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Cumbres and Toltec Galloping Goose Westward Trip 9/29/2022

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I woke up with the alarm at 6:30 and after our partial internet duties, we stopped at Speedway for breakfast items as no restaurants were open at that time. We then drove to the Chama station where I picked up our Goose tickets and we boarded the bus. I enjoyed my powdered donuts and cinnamon roll with lemonade and Elizabeth had hot chocolate and coffee cake. The bus left a few minutes late and we had a quiet bus driver who drove us to Antonito.

Cumbres and Toltec 4-6-0 168, orginally Denver and Rio Grande Western 168, built by Baldwin in 1883. It was pulled the first passenger train from Denver to Ogden and was displayed in Antlers Park in Colorado Springs from 1938 until 2015. It was restored to operation in October 2019 and is used primarily for special events and charters hosted by the Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.


Cumbres and Toltec K-36 2-8-2 484, originally Denver and Rio Grande Western 484, built by Baldwin in 1925 and was featured in the film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". Those passengers on today's trip had a safety briefing before our tickets were punched and we boarded the Galloping Goose. I had seat eight in the front of Goose 5 and Elizabeth had seat 33 in the back of. There were no numbered seats so you could sit wherever you wanted.

Galloping Goose 5 history

If the Rio Grande Southern Railroad had ever been a profitable endeavor with the changing economy of its fledgling days, the "Galloping Goose" might never have been "hatched" to accommodate travel by rail in the remote and isolated regions of far southwestern Colorado. The railroad was conceived and built in 1890-91 by the unflappable "Pathfinder of the San Juans", Otto Mears. It was over 160 miles long and ran from the town of Ridgway, Colorado on the north to Durango, Colorado on the south going through the towns of Telluride, Rico, Dolores and Mancos.

The RGS's early revenues came mainly from the numerous silver and gold mines near Telluride, Ophir and Rico. Hauling hundreds of tons of precious metal ores and hundreds of passengers in and out of the area made the financial condition of the railroad extraordinarily strong for its first two and one-half years! However, the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act caused the Silver Panic of 1893, and silver prices plummeted. As a result, many silver mines were closed, people fled the area by the thousands, and the railroad slipped into its first receivership that same year.

Nevertheless, the railroad survived - just barely at times - for another 40 years hauling various kinds of freight and passengers until the stock market crash in 1929 spelled the almost certain financial failure of the railroad. However, there remained an obligation and responsibility for the railroad to provide reliable transportation for small amounts of freight, what few passengers there were, and the always-important U.S. Mail. It was time to economize! There had to be a way! There was. A new rail vehicle was born from an ingenious idea and developed into what later became widely known as the Galloping Geese.

The cost was $2,599 for No. 5, which was built with a 1928 Pierce-Arrow limousine body and running gear. It was rebuilt in 1946/47, using a World War II surplus GMC gasoline truck engine and a Wayne Corporation bus body. In 1950, the freight/mail compartment was converted to carry 20 additional passengers for sightseeing trips. With a one-man crew, and operating on gasoline rather than steam, our local Galloping Goose and its fellow goslings fit the bill for economic travel.

Even though originally built from Buicks and Pierce Arrows, the word "dignified" never seems to have been included in their description, but they were serviceable and definitely fit their purpose. Traveling through the countryside with a horn that could easily be mistaken for the call of a real goose, they were said to have "waddled" down the uneven, poorly maintained tracks of the cash-strapped Rio Grande Southern.

Throughout the Great Depression, World War II and all the way to abandonment in 1952, the RGS continued to operate steam engine powered trains on an irregular schedule as needed for hauling heavy freight and livestock shipments. However, by mid-1933, a Motor - a Galloping Goose - was used for hauling most passengers, small amounts of freight and the United States Mail.

From 1891 until 1933, the RGS carried passengers and mail in coaches and mail cars on regularly scheduled passenger trains. After 1933, the only choice for folks traveling through far southwestern Colorado by rail was the not-so-spacious accommodations of a waddling, honking Galloping Goose. Sometimes the ride included such entertainment as going over the top of Lizard Head Pass in a blinding blizzard in an unheated Goose or waiting somewhere along the line for floodwaters to subside, but in most cases it was "the only way to fly."

After World War II, the old muddy wagon roads slowly became the more like highways, and trucks and passenger buses began to rob the railroad of business. In 1950, the federal government did not renew the U.S. Mail contract with the RGS and financially, that was the last straw. Tourist passenger traffic during the summers of 1950 and 1951 did not generate enough revenue to keep the failing railroad alive.

In April 1952, the Interstate Commerce Commission gave permission to the Receiver in Denver to abandon the entire railroad. The first rails were pulled up in early September of 1952 and by March of 1953 the scrappers had finished their job and it was all gone! That is to say, the railroad line was gone but some of the equipment survives to this day, including Galloping Goose No. 5 nesting here in Dolores.

In 1952, members of the Dolores Rotary Club purchased Galloping Goose 5 from the court-appointed receiver for $250. It was then put it on display in Flanders Park in Dolores as a reminder of the town's railroad heritage.

The Galloping Goose Historical Society of Dolores, Inc. was founded in 1987. The Society's first big project (in 1991) was to build a replica of the original RGS Dolores depot. The new building is slightly northeast of the original location. It is a Victorian structure and painted in the RGS color scheme of buff yellow with brown trim. It contains the Society's railroad museum and gift shop.

In 1997 and 1998, the Society completely restored Galloping Goose 5 to operating condition through the efforts of hundreds of hours of volunteer labor and thousands of dollars in donations. Goose 5 made its first run in almost 47 years on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in May 1998. Goose 5 is now a very popular attraction operating on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in June and on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad during Railfest in August.

Displays in the museum show the history of the RGS, the Galloping Goose and the town of Dolores, including a diorama of the town's railroad yard as it looked in 1946. These and other displays make a visit to Dolores' only museum worthwhile. The museum gift shop features numerous items of railroad memorabilia as well as gift shop items relating to railroads. Many railroad books and videos are also for sale including the award-winning series People and Places of the Four Corners. We also have the 12-volume set of "The RGS Story" by Dell McCoy and Russ Coleman.

Summer museum hours are Monday through Saturday 9 to 5, Memorial Day through Labor Day. (Limited hours May 15th through Memorial Day and Labor Day through October 15th.)

The Galloping Goose Historical Society has members from across the nation and in other countries. The Society offers annual individual memberships for $25; business memberships for $100; and lifetime memberships for $500. Monetary donations are always welcome, but also of value to the Society are donations of photos and other items or information relating to the Rio Grande Southern Railroad or to any of the Galloping Geese.

Our Trip

We left Antonito at 8:37 AM with twenty-three passengers aboard Galloping Goose 5.

My view out of the front of the Goose 5.

Mt. San Antonio, a shield volcano.

Your Public Lands Bureau of Land Management.

We needed to climb to the Lava Loops and it was announced that we would do a static photo at the Lava water tower.

Posed photo one at the Lava water tower. We next went up the grade to the top of Whiplash Curve where we would do the first photo runby of the morning.

Galloping Goose 5 at the second grade crossing at the top of Whiplash Curve.

Reverse move one.

Photo runby one at the second grade crossing at the top of Whiplash Curve. Elizabeth took my place and I took hers in Goose 5.

Fall colors trying to make it.

Big Horn Peak on the way to Sublette. They anounced our next photo runby would be west of there.

A rock outcropping on the way to Sublette. West of Sublette we hiked up to a hill.

TNT was stored in this bunker which would blow upwards. There was a pipe for nitroglycerin storage which was used in building the railroad through the mountains.

Reverse move two.

Photo runby two west of Sublette.

Fall colors doing what they do best. We stopped for static pictures.

Posed photos three using the back of Galloping Goose 5. They moved up the tracks to a another static photo.

Posed photo four of the front of Galloping Goose 5.

On the way to Phanton Canyon and passing through Mud Tunnel.

Phanton Canyon. Now we will we run to Rock Tunnel.

Fall colors abound on our Goose trip.

One more view before Galloping Goose 5 stopped at the east portal of Rock Tunnel. We were surprised to be able to walk through the 320 foot tunnel. A warning was given not to touch the railings on the other side as they were not stable. Everyone made it through the tunnel.

We walked through the east portal of Rock Tunnel.

We reached the west portal.

A look down into the Rio de Los Pinos Gorge which is 600 feet down and 800 feet across.

The Garfield Moneument erected by a railroad ticket agent dedicted to the memory of President James Abram Garfield after his assassination in 1881.

The moneument says "In Memorian James Abram Garfield President of the United States Died on September 19, 1881. Mourned by all the people. Erected by members of the National Passengers Assciation of General Passengers and Ticket Agents who held memorial burial services on this spot on September 26, 1881".

Photo runby three at Rock Tunnel.

Reverse move three.

Posed picture five.

Goose 5 ready to take us to Osier.

The best autumn colors on this railroad.

Two United States Air Force G133 aircraft buzzed over us then banked out of sight.

More of those fall colors.

We rounded the corner and Osier came into view. Elizabeth and I went into the food lines and I had the same lunch as yesterday except I had three pieces of corn bread along with chicken and chocolate cake and Elizabeth had her same lunch except today she enjoyed apple pie for her dessert. After lunch I went outside to photograph a few things.

Galloping Goose 5 at rest at Osier.

Galloping Goose 5 and the lunch room building.

The Osier water tower.

The depot display board.

The Osier station built in 1880.

Railroad Section House display board.

Railroad Section House built in 1881.

High Country Living Keep your eyes peeled for these local residents display board.

The Bunkhouse display board.

The Turntable display board.

The Coal Platform display board.

The Old Toll Road display board.

The Toll Road Site sign circa 1874.

Rocks on the move lifting, erupting and wearing away.

The stock yard in Osier.

Two of the local Osier cows. I returned to the Goose and relaxed doing a word search puzzle which I did until the train from Chama approached Osier.

The train from Chama on the approach to Osier.

Cumbres and Toltec K37 489, originally Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad 489, built by Baldwin in 1925. Once all 23 people were aboard the Goose, we departed.

A look back to Osier with the Chama train in the view.

Beautiful fall colors are seen in this view. We stopped at Cascade Trestle, 137 above the Cascade Creek.

Reverse move four.

Photo runby four at Cascade Trestle. From here we went to the telephone booth at the mouth of Los Pinos valley.

Posed picture six at the Denver and Rio Grande Western telephone booth. We continued on to the Los Pinos water tower.

Posed picture seven at the Los Pinos water tower. Next we went west down the track and stopped for some railroad archeology.

The old snowplow out in the trees about milepost 327.

Reverse move five.

Photo runby five at the only good crossing east of Cumbres Pass. We ran around Tanglefoot Curve and climbed the rest of the grade to Cumbres Pass.

Reverse move six at Cumbres.

Photo runby six at Cumbres. We then descended to Windy Point.

Fall colors at Coxo from Windy Point.

Windy Point at Coxo. We went down the grade and stopped east of Cresco.

Reverse move seven.

Photo runby seven east of Cresco. We next ran to the Cresco water tank and stopped.

Posed picture eight.

Reverse move eight.

Photo runby eight at the Cresco water tank. From here we ran west across New Mexico Highway 17, crossed the Lobato Trestle and went through the Narrows, then across New Mexico Highway 17 past the Jukes Tree and across the Chama River, where we stopped.

Reverse move nine.

Photo runby nine at the Chama River crossing. We reloaded the Goose for the final time and headed into Chama.

Cumbres and Toltec K37 2-8-2 492 originally Denver and Rio Grande Western 492 built by Baldwin in 1928.

Cumbres and Toltec rotary snow plow OY built by Cooke Locomotive Works in 1923 at a cost of $38,336.26 for the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. Galloping Goose Five came to a stop in front of the Chama station with Elizabeth and I detraining. It had been an excellent day of riding this unique vehicle and all the runbys and posed pictures were excellently scouted out and executed. I was very impressed by all the locations used and many of them were brand new to me and outstanding. Elizabeth thoroughly enjoyed her day of riding the Goose on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. I bought two T-shirts for Elizabeth and I and some others for gifts. We returned to the Branding Iron Motel for the night.