TABB - Rio Grande Southern (RGS)

Rio Grande Southern (RGS)

GPS Location: 37.269249, -107.882537

Miles from Chama: 109

Miles from Durango: 0

Address: 461 Main Ave, Durango, CO 81301

Rio Grande Southern Caboose #0402 1940 Dates of operation: 1892-1951 Source: Wikipedia Commons

The narrow-gauge Rio Grande Southern (RGS) was built to connect Durango with Ridgway over the rugged San Juan Mountains. The RGS was founded in 1889 by Otto Mears, known as the “Pathfinder of the San Juans” for the many toll roads and railroads he built, and construction began in 1890. The line went west from Durango to Mancos, serving several coal mines in the area. Very little remains from this section of the track. The line then turned northeast, serving the mining and lumbering towns of Dolores, Rico, and Telluride and crossing the highest mountains at Lizard Head Pass. At Ridgway, the RGS connected with the D&RGW line south to Ouray and north to Montrose and Grand Junction. The line hauled principally ore, lumber, and livestock, as well as general commodities and passengers to the isolated towns in the area. At Dolores, a spur served the huge lumber mill at McPhee, once Colorado’s largest with 1,500 employees and now submerged under McPhee Reservoir. A replica station has been built at Dolores, which includes an interesting museum, and the stations at Telluride and Ridgway still exist, now repurposed. The RGS was never a wealthy railroad and struggled to survive through the Great Depression, finally closing in 1951. A famed aspect of the RGS was its fleet of “Galloping Geese.” During the Great Depression it became increasingly expensive to operate trains over the mountain railroad. The RGS devised a rail car from an automobile or bus front end and a box car rear end. Seven Geese were built for the RGS, and all but one survive today. These contraptions allowed the railroad to carry passengers and freight without running a full train. One of the Geese (#5) is usually parked at the replica station in Dolores. This Goose and several others still run occasional tourist runs on the Durango and Silverton and Cumbres and Toltec Scenic.


John Porco 

Galloping Goose 1952 – Source: The Wham Family