Rio Grande Western, Standard Gauged (1890)

This page was last updated on April 16, 2011.

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The following comes from the January 10, 1890 issue of The Railroad Gazette:

Notes on the Rio Grande Western

The Rio Grande Western will be standard gauge from Ogden to Grand Junction, Colorado, by Feb. 1. This line has been operated as a narrow gauge in connection with the Denver & Rio Grande system.

The rail used in the new work is 65 lb. per yard, made by the Illinois Steel Co. The angle bars are of iron, 38 in. long, six bolt holes. Oregon fir, Utah fir, and California red wood cross ties are used. The redwood ties cost 61 cents delivered at Ogden, or 65 cents on the ground. They will outlive a white oak tie if protected from being crushed by the base of the rail. To prevent this, a sufficient quantity of Servis tie plates were purchased to protect all the redwood ties put in. These tie plates also answer for rail braces on light curves. The Ajax rail trace is used on all heavy curves. The frogs used are No. 10 stiff rail, with 15-ft. split switches and revolving switch stands.

The line of the road has been greatly changed to avoid heavy curves and grades. Some heavy excavation and rock work was necessary, which was very expensive, because of the high price of labor. The heaviest grade between Grand Junction and Ogden is 216 ft. per mile. This is over the mountain at Soldier's Summit. The operation of this grade, including the care of snow sheds, is of course expensive.

Nearly all of the new standard gauge equipment has arrived. The passenger engines were built by the New York Locomotive Works, and have three pairs of drivers, coupled, and 18x21 in. cylinders. These engines are equipped with driver brakes and steam heating apparatus. The freight engines were built by the Baldwin Works. They are the Consolidation type, with 20x21 in. cylinders. Part of the freight engines are equipped with driver brakes and part are not.

The freight equipment was built by the Wells & French Co., of Chicago, and the Litchfield Car & Machinery Co., of Litchfield, Illinois All the cars are 60,000 lbs. capacity. Half are equipped with the Janney automatic coupler and half with the Dowling coupler. All have the Westinghouse automatic quick-actin, air brake; this and the Otis steel axle, Dunham door and Winslow roof make the cars first-class. The passenger equipment is certainly as fine as can be found on any of the Eastern roads. The coaches are 51 ft. 6 in. by 9 ft. 8 in. over all, are painted the standard dark red of the Rio Grande lines, a shade almost the same as the Pennsylvania lines. They are heated by steam from the engine. The Pintsch system is used for lighting. Each car has a ladies' toilet room, a gentlemen's toilet room and a gentleman's smoking compartment. No two cars are upholstered alike. The Johnson car seat is used with the improved roll head rest. The cars are finished in mahogany, and have large windows with double glass and curtains. The Paige 33 in. steel wheel is used, Miller platforms and couplers and vestibule hoods. Each car is supplied with a platform light. The entire passenger, mail, baggage and express equipment was built by the St. Charles Car Co., of St. Charles, Missouri, and attracted considerable attention while in transit from that point to Salt Lake City.

The shops of the Rio Grande at Salt Lake are being enlarged and equipped with the latest machinery from the Niles Tool Works, Hamilton, O.; J. A. Fay & Co., Cincinnati; Bement, Miles & Co., Philadelphia, and others.

A number of the iron surface cattle guards have been put in. The Buda hand and push cars are used. In prosecuting the new work the tie-adzing machine and Emerson rail bender were used to great advantage. The adzer was run by a small Westinghouse engine supplied with steam from the locomotive which pushed the machine. The "blizzard" tail light will be used on passenger trains and as signal lights on the engines, and the Watts tail light on the cabooses.

The company is building its own cabooses in the Salt Lake shops. They are of the four-wheeled pattern, similar to those in use on the Pennsylvania. The improvements in station buildings and grounds and freight yards are being pushed to completion. The Salt Lake yard and shop tracks have been remodeled. A new 60-ft. turntable, built by Corrode & Saylor, is being put in position at the Salt Lake roundhouse. A shnilar turntable is being placed at Pleasant Valley Junction. The road will be ballasted with stone and gravel, both of which are easily obtained.

Prior to the widening of the gauge, curves of 18, 20, and 22 degrees in the main track were numerous. In the new Line eight degrees is the sharpest curve.

Since writing the above, the Mountain division of the road has been put into operation as a standard gauge. The big engines have come up to the expectations of the officers by hauling 16 loads over the mountain and doing excellent service with the passenger trains.

It is expected that a standard gauge road will be in operation between Denver and Ogden by about April 15, 1890. The route will be the Colorado Midland to Glenwood Springs, the Rio Grande & Junction from that point to Grand Junction, and the Rio Grande Western to Ogden. The Rio Grande & Junction is a new road, being built by the Colorado Midland and Denver & Rio Grande, and is owned jointly by them. In a quiet way there is being completed a new standard gauge road to the coast, which will enable the Burlington, Rock Island and possibly the Missouri Pacific to offer a through service to the public similar to that in operation over the Northwestern and the Union Pacific. It is generally understood here that this is to be the Pennsylvania's route to the Pacific coast, the C. & N. W. and the U. P. being a Vanderbilt connection, and the Santa Fe having made through arrangements with the B & O. -- Salt Lake City, December 20, D.E.

The following comes from the November 21, 1890 issue of The Railroad Gazette, page 808:

The New Standard Gauge Line to Utah.

The opening of a new transcontinental route through Colorado and Utah, via the Colorado Midland, Denver & Rio Grande and Rio Grande Western, last week, is an important event in the railroad history of the year. The extension of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, Rock Island, Burlington and the Missouri Pacific, to Denver, all within a few years, made it inevitable that some new outlet be secured beyond that point. Of the two lines west of the meridian of Denver, the Colorado Midland was standard gauge, but it ended at New Castle and had no western connection. Two narrow gauge lines, the Denver & Rio Grande and Rio Grande Western, gave a connection with the Central Pacific at Ogden, but this route was not a factor except in passenger matters. Practically all freight between Salt Lake City and Denver has gone by way of the Union Pacific line through Wyoming. The present through freight traffic over the Central and Union Pacific between San Francisco and Denver may not be very large, but it is, no doubt, increasing, and is worth fighting for. The competitors of the Union Pacific and Chicago & Northwestern have not turned over their business at Denver to the former line with the best of grace, and the opening of the new route will be welcome to them, and they will readily give it all freight not routed via the Union Pacific. The Denver & Rio Grande takes westbound freight at Pueblo and Denver, and the Colorado Midland takes it at Colorado Springs, so that transfers will be far more convenient than when all freight had to be hauled to Denver, which the Burlington alone of the newer lines, reaches over its own track. The Atchison's purchase of the Colorado Midland may lose that line part of the traffic which it would have secured if it had continued independent; but such a loss will very likely be more than balanced by the entire Atchison business, which will, of course, go over its line instead of the Denver & Rio Grande.

We have said that the extension of the Western trunk lines to Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo meant also the establishment of through standard auge lines to Salt Lake City. The reorganization of the Denver & Rio Grande Western as the Rio Grande Western in June 1889, undoubtedly hastened the work. That road then proposed to standard gauge its main line from Salt Lake City to the Colorado state line, and to close the gap between the end of its line and the Colorado Midland at New Castle, and it was financially well prepared for the work. The latter part of the project was dropped when the Colorado Midland and Denver & Rio Grande made an agreement in August 1889, to build jointly the gap of 65 miles to Grand Junction, near the state line. The competition between these two latter lines had reduced rates to very low figures for mountain roads, but it was now agreed that no further reductions should be made.

The new line is about 625 miles long, viz., over the Colorado Midland from Colorado Springs to Newcastle, 233 miles; thence over the Rio Grande Junction road to Grand Junction, 64 miles, and over the Rio Grande Western to Salt Lake City and Ogden, 328 miles. By the Denver & Rio Grande from Denver Springs to Glenwood, 371 miles, the line is 760 miles long. The distance by the Union Pacific from Denver to Ogden is 620 miles, which gives that line a good advantage in mileage. The cost of the work to the three lines is not yet definitely known. The Denver & Rio Grande has issued $7,500,000 five per cent improvement bonds to pay for the changes on its line. The Rio Grande Western has spent over $5,000,000. The capital stock of the Rio Grande Junction is $2,000,000 of stock and the bonds are guaranteed by the lessee roads.

The chief interest and importance of the new route for some time will be its effect on passenger travel between Denver and Salt Lake and the Pacific Coast. The three roads interested have made large expenditures in new equipment to attract travel. Very handsome cars have been built, and through trains were put on last Sunday. Two solid trains will be run each way daily between Denver and Ogden, over both the Colorado Midland and Denver Rio Grande to Grand Junction, and thence over the Rio Grande Junction and Rio Grande Western. Pullman sleeping and tourist cars will be attached to each train to and from San Francisco. The Denver & Rio Grande will have two routes between Salida and Salida and Grand Junction, as it will continue to run daily trains over the narrow gauge line via Gunnison and Montrose.