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D&RGW Prospector

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Additional Information

The following was posted to Trainorders.com on November 23, 2007:

Trains 7&8 came into service November 17, 1941 with two Budd built 2 car mini streamliners. The first car contained the power plant and traction motors to move the train, a small baggage area, 44 seats, and men and womens restroom. The second car contained men and womens restrooms, eight sections, two chamberettes (small bedrooms with no bathroom), and a dinette lounge that had table seating for eight and lounge seating for four in the observation area. The cars on one train were the John Evans and David Moffat and on the other the Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball. Unfortunately the train was phenomenally popular and demand ar exceeded capacity. Furthermore the steep mountain grades of the Grande prooved lethal to its machinery and many times it was led into its destination by steam power. The train was discontinued on July 5, 1942.

In October 1945 the Prospector was resurrected using standard (heavyweight) equipment and usually ran with six or seven cars. In 1948 the Prospector became "Streamlined" and diesel powered. I put streamlined in quotations because it was using modernized heavyweight cars in the black with yellow stripes scheme which on passenger train is quite striking.

True new built Pullman Standard streamlined lightweight cars were delivered throughout 1950 and placed into service on the prospector as they arrived. These cars were built in slots that had been purchased by the C&O which had placed the largest order of passenger cars in history. Realizing it had bit off a lot more than it could chew the C&O began selling the slots that many knew cars were to occupy on the pullman assembly line to other railroads as the back log of orders for new equipment was so large that it was five years from time of order until new equipment arrived on the property. Rio Grande purchased 25 slots from the C&O, in other words 25 cars from Pullman that were to be built for C&O. The Rio Grande also purchased three domes from C&O outright and they occasionally found their way into the Prospector.

By the end of 1950 the Prospector was fully re-equipped and running on and overnight schedule between Denver and Salt Lake City. The 10-6 sleepers on the train presented a problem though as government per-diem would only pay for sections in sleeping cars but not roomettes. The Rio Grande sent their sleepers back to pullman and had five roomettes at one end of the car converted into sections giving the cars a 5-6-5 arrangement instead of their previous 10-6 (the roomettes split into two batches of five at either end with bedrooms in the middle unlike Budd cars that had bedrooms at one end and roomettes at the other.)

The train usually ran with five or six cars. There could have been a baggage up front though it wasn't certain, then the baggage crew dorm chair cars 1230 or 1231, next was a 52 seat chair car in the 1240-1247 series, sometimes a second 52 seat chair, next diner lounge 1280 or 1281(these were named Mt. Timpanogos and James Peak Respectively), then one or two of the 5-6-5 sleepers from the 1270-1273 series.(1270 named John Evans, 1271 D. Moffat, 1272 B. Young, 1273 H.C. Kimball)

The Prospector was discontinued on May 28, 1967. Unlike other railroads that degraded service at the end the Prospector exited with head held high still as fine and stout a passenger train as any in the nation. It ran daily its entire lifetime complete with all service intact including sleeping cars and full service dining cars that served Rio Grande mainstays such as fresh Rocky Mountain Trout and Navy Bean Soup until the last run.

The Prospectors drumhead was a black on white drawing of a prospector leading a mule over some rocks.

The following was posted to Trainorders.com on November 23, 2007 by Robert Webber:

There were cars that were bought outright (as indicated, the three chair-dome-observations built for the Chessie), cars that were built for the D&RGW within the C&O order slots, and then two cars bought from a Pere Marquette order.

The domes would only be found on The Prospectors west of Grand Junction, they continued east on the Royal Gorge (when in either train). They would RARELY be found east on the Moffat on the Prospector. They were also used on the Yampa Mail and occasionally on charters/tours from Denver to Glenwood Springs, Salt Lake City or Oakland on the CZ. Rarely were they on the CZ east of Denver.

The P-S cars had unique features (compared to most other cars of the day) due to Robert Young's (C&O CEO) somewhat strange (at the time) requests. He called sections "tenements" and the Roomettes on the 10-6 (actually 5-6-5) were built with privacy and ease of use in mind. The cars with the kitchen in the middle were, in some ways a failure, due to having the best ride reserved for the kitchen - and the worse ride for the paying customers in the lounge and/or dining sections. All of the lavatory facilities were of a new design where the user used foot pedals to initiate flushes, water into the sink, etc. Young was like Hughes - he had a germ phobia.

The elements in the design of the cars and the specifics as to the assignments and some consists can be found in a variety of the Prospector back issues, and also a publication from the C&OHS Second to None.

It wasn't coincidence that the train name is also the name of the Rio Grande Modeling & Historical Society's quarterly publication.

All three Budd domes are still in existence, one in a museum in Daytona Beach. Several cars are still at the ACR or the Potomac Eagle tourist train - the Royal Gorge is in PV service.