The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad merged with the Rio Grande Western Railroad in
1908 and through a series of corporate maneuvers finally became the Denver Rio
Grande Western in 1921.
In 1903 the Rio Grande purchased fifteen narrow gauge "Mikado" type locomotives
from the Baldwin Locomotive Company. These locomotives had outside frames and
were delivered as Vauclain compound but were converted to simple engines
between 1907 and 1909. They were designated as Class K-27 and the group was
numbered 450 through 464. The simple two cylinder locomotives had 40" diameter
drivers, 17" x 22" cylinders, a 200 psi boiler pressure and they exerted 27,022
pounds of tractive effort. The firebox was 113 square feet and the evaporative
heating surface was 2149. The K-27s did not track well and derailed from time
to time on the poorly maintained tracks. This earned them the nickname of "Mud
Twenty years after buying the "Mud Hens" the Rio Grande bought ten narrow gauge
2-8-2s from the American Locomotive Company. This group was designated as Class
K-28 and was given road numbers 470 through 479. These locomotives had 44"
diameter drivers, 18" x 22" cylinders, a 200 psi boiler pressure and they
exerted 27,540 pounds of tractive effort. The firebox was 102 square feet, the
evaporative heating surface was 1600 square feet and with the superheater the
combined heating surface was 1,996 square feet. This group was well liked and
the locomotives of the group were called "Sports Models". Seven, of this class
were drafted into service during World War II and were put to work on the
White Pass & Yukon Railroad in Alaska.
Just two years later, in 1925, ten more narrow gauge "Mikados" were added to the
Rio Grande roster. This group came from Baldwin, designated as Class K-36 and
assigned road numbers 480 though 489. These locomotives had 44" diameter
drivers, 20" x 24" cylinders, a 195 psi boiler pressure and they exerted 36,164
pounds of tractive effort. The firebox was 145 square feet, the evaporative
heating surface was 2,118 and with the superheater the combined heating surface
was 2,693 square feet. This group of locomotives was never given a nickname.
Needing more motive power in the late 1920s the D&RGW's Burnham Shops in Denver
began a program of building a new class of 2-8-2s. Ten were built by converting
standard gauge 2-8-0s between 1928 and 1930. This group was designated as Class
K-37 and was assigned road numbers 490 through 499. These locomotives had 44"
diameter drivers, 20" x 24" cylinders, a 200 psi boiler pressure and they
exerted 37,091 pounds of tractive effort. The firebox was 249 square feet, the
evaporative heating surface was 2,102 square feet and with the superheater the
combined heating surface was 2,597 square feet.
The D&RG had added a third rail to its tracks and ran both standard and narrow
gauge motive power and rolling stock. Its Denver to Ogden main line was
converted to standard gauge. The railroad needed standard gauge locomotives for
its Denver to Pueblo freight service and it ordered fourteen for delivery in
1913 from Baldwin. These locomotives were designated as Class K-59 and were
given road numbers 1200 through 1213. They had 63" diameter drivers, 27" x 30"
cylinders, a 200 psi boiler pressure and they exerted 59,014 pounds of tractive
effort. The firebox was 335 square feet, the evaporative heating surface was
3,700 square feet and with the superheater the combined heating surface was
4,495 square feet.
There was one more group of standard gauge "Mikados" used on the D&RGW. These
locomotives were bought second hand from the Denver & Salt Lake in 1947. There
were eight that were built by Lima in 1915, which were assigned road numbers
1220 through 1227, and two ALCO built locomotives that were built in 1916. The
later pair received road numbers 1228 and 1229. These locomotives had 55"
diameter drivers, 26" x 30" cylinders, a 200 psi boiler pressure and they
exerted 62,700 pounds of tractive effort.
There are 22 surviving D&RGW 2-8-2s.
Class K-27-125 (Locobase 3753)
Data from D&RGW 1 - 1952 Folio L Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive collection. See also Chris Lane, "Mountain Models (Division of PSC) K-27", Model Railroading, July 2005, pp. 18-21, archived on the web at http://www.on30annual.com/images/PDFs/reviews/MMI%20K-27.pdf , last accessed 24 May 2008. Works numbers were 21677, 21685 in February 1903; 21728-21729, 21781, 21788, 21796, 21803, 21824, 21832, 21845, 21854, 21894 in March; and 21910 and 21936 in April.
According to Drury (1993), this class started out as Vauclain compounds (two 13" HP, two 22" LP cylinders). Perhaps the compound cylinder arrangement driving such small wheels and traveling on 40-lb rail was the cause, but the "Mudhens" were not initially popular because of their tendency to derail. As they left the rail and skittered across the ties, according to bystanders, they had a waddling gate like that of a hen, hence the nickname.
The DRG later upgraded with 50-60 lb rail and converted the class to 2-cylinder simple engines in 1907-1911. Curiously, during the conversion, the railroad elected to install slide valves operated by Stephenson link motion in place of the Walschaert-actuated piston valves that had fed the two cylinders on each side. While 10 were retrofitted with 11" piston valves when superheated in the 1920s (see Locobase 9465), 462, alone among the saturated survivors, eventually received piston valves as well.
459 later went on to serve the Nacional de Mexico as their 401.
Class K-27-125-superheated (Locobase 9465)
Data from D&RGW 1 - 1952 Folio L Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive collection.
When the little Mikes shown in Locobase 3753 received superheaters, the boilers underwent the usual exchange of tubes in favor of flues -- 119 of the former were removed to make room for 22 of the latter. Even though the tractive effort rating remained unchanged, the steam distributed by relatively capacious 11" diameter piston valves was drier and consequently gave more push per pulse. The first few conversions (454, 456, 458, 461) retained the inside-frame valve chest location (so that from the front the cylinders "tilt" in toward the boiler from either side). The later conversions favored the outside-valve chest location that lined up the valve with the Walschaert valve gear.
On an Internet forum, a post from El Coke (Ed Coker), titled Runnning [sic] the last K-27s and time-stamped December 12, 2005 07:39PM gave a thorough "review" of how at least one of the class felt to run:
"This was a very enjoyable engine to run. The engine was comfortable to operate, with controls placed where an engineman did not neeed to reach far to operate. It had a very reponsive throttle and tracked very well, though not quite as good as 473 and 476. It had a short wheelbase and a big overhang in the back-like the 480s, and would nose around in curves but with none of the violence the 480s would display. It also, like the 470s, could go relatively fast and feel safe. It had no backhead insulation so the cab was hot. The lifting injectors always worked fine. The negative-and it was a big one-was the engine steamed poorly. It served the engineeer and fireman well to clean the fire themselves- and as thoroughly as possible, especially in front. Earl and I agreed that if the perfect notch in the cutoff and the perfect notch in the throttle were found it would run up Cumbres without running out of steam. "
Another correspondent -- Re: Runnning the last K-27s, Posted by: earl (IP Logged), Date: December 15, 2005 08:40AM -- added his comments about why the K-27 steamed poorly: "The problem with K27's is the firebox is very shallow with little room up front between the grates and the arch. You had to be a good shot with the scoop. Too high and you'd hit the arch and the coal would fall in the middle. Too low and the coal would land short of the front. Either way, you end up with a pile about 2 feet from the front - a pile that would extend from the grates all the way to the arch - with nothing burning against the flue sheet. The shallow box didn't allow much room for air to combine with the gases, which effected its ability to steam and keep the smoke down."
"Earl" continues with fascinating detail about what it took to fire a flawed design: "It took lots of little scoops of coal to keep 463 against the peg. Her hard draft would burn the coal right off the scoop. You had to keep after her, and be on your feet most of the time (right next that unlagged backhead). She had real big injectors (10's) which were oversized for her. They wouldn't cut back far enough to run all the time and you had to trade water and steam - fire the gun off when you had 199.95 lbs, then fire until you dropped to 192 or so, kill the gun, get your steam back, start the gun, etc. You were a real busy fireman. Even at its best by the time you got to below Coxo the fire was getting deep, and her steaming ability was beginning to fade (along with the fireman). If a stop at Cresco was made, it gave the fireman a chance to shake the fire down a bit, which amde life on the upper part of the hill much easier. After a few days on 463, firing 489 was like laying off."
Retirements began in the late 1930s. 458-459 enjoyed an unusual post-DRG career beginning January 1942 when they were sold to the Nacional de Mexico as their class KR-7 #400-401, converted to standard-gauge running in 1949 (July and June, respectively) and renumbered 2250-2251 in classes KR-7 and KR-8. Considering that meant lengthening the axles by more than a foot and a half, this was a pretty drastic step to take on 40-year-old locomotives.
The enlargement must have proved satisfactory, for the NdeM didn't retire 459/401/2251 until 1957 and only condemned 458/400/2250 in 1962.
Class K-28-148 (Locobase 5042)
Data from D&RGW 12 - 1937 Folio 10 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive collection. See also Chris Lane, "Mountain Models (Division of PSC) K-28", Model Railroading, April 2006, pp. 17-20, archived on the web at http://www.on30annual.com/images/PDFs/reviews/April%2006%20MMI%20Review.pdf , last accessed 24 May 2008 and an extended discussion at http://openbuildings.com/buildings/durango-and-silverton-narrow-gauge-railroad-profile-31988# , last accessed 28 October 2011.
These were first Mikes procured by the Denver & Rio Grande Western's narrow-gauge line since the "Mudhens" of 1903 (see Locobase 3753, 9465). Drury (1993) notes that they were nicknamed the "Sports Models" (probably from the taller drivers allowing more speed) and adds that tractive effort was little different from the earlier class. Lane notes the distinguishing features of these Mikes, including a large counterweight just on the 3rd driver (to balance the main rod big end) and a cross-compound air pump on the left-hand smokebox door.
They replaced Ten-Wheelers pulling passenger trains on the Alamosa-Durango and Salida-Gunnison services. These runs included the last named-narrow gauge passenger train, the San Juan. Lane says the success of the design, which ran smoothly and powerfully, led to other orders including a set of four for the Oahu Land & Railway Company.
When World War II began, seven of the 10 in the class were appropriated by the US Army and sent to the Yukon & White Pass Railroad; 470-472, 474-475, 477, and 479 were renumbered in sequence 250--256. They didn't return to the D&RGW, but were scrapped in 1945 in Seattle (6) and 472 in Ogden, Utah .
The other three ran in the Rockies for as long as the DRG&W maintained its narrow-gauge division, being retired only in the late 1950s. All three later went to the Durango & Silverton to operated on those rails, a service that soon transformed into a thriving tourixt-line attraction.
Class K-36-189 (Locobase 13)
Data from D&RGW 12 - 1937 Folio 10 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive collection see also http://openbuildings.com/buildings/durango-and-silverton-narrow-gauge-railroad-profile-31988# , last accessed 28 October 2011 and DeGolyer, Volume 76, pp. 283+. Works numbers were 58541, 58558-58559 in July 1925; 58584-58590 in August. (For some reason, the first engine was assigned road number 482. The others were numbered in order of their works numbers.)
The last new narrow-gauge locomotives bought by the D&RGW. Drury (1993) notes that these had outside frames (drivers between the frames, counterweights and crankpins visible outside the frames). Piston valve diameter was 11" (279 mm).
A general statement in Baldwin's specifications sheets indicate the close fit between design and anticipated operating environment: "Engines to operate at elevation of 11,000 ft [3,353 m]. Maximum emergency speed for stability, on 26 degree curves, 25 miles per hour [40 km/h]. Operating speed on 26 degree curves, 15 mph [24 km/h]. Track gauge on 26 degree curve, 36 1/2" [927 mm]. Track elevation on 26 degree curve, 3 3/4" [95 mm]."
Another interesting spec is the one addressing steam flow, in which the designers state that "throttle, dry pipe and steam pipe area based on approximate steam flow of 6,000 ft per minute under maximum power, and not over 7,000 ft per minute through superheater." Locobase doesn't remember seeing this particular ratio described in any other Baldwin spec, although clearly such considerations preoccupied builders and operators during the whole of the steam age.
http://ghostdepot.com/rg/rolling%20stock/locomotive/narrow_gauge.htm, last accessed 24 May 2008 -- A website detailing the DRG & W's narrow-gauge operation -- notes: "They had one third more pulling power than the K-28s [Locobase 5042] and were used on the steepest grades."
The author adds: "Most of the people who ran the narrow gauge engines consider the K36s to be the best narrow gauge engines on the D&RGW. " They were not without their flaws, however, the most frequently mentioned being poor riding qualities.
Class K-37 (Locobase 9466)
Data from D&RGW 1 - 1952 Folio L Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive collection. See also George Woodman Hilton, American Narrow-Gauge Railroads (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1990, 155 and http://drgw.free.fr/DRGW/Steam/K-37/K-37_en.htm , last accessed 8 July 2014.
This class represents a rare instance in which a standard-gauge locomotive design was converted to narrow-gauge operation. Obviously trying to put as much power over a single set of wheels as was possible on three-foot gauge as cheaply as possible, the railroad took its class of Baldwin-built C-41s (see Locobase 1461), added a trailing axle under the firebox and squeezed the wheels 1 1/2 feet closer together in a new frame. The C-41s made over in this program were originally numbered 1008, 1014, 1020-1021, 1026, 1004, 1023, 1003, 1009, and 1025.
The resulting Mikado was slightly smaller than the built-for-3-ft K-36 (see Locobase 13), but put down a 3,600-lb (1,633 kg) higher axle loading. Hilton comments that the K-37s "...were particularly identified with the Monarch branch, which combined difficult curves and heavy mineral traffic." And noting a structural feature, adds, "The engines were a demonstration of the attractions of the outside frame, allowing a large boiler of standard-gauge dimensions on 3' track." (Hilton also observes that so large a boiler on the narrow-gauge was a moderately scaled vessel on the 4' 8 1/2" alignment.
493-494 and 497 were modified with steam heating equipment to serve the Shavano passenger trains between Salida and Gunnison.
The specifications reflect a later update in which a few boiler tubes were removed as part of a firebox overhaul that resulted in the installation of 46 sq ft (4.25 sq m) of thermic syphons to contribute to the firebox heating surface area.
All but two were preserved after the narrow-gauge era ended; 496 was scrapped in 1955 and 490 was scrapped in 1963-1964 .497 operated on the Durango & Silverton until it was traded to the C&TS for K-36 #482. Its tube life expired in 2003, but is "stored serviceable." 491's restoration to service at the Colorado Railroad Museum (Golden, CO) was due to complete in 2014. In addition, several members were on display at several Colorado locations: 493 at the Freight House Museum, Silverton; 494-495 at the Cumbre &Toltec Scenic yard in Antonito; 498 at the Durango & Silverton in Durango, and the 499 at Royal Gorge Park at Canon City, CO.
Class K-59 (Locobase 1464)
Data from 1937 & 1952 D & RGW locomotive diagram book supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive collection. Works numbers were 38772-38781 and 38870-38873 in November 1912.
As delivered, this class had relatively capacious 16" (406 mm) diameter piston valves. In its final form, the firebox heating surface included 38 sq ft of arch tubes to which had been added 60 sq ft of syphons. At least one locomotive (1202) was fitted with circulators instead, which added 40 sq ft to original firebox area. 1202's boiler tubes and flues also measured 6" longer.
According to Drury (1993), these engines were spirited enough to pull passenger trains over the Moffatt Tunnel route in the 1930s-1940s. Most were dismantled in the 1950s. Engine numbers reflect D&RGW renumbering in 1924.