Update: D&RG steam locomotive restoration at Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

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Denver & Rio Grande No. 168 Scalf
Former Denver & Rio Grande 4-6-0 No. 168 awaits fabrication of the stainless-steel jacket before restoration can be completed.
Thomas Scalf
Denver & Rio Grande No. 168 cab Scalf
Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec made Denver & Rio Grande No. 168’s cab.
Thomas Scalf

Denver & Rio Grande 1883-built Baldwin 4-6-0 No. 168 is in final stages of restoration at Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad’s Antonito, Colo., yard. The locomotive will be part of the railroad’s 50th anniversary of operation celebration in 2020.

One of the final parts of the restoration is the boiler jacket, which is being fabricated by Ecodynamics of Monte Vista, Colo., and funded by Trains magazine’s 2018 Preservation Award. The jacket will be made of 20-gauge stainless steel to Baldwin standards, with riveted seams, hooks, and clamps. The steel will be blued, like a fine firearm, to imitate America iron, which was typical jacketing material in the U.S., during the period that this locomotive is being restored to.

While stainless steel is more expensive, it is far more durable than carbon steel. The problem with a blued finish on carbon steel or iron is that if anything acidic gets on it, the finish will be removed. On a coal-burning railroad with coal-burning soot, rain, and bird droppings, the finish would have to be wiped down with oil every day to maintain it. 

Even though D&RG No. 168 was built in 1883, the railroad chose to restore the locomotive to 1916. “Stamped on the dome is the build date of 1915,” says Stathi Pappas, director of C&TS special projects. “With this boiler, there is no way we could make this locomotive reflect the earlier time period, so that’s why we chose 1916.”

The Interstate Commerce Commission for the Colorado Narrow Gauge Railroads said in 1915 that there were to be no more wrought-iron boilers in service. D&RG built the original boiler in-house.

Once the boiler jacket is on, workers will install the air compressor, air-system plumbing, and brake-system plumbing. With that work complete, they will mount the cab, which was constructed by the Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec. 

“The running gear is done at this point,” Pappas says. “The locomotive has been timed. It would run right now. It will be operable before the end of the season, but we won’t be doing our unveiling until probably opening day of 2020, when we unveil the locomotive and the historic consist [see “Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad restores 19th-century passenger cars”] that goes behind it.

“We want to make sure that we take enough time to adequately test run and debug the locomotive. I don’t anticipate that there will be a whole lot of surprises. We’ve gone through the running gear entirely, but there are a lot of variables that go on in these sorts of projects.”

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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