Thursday, May 24, 2012

Narrow Gauge Ghost

Yeah, it's May 2012 but there is still some neat stuff from 2011 we wanted to bring you. Enjoy this vignette from Colorado that occurred in September 2011.

Denver & Rio Grande Western 485; Perry's Pond, Cumbres, Colorado
Denver & Rio Grande Western K-36 class 2-8-2 No. 485 fell into the turntable pit in Salida, Colo., and was subsequently scrapped in 1955. It is the only one of the Rio Grande's ten K-36s to be scrapped; the other nine have found homes on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

So how could No. 485 be working its way from Chama, N.M., to Cumbres Pass, Colo., on September 21, 2011?

The answer starts the previous night, September 20, in the shop of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic. In preparation for a photo charter, Pete Lerro of Lerro Productions and his team are scraping numbers off the side of K-36 No. 489 and swapping out number boards. The C&TS has filed paperwork with the Federal Railroad Administration for a number reassignment, and the result is D&RGW No. 485 is once again an official locomotive.

Mitch Goldman of Lerro Productions removes a number from K-36 No. 489
The new vinyl "5" on the sides of the reincarnated 485 were a bit too white, but a little soot from the ground outside the shop and a bit of elbow grease soon disguised the new digit. The next morning No. 485 was on the point of a freight train ready to make its way up the four percent grade to the 10,000-foot summit of Cumbres Pass.

D&RGW No. 485 outside Chama, N.M.
For the first part of the Lerro Productions charter the photo line followed along in cars, with the train lowing down occasionally to let photographers get ahead. One of the better locations was the S-curve along Highway 18 as the train worked its way through the hills outside of Chama (above). Upon arrival at Cumbres Pass, the chasers became riders, boarding the train to head for Tanglefoot Curve, a signature location on the Colorado narrow gauge circle (below).

D&RGW No. 485; Tanglefoot Curve, Cumbres, Colo.
The train pushed back to Cumbres Pass from Tanglefoot Curve and turned on the wye at the summit, where a few runbys were held just at sunset. The setting sun along with the smoke and steam in the thin mountain air made for a moody narrow gauge scene right out of the 1950s (below).

Sunset at Cumbres Pass, Colo.
Up next was a night photo session at the summit, with No. 485 providing a lot of steam to the assembled photo line (below). Several different angles were available. The crew provided a steamy blowdown to add contrast to the scene.

Night on the narrow gauge at Cumbres Pass, Colo.
The final shots of No. 485 would be under a blanket of stars at the summit (below). The photographers would return to their cars to drive back to Chama, while the crew would bring No. 485 down the hill in darkness. No. 485 would power regular trains on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic on September 22, but the following day a "9" would be applied to each side of the cab and No. 485 would once again vanish into the pages of history.

Under the stars at Cumbres Pass

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