August 19, 2004

Railfest 2004: Historic trains ride D&SNG rails

By Dan D’Ambrosio Herald Staff Writer

Railfest 2004 got off to a puffing, steaming start Wed-nesday, with not only the regularly scheduled train service to Silverton but also service on Galloping Goose No. 5 to Cascade Canyon and back.

What’s a Galloping Goose? It was the attempt by the Rio Grande Southern railroad to stay in business when the Great Depression hit hard in the 1930s and the expense of running steam locomotives to haul mail and passengers became too much for the small Ridgway-based railroad to bear.

The Goose, powered by a GMC straight 6 gas engine, was the brainchild of the railroad’s chief mechanic, and went into service in June 1933. It kept the railroad hauling mail and passengers until the early 1950s, when it might have otherwise gone out of business during the Depression, said Goose crew member Jerry McKenzie on Wednesday.

The Rio Grande Southern still ran a few steam engines as well to haul freight, including lumber, ore and cattle, McKenzie said.

He said no one knows where the colorful nickname for the “motors,” as the gas-powered trains were known, came from, but that it’s possible they remind people of a goose galloping down the tracks when they’re in motion.

Galloping Goose No. 5, resembling a silver bus cut in half with a cow catcher in front and a camper in back, was rusting away in a park in Dolores when McKenzie and several of his friends volunteered to breathe life back into it.

“We’ll not only fix it, we’ll put it in tip-top running condition,” McKenzie said the Goose crew told town officials.

The restoration, completed in 1998, took a year, and a great deal of hard work, to finish, said McKenzie, particularly to restore the passenger seating area.

“The roof had leaked for 47 years,” McKenzie said.

Now the cane seats, recycled from Denver street cars by the resourceful Rio Grande chief mechanic, glisten in the late afternoon light, ready for today’s run to Cascade Canyon.

The Galloping Goose is an awkward but endearing reminder of the survival instinct brought on by the Great Depression.

This year’s Railfest is the sixth annual, and continues through Sunday.

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