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Rio Grande Diesel Roster

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General Notes

This page was last updated on July 13, 2015.

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D&RGW's First Diesel Locomotive

Research has found that D&RGW's first diesel-electric was a 900-horsepower end-cab switcher built by American Locomotive Company (later historians have designated this type as an HH900). Built as Alco serial number 69058, with a date of January 18, 1937, the locomotive is shown in Alco data discovered by Ken Douglas. It was Alco order number S1783-006, and was numbered as D&RGW number 101. It was not accepted by D&RGW and ran for a time afterwards as Alco demonstrator number 101. Allen Copeland has a photographic print of the locomotive without any lettering (except a road number) at El Reno, Oklahoma, while testing on the Rock Island. On October 6, 1939, the unit was sold to the CRI&P as their number 730. (Information from Allen Copeland via email dated June 6, 2002) (The first D&RGW diesel-electric to enter service on D&RGW rails was EMD 1000-horsepower NW2 number 7000, which entered service in January 1941.)

Steam Generators

A total of 34 units were equipped with steam generators for passenger service, including:

FTBs 5482, 5483, 5492, 5493, 5502, 5503, 5512, 5513 (8 units)

F3Bs 5522, 5523, 5532, 5533, 5542, 5543 (six units)

F7Bs 5552, 5553, 5562, 5563, 5572, 5573 (six units)

F7As 5571 and 5574 (replaced by water tanks in early 1950s)

F7Bs 5582, 5583 (added in about 1953)

F9Bs 5762, 5763, 5772, 5773 (four units)

PAs 6001, 6003, 6011, 6013 (four units)

PBs 6002 and 6012

The two early F7 cab units, D&RGW 5571 and 5574, were the only D&RGW EMD cab units built with steam generators; they had small water tanks located directly beneath their steam generators. This feature allowed the unit to be used alone in passenger service (a single F unit on a passenger train), which was planned on D&RGW but apparently happened very seldom. Sufficient water supply for steam generators was a chronic problem on the long distances on many western railroads, so when each of these two units were wrecked in May 1952 (5574) and November 1953 (5571), the steam generators were replaced by water tanks that fed water to the steam generators in adjacent booster units. These later, larger water tanks are evident by their water fills located on the bottom of the car bodies, just to the rear of the units' rear side door.

Steam generators were removed from six FT cabless booster units 5492, 5493, 5502, 5503, 5512 and 5513 in mid 1953, and the units converted to freight service; of the six removed steam generators, two were installed in F7 cabless booster units 5582 and 5583, and two each were installed in steam generators cars 250 and 251 in May and June 1953. (The AFE for the conversion of the two steam generator cars states that the steam generators came from "549 & 550 series Diesel Road Locomotives.")

(The EMD 1950 Product Reference Data book shows 18 FT booster units with steam generators, D&RGW 5432-5513, as does The Revolutionary Diesel, EMC's FT, page 61. Photo research reveals that just these eight units actually had steam generators.)

Carbody Changes on EMD F units

In the earliest known example of EMD rebuilding a D&RGW diesel unit, a photo in Denver & Rio Grande Western Color Pictorial, Volume 1, on page 99, shows FT 543 as having been rebuilt to an F3. The mechanical components of an FT and an F3 are very different from each other and it would have taken much more than a simple replacement of carbody panels. The photo is dated as being taken in about 1949, six years after 543 was delivered new in 1943.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, many of the F3 units were sent back to EMD for upgrading to the more modern F7 specifications. As part of the upgrade process, the units also received carbody side panels that match later F3 and F7 locomotives. Possibly the first example would be the first three A-B-B-A sets of D&RGW F3s, which were built as Phase I units. These units were sent to EMD in about 1951 (they were built in 1946). Their appearance upon return was very similar to what is known as Phase III F3s, with high radiator fans and later carbody side panels. Other features, other than their side panels, identify these units as rebuilt Phase I units, rather than factory-built Phase III units.

D&RGW 5571 was built in February 1949 as an F7A. This unit, along with F3A 5531, was wrecked in November 1953, and was rebuilt by EMD under order 8032 in February 1954 with F9 carbody side panels, keeping all of its other its late F3-era features, including the 36-inch dynamic brake fan. It received a 1500-hp 567BC engine in place of its original 567B engine. The wreck destroyed the unit's nose and cab area, and some of the side panels. Because of the later F9 side panels, this locomotive has been confused regularly as being an F9, which it was not. The unit retained its original F7 mechanical and electrical components until retirement and sale to Alaska Railroad in May 1970.

D&RGW 5531 was built in November 1946 as an F3A. Wrecked at the same time as F7A 5571 in November 1953 and shipped to EMD in four gondolas for wreck repairs. Like the 5571 two months before it, 5531 was returned in April 1954 with some components of EMD's F9 carbody, wearing the new Aspen Gold and four black stripes paint scheme. It was rebuilt by EMD under order 7516, with a 1500-hp 567 BC engine instead of its original 567B engine. The original F3 portions of the carbody retained included the high radiator fans and the dynamic braking rooftop hatch with blowers covered by chicken wire grilles.

Dual Gauge Couplers

The following six D&RGW diesel locomotives are known to have been equipped with dual-gauge couplers, for service at Alamosa and Salida.

All were equipped with stationary dual couplers at their rear ends, and a moveable single coupler at their front end.

Model Date Range
D&RGW 38 GE 44 ton  
D&RGW 73 Baldwin VO660  
D&RGW 101 Alco S-2  
D&RGW 110 Alco S-2  
D&RGW 111 Alco S-2  
D&RGW 131 EMD SW1200 1966-1970

Three photos at Denver Public Library web site, of D&RGW 38 (44T GE) with the triple coupler pockets for coupling to either SG or NG cars.

D&RGW Baldwin VO660 73 was equipped with a air-operated dual-gauge front coupler, and a stationary dual-gauge coupler on the rear, for service at Alamosa.

D&RGW Alco S-2s 101, 110 and 111 were equipped with dual gauge couplers on the rear end, and an air-operated changeable sliding coupler on the front, for service at Alamosa and Salida.

D&RGW EMD SW1200 131 was equipped from 1966 until late 1970 with air operated dual-gauge coupler on the front end (long hood end) for service at Alamosa. The coupler was removed from one of four earlier switchers (VO660 73, S-2s 101, 110, and 111) that had been equipped for the same service.

The following comes from John B. Charles, via an email to the D&RGW Yahoo discussion group dated August 1, 2002 (message 26652):

Early on the D&RG standardized on a heavy 3 pocket cast link and pin coupler for dual gauge operation. The photo on page 55 of Rio Grande to the Pacific shows one of these. They could be used on a standard gauge engine with the center pocket up and the lower offset pockets would match up with narrow gauge equipment. The same coupler could be used on a narrow gauge engine by turning it over. The center pocket would then line up for narrow gauge and the higher offset pockets would be for standard gauge. See photo page 145 of Dreman's Alamosa/Salida book. It shows two narrow gauge and one standard gauge engine all with this type coupler. The same photo is on page 51 of Narrow Gauge in the Rockies.

When knuckle couplers came along they just designed some short shank couplers to fit in the link and pin pockets. These same three pocket couplers, or at least the same design, remained in use to the end of narrow gauge operation.

All of the idler cars were equiped with them on both ends. The most usual practice seemed to be to have a knuckle coupler in the center pocket and in one of the narrow gauge pockets. The narrow gauge coupler could be moved to the other side if necessary. What they probably did was to set the car up the way they wanted it, and then not ever turn it, rather than move the coupler around.

They were also applied to whatever engines (steam or diesel) that were assigned to yard service at the various dual gauge terminals. In the end this was Salida and Alamosa and then only Alamosa. They also had at least one air operated coupler. It was described by Woody a few days ago. See page 11 of Strapac's Vol 1 diesel book for a photo of it on eng 101 that I took in 1963. I don't know for sure, but would guess that they only had one of these, and that it was applied to what ever engine was assigned to yard service at Alamosa. As I recall the engines that I saw it on had one of the three pocket couplers on the other end. See page 21 of Strapac Vol 1 for photos of both ends of eng 73.

The only narrow gauge engine that I know to have dual gauge couplers in recent times was the 496. As Woody said a few days ago its tender is still in Antonito with the 3 pocket coupler. It also had one on the front. See page 159 of Dorma's Alamosa/Salida.

These three pocket castings can be seen today on the idler cars on display at the Colorado Railroad Museum and at Antonito. Also the homemade diesel on the SLVS at Blanca has them. It was built on a D&RGW idler car.

The following comes from Woody Woodward, via an email to the D&RGW Yahoo discussion group dated July 29, 2002 (message 26611):

Having worked on the 131 at Alamosa, I can testify the 131 had a dual gauge coupler on the front of the engine (long hood forward). It was air operated: first you had to pull the safety pin out of the housing to draw bar then turn the air valve to move the draw bar up or down, then insert the safety pin back in place. The air valve was located next to the valve which operated the knckle pin. A switchman could stand on the front step looking forward and operate the air valve. Only the front of 131 was equipped with the adjustible coupler so 131 could not be turned on the wye or the NG couplers would not match-up. If the crew needed to turn equipment, the cars would have to be shoved into the wye and then 131 would have to go around to the other end of the equipment and pull the equip out of the wye. At any rate 131 had to stay always facing East.

Locomotive Nose Lights

All new GP30/35/40s and SD45s were delivered with Mars-branded lights, except for 3129, 3130, which came with Gyralite-branded lights. The last two orders of SD40T-2s and SD50s also were delivered with Gyralite lights. (Jim Eager)

Pilot Snow Plows

In January 1953 D&RGW's mechanical department completed a drawing that showed the application of pilot snow plows to GP7s 5100-5113, delivered in 1950 and 1952. The drawing showed that D&RGW used a cast plow purchased from General Steel Corporation, pattern number 55648, at a cost of $1192.31 each, with a plow bering installed on both front and rear ends of each locomotive. (information from Jerry Day, via email on September 10, 2008)

The drawing was in reality the document that recorded what had already taken place. Following is a list of each GP7's road number, and the recorded date that each locomotive received its two pilot snow plows. (information from D&RGW AFE 3036, from Jerry Day, via email on August 29,2008)

Date Snow
Plow Applied
Photo Research;
Front End?
Photo Research;
Both Ends?
D&RGW 5100 1 Dec 1952      
D&RGW 5101        
D&RGW 5102   Yes    
D&RGW 5103 1 Dec 1952      
D&RGW 5104 1 Dec 1952      
D&RGW 5105        
D&RGW 5106        
D&RGW 5107 1 Nov 1952      
D&RGW 5108 1 Dec 1952   Yes  
D&RGW 5109 1 Dec 1952 Yes Yes Tintic Branch, 1954 (Green Light)
D&RGW 5110        
D&RGW 5111 1 Dec 1952 Yes    
D&RGW 5112 1 Jan 1953      
D&RGW 5113 1 Dec 1952      

For the GP9s, D&RGW 5951 and 5953 were equipped with pilot snow plows. These two locomotives were based at Alamosa in the 1970s and 1980s as they were equipped to operate flangers 052 and 062 from the locomotives' cab. (information from Jerry Day, via email on April 3, 2008)

The GP35s were delivered without pilot snow plows, and the plows were added later.

GP30s, GP35s, and GP40s in Trailing-Unit Service Only

A total of 56 of D&RGW's GP30s, GP35s, and GP40s were modified in 1972 to operate as trailing units only, by removal of cab seats, toilets and radios.

Nine of D&RGW's 28 GP30 units (D&RGW 3020-3028); none are known to have been returned to leading-unit status while still on D&RGW/SP

All 22 GP35 units (D&RGW 3029-3050); none are known to have been returned to leading-unit status while still on D&RGW/SP

Twenty-five of D&RGW's 43 GP40 units (D&RGW 3051-3075); most were returned to leading unit status following the 1988 merger with SP.

Radiator Spray System

EMD's radiator spray system on D&RGW's SD45s was used to cool the radiators in times of extreme heat, such as operating in tunnels. It was kind a predecessor to the tunnel modification of 1972. It worked by spraying water into the intake side of the radiators to add evaporative cooling to the air cooling that was already taking place. I don't know how effective it was, or how many roads had the system installed.

D&RGW used this spray system on all of its 26 SD45s, built in 1967-1968. In 2002, I had occasion to inspect an ex- D&RGW unit on the Nebraska Central in their shop in Grand Island, Nebraska. It was still equipped, and the shop chief there in Grand Island was glad to finally find out what the big vertical tank (about 48 inches high and 24 inches in diameter) in the rear of the unit was for. The spray heads under the radiators were still installed also.

Chronological Notes

News items and notes from various magazines.

September 1981
D&RGW borrowed CN GP40-2L(W) (Class GF-430c) for a short period in September 1981 to test EMD's Super Series creep control, a feature delivered on D&RGW's SD50 in 1984. CN 9616 and 9607 were used in helper service at Minturn for eastbound trains on Tennessee Pass. (source not recorded)

January 1984
Conrail Units Purchased ... On January 16, DRGW management formally exercised its option to purchase the 23 ex-Conrail GP40's which had been leased since late October. The decision came as no surprise to railroad observers who had expected the power-hungry Rio Grande to snap up the units at the expiration of the lease. The price turned out to be approximately $85,000 per unit, which was a great bargain (we regret the erroneous reference last month to a grossly exaggerated $250,000 price which was furnished by a grossly unreliable source). Conrail, which had used the GP40's in high speed van service, wanted very much to buy them itself but was not permitted to match the DRGW bid. Contrary to earlier reports, the engines are actually in excellent mechanical condition. Most received new prime movers in 1981 or 82, and ten were completely rewired during the last two years. In fact, Conrail is widely respected for its excellent maintenance, and these GP40's received good care. About the only serious problems encountered in Rio Grande service have been a few traction motor failures, but these units have higher gearing than other DRGW power and will eventually be regeared in any event. For the time being, the locomotives will retain their present numbers, but, as they are gradually repainted, we expected them to be renumbered into the DRGW scheme starting with the 3131. (CTC Board, February 1984, page 30)

February 1984
New Engines Requested ... Rio Grande officials have gone to their Board of Directors to request funding for the purchase of 20 new units, probably in late 1984 or early 1985. Undoubtedly, the budget request will be approved by the board, but at this time operating department officials have not decided whether to acquire GP's or SD's. If SD's are selected, they will most likely be "tunnel motors," as that variant has proven very successful on the mountainous DRGW. (CTC Board, February 1984, page 31)

February 1984
Late December brought many sightings of Rio Grande units on SP trains in Southern California, including four blue ex-Conrail GP40's. Engines spotted were 3033, 3056, 3079, 3086, 3116, 3159, 3169, 3177, 3179, 5331, and 5349. (CTC Board, February 1984, page 31)

March 1984
Seaboard SD50's Tested ... On March 24 four Seaboard System SD50's (8502/8507/8510/8521) arrived on the DRGW at Pueblo from the MP for a one-week test period. The big gray units were primarily between Pueblo and Craig on coal trains, but they also handled some general freight. The railroad made it a point to use the engines as much as possible in order to obtain a complete analysis of their performance in the difficult mountain terrain. They usually ran in and out of Denver at night but occasionally made daylight appearances on the road, much to the delight of lineside photographers. The cabs always seemed to be well-filled with officials who were compiling test data. Although the Rio Grande has signed a letter of intent with EMD for the purchase of 20 SD40T-2's in the fourth quarter of 1984, it would still be possible for the railroad to switch its order to SD50's instead. Initial reaction to the SD50's was very favorable. The four units were turned over to the Union Pacific at Denver on April 1, 1984 where they will be tested by UP personnel. (CTC Board, May 1984, page 10)

March 1984
With scores of test personnel aboard, Seaboard System SD50's work east on a Rio Grande coal train at Crescent, Colorado on March 25, 1984. The four Super Series units tested on the Rio Grande for about a week before being turned over to the UP on April 1 for further testing by Uncle Pete. (CTC Board, May 1984, page 10, photo caption)

May 1984
Roster Update ... During March the DRGW sold its only remaining GP7 (5108) and five GP9's (5902/5921/5932/5944/ 5952) to Midwest Rail Corp. in Kansas City. The units left Burnham Shop in serviceable condition, which was quite a feat in view of the fact that they had been in storage for a long time. (CTC Board, May 1984, page 11)

June 1984
New Jordan Spreader ... Last summer the Rio Grande got a new Jordan spreader, number AX 45. Built in June, the spreader was immediately put to work along the Royal Gorge line. (CTC Board, December 1984, page 3)

July 1984
Conrail GP40's ... As the former CR units are being repainted, they are also being equipped with pulse crew alerters as well as 8-channel radios with the regular DRGW channels on the "A" side, and MP, SP and UP channels on the "B" side. Obviously, the units are expected to run on the point while operating on other railroads ... In response to considerable demand, the following is a list of all 23 ex-Conrail GP40's acquired by the DRGW showing original and subsequent numbers. The former Conrail units have worked out so well that the power hungry DRGW is reportedly considering the purchase of additional engines when and if they become available. (CTC Board, July 1984, page 15)

3113 3173 3131
3115 3176 3132
3117 3172 3133
3118 3171 3134
3119 3178 3135
3124 3180 3136
3125 3177 3137
3126 3174 3138
3127 3170 3139
3128 3175 3140
3129 3179 3141
3153 3153 3142
3155 3155 3143
3156 3156 3144
3157 3157 3145
3158 3158 3146
3159 3159 3147
3160 3160 3148
3163 3163 3149
3164 3164 3150
3166 3166 3151
3168 3168 3152
3169 3169 3153

September 1984
SD50's Hit The System ... All of Rio Grande's 17 new SD50's have been shipped from EMD to Kansas City for modifications by a private contractor to bring the units up to Rio Grande specifications. Most of these changes are internal but external changes are being done as well. The most noticeable is the installation of a gyra-light in the nose as the units are delivered without this option. Also of note is the fact that the SD50's are equipped with very nice five chime horns which definitely make them stand out at grade crossings. Thus far the new units have primarily been used in coal train service handling as much tonnage as two SD40T-2's. The usual haunts have been on trains #711 and #712 between Phippsburg and Pueblo, Colorado. On September 30 four of the Super Series units were on train #712. Up front, 5501/5502/5503 with 5506 as the helper engine. (CTC Board, November 1984, page 4)

September 1984
Rio Grande train #712 heads south at Palmer Lake, Colorado on September 22, 1984. Up front, two shiny new SD50's; 5502 and 5501. After being set up by a private contractor at Kansas City the Super Series units have been used primarily on trains 711 and 712 between Phippsburg and Pueblo. (CTC Board, November 1984, page 4, photo caption)

September 1984
Rio Grande SD50's 5501 and 5502 were the first of the Super Series units to arrive on D&RGW rails and they made quite an impression early on. Here, the 5501 and 5502 handle a westbound near Rocky, Colorado on September 17, 1984. (CTC Board, November 1984, page 5, photo caption)

September 1984
Rio Grande SD50 5512 posed at La Grange, Illinois for the EMD photographer prior to being shipped. Of note is the fact that it is being delivered without nose headlight which will be applied at Kansas City by a private contractor. Other minor modifications are made prior to being turned over to the Rio Grande. (CTC Board, November 1984, page 5, photo caption)

October 1984
Old Units Stored ... At the end of October, all DRGW GP9's and SD9's (except for chop-nose 5305 which is still used as a switcher in Grand Junction) were withdrawn from service and stored at Burnham Shops. It is expected that they will all be sold or traded in due time; although a sudden upturn in traffic could send them back to active service for a while longer. The railroad has no plans to buy new power until such time as its application for a line to the west coast has been decided. GP30's will replace the first generation power in yard and local service. (CTC Board, December 1984, page 3)

October 1984
All SD50's Delivered ... By the first week in October, all 17 of the shiny new SD50's had been delivered and were hard at work hauling coal on the Moffat Route. From time to time a lone SD50 was seen in helper service pushing hard behind the caboose. Some of the big new units have experienced traction motor problems, and at least four motors have been replaced at Burnham Shops. Otherwise, the SD50's have proven very successful in the difficult mountain terrain of the DRGW. (CTC Board, December 1984, page 3)

January 1986
Business Car Renovated and Redecorated ... As it turned out, the car Kansas is ex-DRGW business car number 100, formerly named Wilson McCarthy, which has been extensively reconditioned and redecorated. In addition to exterior paint and polish, the once-spartan, three-bedroom car has been fitted with beautiful mahogany paneling throughout, and opposite walls have been covered with floral pattern wallpaper in a particularly tasteful and well-coordinated scheme. Dramatic original photographs of Rio Grande trains grace the walls, and several brass "0" scale models of Rio Grande steam locomotives are displayed in glass cases. The overall effect is extremely striking. But many persons -- especially old-time DRGW employees -- are justifiably disturbed that the historic name Wilson McCarthy was scuttled. On the other hand, the naming of this car, along with the other two Anschutz cars, after states now served by the railroad does make sense. Rebuilt from Prospector coach 1240 in 1951, business car number 100 was later named after Judge Wilson McCarthy, who was appointed receiver of the Rio Grande during its second bankruptcy from 1935 to 1947. When the DRGW finally came out of receivership in 1947 and merged with the Denver & Salt Lake, Judge McCarthy was elected president of the reorganized road. He proved to be an effective, dynamic and affable leader of the Rio Grande. He was so successful and popular that in 1951 the board of directors presented business car 100 to him as a surprise gift for his personal use. When Judge McCarthy died in 1956, the railroad named his former business car Wilson McCarthy in his memory as a token of its affection and regard for him. In view of the significant history of the open-platform business car, it is not surprising that a number of people are dissatisfied with its new name Kansas. (CTC Board, January 1986, page 44)