decision.

Denver & Rio Grande 168 In Antlers Park
Rio Grande 168 rests placidly under a thin blanket of snow on April 10, 2004.
Photo by Steve Walden*
The 168 is one of two surviving T-12 class narrow gauge ten-wheelers purchased by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in 1883 by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia. The Rio Grande, having spent the previous two years in a frenzy of expansion needed a number of new narrow gauge locomotives to service the new lines. The other surviving engine, 169, rests in Alamosa, 30 miles north of the eastern terminus of the C&TS at Antonito.

Only a year after her presentation on Aug 27, 1939 (DPL)
The city will lease the locomotive to the railroad for 3 consecutive 15 year terms. This is inclusive of the time to take it apart and fully restore all parts that have corroded or wasted in the 77 years since it last saw service. The locomotive last saw a full cosmetic restoration completed in 1984 and has received periodic upkeep. As it has occupied the same location for nearly 8 decades, the locomotive's static display predates most buildings downtown.

June 13, 1943 Same engine and city but can you spot
all that's changed in less than 4 years?
Both photos: Otto Perry (courtesy DPL)
Most of the buildings, that is, with the exception of the Colorado Springs D&RG Depot, located across the street from Antlers Park. The close proximity of two of the oldest artifacts of Colorado's most extensive railroad has often resulted in their pairing in presentation in promotional and tourism material. The depot had for years served as a restaurant until a change of ownership and subsequent mismanagement forced it to close in 2011.

It is one of the ideas that for many years I had dreamed might one day come about. Could the city that was founded by Gen. Palmer only a year after his "baby road" one day find a way to return to steaming operation a locomotive that had such a history and connection to the city? I once thought it impossible, considering the difficulties of other organizations and other cities. Now, ...who knows what's next?◊

* On a personal note, this was one of my first digital photographs since 1997.