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The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad's management began converting parts of the system to standard gauge within 16 years of its founding, realizing that it must be able to interchange with its neighbors to survive. In 1887 a third rail was laid between Pueblo and Leadville. Soon a standard-gauge line stretched over Tennessee Pass and on to the Utah state line. From that time on, the company focused primarily on its broad-gauge operations.

Never as numerous as the picturesque narrow-gauge network, the standard gauge track nevertheless reached into many remote communities even as it bore the line's bridge traffic on its "broad" shoulders. See my book for all the gory details (get it?  as in, Gore Canyon etc?   Sorry...). Suffice it that the standard-gauge system was the future of the railroad, and most of it survives into the present day in various forms.

My main Rio Grande web region deals with most of this. The purpose of this page is to display some of the surviving standard-gauge equipment, artifacts, and plant that reflects the D&RGW heritage-- sometimes in unexpected places.

Here is a page of walk-around photos of 01423, many of which are close-up detail views. These photos were taken in Monte Vista on 12/27/2009.

Rolling Stock

Dome Chair Car from the California Zephyr and later the Rio Grande Zephyr, the former SILVER COLT is seen in the Grand Canyon Railway's Williams yard in August 2011. Since 1983 it's been all over North America, landing at the GCRy in 2004.  See here for more details.

In Miramar, California I came across this streamlined sleeper from the California Zephyr. Online sources tell me this is the former CB&Q SILVER THRUSH, a 6-5 sleeper. Not a Rio Grande car to be sure, but for 22 years it spent roughly every third day traversing D&RGW rails so I include it here. (Photos on May 17, 2013)

Top: view from the street. The graffiti is unfortunate if not unexpected.

Bottom: view from the less-accessible side. There is a small yard that receives covered hoppers, and the stainless car sits on the track closest to the street (hence half of it is obscured).

In Maricopa, Arizona (south of Phoenix) one finds a wonderful relic of the California Zephyr, CB&Q's SILVER HORIZON. This dome observation was moved here some years ago and for a time actually served as the Amtrak station for Maricopa. Eventually a regular structure was built, but the car remains on display just a few dozen yards of the former SP mainline. It's accessible from the outside but the interior vestibule door is locked. The windows have some kind of reflective applique on the inside so it's very hard to know for sure, but the interior seems to be gutted.  This makes sense considering it had been used as a train station...

This car was one of six such that were built for CZ service.  Burlington had three, Western Pacific two, and Rio Grande had one (the SILVER SKY).

The views are self-explanatory. Note the streak of rust in the bottom view.


In Monte Vista, Colorado, one finds a fascinating collection of Rio Grande rolling stock. Most of it seems to be owned by the "new" Denver & Rio Grande Railway ("Wagon Wheel Gap route"). If you visit the town, go to where the tracks cross north/south US 285.  On the east side of the road you will see a huge assortment of crumbling narrow-gauge cars, and a few standard gauge cars (Caboose 01423 immediately stands out).  On the west side of the highway is a string of mixed cars, including two Rio Grande boxes and a few gondolas. If you're in the area, spend a half hour or so here with your camera; all this history is completely accessible on foot.
Combo-door Boxcar No. 63043.  This car was built in April 1968. It now sits in Monte Vista, Colorado in the yard where much derelict and mothballed equipment gathers rust.  Photo on 12/28/2009.

Caboose 01423, as seen in 2009.  The caboose was transferred circa 2004 to the "Wagon Wheel Gap" tourist line between South Fork and Creede.  The caboose was stored for many years on a spur in Monte Vista just north of the highways 160 - 285 intersection.  UPDATE: It was sold to a private party and moved to Albuquerque circa 2016.

The 01423 was built in 1942. 

 Here is a page of walk-around photos of 01423, many of which are close-up detail views. These photos were taken in Monte Vista on 12/27/2009.

Double-door boxcar 63325.  Built in 1966, this order was delivered in Mineral Red for some reason. 

Top: A end and side. (12/27/2010.)

Bottom: B end and opposite side. The proximity of the school's fence makes photos a little cluttered but there's not much one can do about it at this point...

Here is a close-up of the COTS panel and dimensional stencils on the right-hand side of the doors.
Here are the reporting marks and data from the left side of the car.

40-foot Boxcar 68398 (lettered for company service, AX).  Built 1939.

Top: A end and side. There is a little paint left on this side.  (12/27/2010)

Bottom: B end and side. Essentially no lettering remains here.

See here for a close-up of the stencil on end of the car.

65-foot drop-end mill gondola 30132.  Built in 1949, it's in fairly good condition now, all things considered. (12/27/2010)

Here is the COTS Stencil and dimensional data.

52-foot mill gondola 55539, lettered for company service. Built in 1968, it's had a hard life. Now the sides are bowed out. (12/27/2010)
Flatcar 23044, 53'-6" long, is hiding under a blanket of snow and behind a chain link fence (hampering clear photography). Yet, the Flying Rio Grande herald still tells us the story.
Bulkhead flatcar, 53'6" in length. Interestingly it's difficult to tell the number, since it has been restenciled right over the top of the old number. I cannot decipher which combination of digits is "correct". Who would have completely renumbered the car (and why) is a mystery to me. At any rate, its current owners have it marked for scrapping. (12/20/2012)
Elsewhere around the former Rio Grande territory, one can find a variety of relics-- some retired, some actually still in service. Many boxcars found a second life as sheds and storage buildings-- one example is below, but many can be seen in fields and pastures throughout Colorado. Many other cars found their way into maintenance-of-way service and continue to work for the Union Pacific.
RGAX 3275 - on the Grand Junction wreck train

This diner-kitchen-sleeper car is the former diner-lounge Mt YALE, originally built with wood sheathing in 1910 as Western Pacific's OAKLAND, returned to D&RGW in 11/1923, later rebuilt with steel sheathing and large picture windows (1936), and retired to X-3275 in February 1953. It was used on the classy Exposition Flyer train in the 1940s, among other premier trains. I have been photographing it for nearly 2 decades; sometime just prior to this photo it received a refurbishment, new paint, and new reporting marks. See here for its former look.

Derrick No. 028 - on the Grand Junction wreck train

The Grand Junction "Big Hook" was nicknamed "Samson de Grande" in a D&RGW employee contest. It's a 250-ton Bucyrus-Erie product and was the largest derrick on the D&RGW roster. It's the heart of the UP Grand Junction wreck train.

This photo dates from 12/01/2002 but it is little changed a dozen years later. The wheel car / boom car X-3335 (now RGAX 3335) is also visible.

Caboose 01448, on display at the museum in Hot Sulphur Springs. This caboose had previously been on display at the Winter Park ski area, as an exhibit for the Ski Train and skiing in general, hence the bogus herald. It was given to the Hot Sulphur Springs museum in 1999, but it still has most of the skiing exhibits inside. The interior had been gutted for the exhibits, so there's no authentic railroad interior left (including the cupola).
Spreader O44, displayed at the Hot Sulphur Springs museum. It was stationed in Utah for snow-clearing work from 1930 forward, and donated to the museum in the 1990's.




53-foot flatcar No, AX-21015.  This car has been in MOW service for a long time, outliving the D&RGW (for whom it's lettered), the SP, and now it soldiers on for Union Pacific.  Here (4/27/2014) it's spotted on the house track at Westwater, Utah, serving as a combination materials car and boom car for a small Burro crane.

The linked images are QUITE LARGE to better show details.

1: From the shady side.

2: End view. You can see the interesting cross-section from here, including the way the deck is extended out over the stake pockets.

3: Opposite side.  The COTS stencil is damaged. Dimensional data is legible. Note the rust marks where a dangling chain wore off the paint.

4: 3/4 view at opposite end. Note the steel-sheathed corner on the extended deck, and the tackboard directly below.

This retired boxcar served as a storage shed adjacent to the Cargill elevator at North Yard in Denver. Evidently it had been in MOW service prior to retirement.  (7/29/2007)

I looked for this car on a visit on 12/16/2014 and it was no longer there.


Denver's North Yard tower was built by the D&RGW when the yard was constructed in the '50s. It received one subsequent addition. It has also served the Rock Island (co-tenant),Southern Pacific Lines, and now serves the Union Pacific.  Seen here on July 29, 2007, about 2 weeks before the light green surfaces (dating from D&RGW days) were repainted Harbor Mist Gray.
This section shed stands at the west portal of the Moffat Tunnel.  It's a common D&RGW design.  Union Pacific has built a modern signal shack next to it, but the old metal building still stands where it has for many years.

Glenwood Springs Depot

These images from 1995 (it looks basically the same now) show the classic stone structure from different angles. Now, the western half is devoted to Amtrak and the eastern half has become a museum. This station was the destination for the majority of riders on the Rio Grande Zephyr during its existence, and Amtrak still does a busy trade here.

Sand towers at Denver's North Yard. Seen here on July 29, 2007, about 2 weeks before they were repainted from their longstanding light green shade to Harbor Mist Gray. These structures have been modified quite a bit in the past 35 years; various apparatus, appliances, and lights have been welded on by SP and UP, but their core form has not changed dramatically.


The Famous F9's (well, two of them anyway) are retired in 1950's splendour at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden. I took this photo on 2/09/2002 and they are little changed since then.

Now I shall commit a certain rant to print. The 5771, 5762, and 5763 were most famous for being (1) the last surviving F units operated by the D&RGW, and (2) for being the dedicated power for the Rio Grande Zephyr for nearly its entire existence. Not only that, but they were repainted into the 1-stripe scheme very early in the 1960s. Given that their history is unique and prominent, why did the museum restorers choose to paint them in the 4-stripe scheme like generic 1950's F units rather than in the 1-stripe scheme in which they became famous???  I appreciate the museum saving them, but come on, guys.  These should not serve as representational D&RGW F units; they are notorious in their own right, and should have been presented in such a way as to show it.




? 2008, James R. Griffin.  All rights reserved.