Friday, March 23, 2007

Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Funding Still Lopsided

According to a news story in the Pueblo Chieftain, funding for the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic line from Colorado is painfully low.
...the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad won't see the $1.35 million it wanted to cover track rehabilitation costs, but it will get $80,000 to rehabilitate its car shop and engine house.
This is unfortunate, but not without its own causes. Wade Hall on the Narrow Gauge Railroad Discussion Forum offered this as part of his insightful commentary on the situation:
Out of the 100 Colorado legislators, about 13 hail from rural Colorado. Time was when that numerical disadvantage was somewhat overcome by many of the legislative leadership positions being held by rural legislators. Those days are gone. Add to that Colorado's budget inflexibility imposed partly by TABOR, and it's not hard to see why securing Colorado funding for the C&TS is such a challenge. The Front Range effectively controls the budget--and will continue to do [so].
While this certainly is a possibility, Nathan D. Holmes of states,
For those of you in Colorado, remember that if you want to see money for the C&TS, you need to make it known to your legislators. Like any good politician, they'll pay attention if enough people make enough noise about an issue. If you're not happy with the way the budget came out this year, writing them isn't a bad idea...
It certainly couldn't hurt the chances of the C&TS to do so. It could be that as long as the Colorado legislature pretends to fund what it owns, the C&TS will likely pretend to work. While New Mexico continues to fund the railroad it jointly owns, Colorado, for all the opulence of its natural beauty, fails to own up to its fiscal end of the bargain despite its joint ownership.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

SP 1744 Steam Locomotive To Run On La Veta

It appears the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad just completed the purchase of former Southern Pacific Railroad standard-gauge steam locomotive #1744. This engine was listed recently for $800,000 by Ozark Mountain Railcar.

Built by Baldwin for SP in 1901, the 2-6-o Mogul is an oil burner. She has been reconfigured a few times, including going from compound to simple and having a superheater added and boosting the boiler to 200 p.s.i. After serving mostly in Califronia, her first service life effectively ended September 24, 1956, when SP retired her, placing her in stand-by status because of her good condition. According to Ozark, she saw occasional excursion service until the fall of 1958 when she starred in a feature film, entitled This Earth Is Mine released the following year.

She was donated to the National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers on May 9, 1959, where the locomotive was on static display at Corine, Utah along with Union Pacific 2-8-0 #264, sitting pilot to pilot as a representation of "the driving of the golden spike." This was prior to the actual rail park at Promontory, Utah.

She went to the Heber Valley Railroad (the Heber Creeper) in the 80s. According to Christopher Hawkins,
I learned to fire on SP 2-6-0 #1744. At that time, this engine just wasn't a good steamer at all, it's 63" drivers were designed to sprint down the San Juaquin Valley at 50mph, not climb a 2.5% mountain grade at 15mph like we were running her. Even retired SP hogheads [engineers] couldn't get her to steam; damper wide open, damper closed, fire door propped open, blower set for takeoff, she just didn't cooperate, and that made excellent firemen out of us, because there was no mercy, you had to plan ahead for everything. Later, we found that by cutting an auxilliary breathing hole in the oilpan near the burner, it allowed the fire to rise up and fill the corners of the firebox, she steamed like a firecracker after that!
In the 90s, rebuilding began for excursion service in Ft. Worth, Texas but work was not completed until she was sold to the New Orleans and Gulf Coast, a subsidiary of the Rio Grande Pacific Corporation, in 1999. Work was begun in Ft. Worth and a few break-in trips were made before she was shipped to the Big Easy. The next year, she began her work for the NO&GC. All too quickly, the venture folded in a couple of months and the 1744 has been for sale, serviceable, but will need some work before a full season can be expected out of her.

Here's hoping that the 1744 can leave her troubled past behind and begin to boost interest in the La Veta Pass route.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Richardson Memorial Service Scheduled

From the Colorado Railroad Museum...
You are invited to attend a Memorial Service for Bob Richardson on Saturday, May 5 2:00PM at the Colorado Railroad Museum to celebrate his life and his important contributions to railroad history and preservation. The locomotive #346 restoration fund has been created to honor Bob. All donations to the fund will be used to complete the last phase in the restoration of the 346. Donations should be made to "Colorado Railroad Museum" and designated to the 346 restoration fund.
For more information, visit the Colorado Railroad Museum web site. For directions, visit the site for a general map or get specific directions using Google Maps.

Monday, March 5, 2007

CRRM Co-founder Robert W. Richardson Dies at age 96

By Ron Hill, Colorado Railroad Museum, Photo by Mallory H. Ferrell

Photo by Mallory H. FerrellFondly called “Uncle Robert” by all those who know and admired him, Robert William Richardson, age 96, passed away peacefully in State College, Pennsylvania, on February 23, 2007. Although plagued by short bouts of illness in recent years, Bob had remained basically healthy and in full possession of his remarkable memory and sharp wit right up until the end. Perhaps best known as the co-founder and longtime Executive Director of the Colorado Railroad Museum and a distinguished railroad author and photographer, Bob’s career could easily have gone in a different direction. Born in Rochester, Pennsylvania, on May 21, 1910, he moved with his parents to Akron, Ohio, in 1915 and later graduated from high school there. Diverted from a college education, Bob went to work for a local hardware concern until the depression cost him his job. Along the way he had learned the printing business and proceeded to start his own small print shop in Akron. The depression years were especially hard for printers, and Bob’s shop closed in 1937. Stamp collecting was one of his major hobbies, and George Linn hired him as the second editor of “Linn’s Weekly Stamp News,” the principal publication dealing with that interest. Fortunately, for rail hobbyists and historians, Bob’s other hobby was railroading.

As a teenager, Bob enjoyed watching and photographing trains in Ohio and Pennsylvania. His insatiable curiosity led him to study railroad operations and history, and later he wrote articles for both “Trains” and “Railroad” magazines. In anticipation of forthcoming military service, he quit his job with “Linn’s” but then learned that he would not be called up for some time. Thus, he took a job as an advertising representative for the Seiberling Rubber Company, which required him to travel extensively through the southern states as he assisted Seiberling tire dealers and sought out interesting short line railroads.

In the summer of 1941, Bob and a friend came to Colorado for the first time, making an unforgettable circle tour on the narrow gauge. Bob become completely enamored of the slim gauge railroads of Colorado. After military service with the Army Signal Corps during WWII in Iran, where he studied the Persian railroads and learned to read Farsi, Bob returned to his job with Seiberling, but the lure of Colorado remained strong. He made repeated vacation trips to narrow gauge country in 1945, 1946 and 1947, eventually deciding to make his home here. In 1948 he quit his job, and he and a friend from Ohio pooled their resources to open the Narrow Gauge Motel in Alamosa. The motel grounds offered a fine place to display some of the narrow gauge equipment he had purchased, along with that saved by the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club. While at the motel, he began the sporadic publication of a very significant newsletter called simply “Narrow Gauge News” which later became the Colorado Railroad Museum’s “Iron Horse News.” At Alamosa, Bob Richardson tirelessly railed against the abandonment of the historic narrow gauge lines. It can accurately be said that his untiring efforts and the publicity he generated were among the primary reasons that the Silverton Train and the Cumbres and Toltec were preserved for future generations to savor.

While in Alamosa, Bob amassed a formidable collection of railroad artifacts and equipment, including famed D&RGW locomotive No. 346, which he purchased with his own funds in 1950. Then Cornelius W. Hauck, another prominent railroad enthusiast from Ohio, acquired D&RGW 318 and placed it at the motel. Bob’s friendship with “Corny” Hauck led to the establishment of the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, which is today recognized as one of the truly great railroad museums in the country. Purchase of the former farm just east of Golden was completed in 1958, and the museum was officially opened to the public in July of 1959. Construction of the Iron Horse Motel next door was intended to be an additional source of operating revenue but instead proved to be overly time-consuming and was sold. Several years down the road, the motel was purchased and razed to make way for the roundhouse restoration facility and to enable completion of a loop of narrow gauge track. The Robert W. Richardson Railroad Library at the museum was created and named in his honor. Bob served as the distinguished Executive Director of the Colorado Railroad Museum until 1991 when he made the decision to retire and move back to Pennsylvania in that part of the country where he had been raised and where his nephews and niece reside. Even in retirement he continued to produce significant volumes dealing with railroad history, especially here in Colorado. Today, persons treasure their friendships and even casual meetings with him and will long remember his myriad contributions to Colorado railroad history. It is no exaggeration to say that he did more than any other person to preserve Colorado’s unique railroad heritage. We are indeed fortunate that his photographs and writings will be available for future generations of railroad enthusiasts and historians.

Bob Richardson was truly one of a kind and will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, Uncle Robert.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Colorado Railroad Museum for the restoration of Locomotive 346.

Special thanks to the Colorado Railroad Museum for making this available to Colorado Railroads.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Friends of the C&TS Work Sessions

Ever want to get your fingers out from behind that keyboard and doing something real? The Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad have announced their work sessions for 2007. Sessions are planned for 2 weeks in May, June and August. There is also a special first session May 7-11. Visit their worksession page for more information, documentation and photos of previous work sessions.