Colorado Experience: Galloping Goose
There's. Nothing else like them anywhere. They. Have their own kind of weird clunky, charisma, people fall in love with these things the galloping, geese were. Remarkable. Illustration of. Ingenuity. These. Vehicles, were, significant. In saving, the railroad, it. Was much cheaper to, operate this with only one motor. Man instead, of a fully crewed steam train. The. Geese were. The FedEx, or UPS of. Today. It's. Part car and it's part train they're. So small and weird-looking. That you can't help but like them. This. Program, was generously, made possible, by the history, Colorado State Historical fund, supporting. Projects throughout the state to, preserve protect and, interpret Colorado's, architectural. And archaeological treasures. History, Colorado State Historical, fund, create the future honor the past with. Support, from the Denver Public Library, history. Colorado and the, Colorado Office of Film television, and, media, with. Additional support, from, these fine organizations, and. Viewers. Like. You, thank. You. There. Are six operating. Tourist railroads in the state of Colorado, we, are proud that we are one, of them, there's. The, Royal Gorge there's, the Georgetown, loop, there's, the Leadville, Colorado and, southern up at Leadville there's. The Durango and Silverton, there's. The Cumbres and Toltec and, there's. A small operation, up at cripple creek. The. Beloved, tourist, railroads, that race through rugged mountains, and sweeping, vistas, tell, the story of Colorado. From. Its mining, heyday, of the late 1800s, through the Great Depression to, a contemporary relic. Loved, by locals, and tourists, alike these, tracks of wood and steel carry, the legacy of ingenuity, and nothing. Quite exudes, this heritage, like the galloping goose that once motored, along the tracks part, car part, train pure, pioneering. Innovation. Now. Listed, in the National Register of, Historic Places these, seven, rail cars are a Colorado. Treasure, the, galloping, geese were built by the Rio Grande Southern Railroad which, was a small railroad in southwest. Colorado they. Were built during the Depression, to haul the mail light. Freight and a few passengers, they. Had a very specific purpose. They. Became the only scheduled, train, on a daily, basis, well starting, at 31, and going. All the way up to 1949. We, want to keep them the way they were because there are many many tens of thousands, of people around the world who will beat up on as if we don't, these.
Things Are known around, the world. The. Railroad came to Colorado in the 1870s. It began to, make. Their way through Colorado. Into the mountains to. Extract. Or gold. Silver. Other. Precious metals, and the. Narrow gauge railroads. Those, were three-foot. Small. Gauge. Railroads, were, a little bit more nimble and. Were. Able to get into the mountains easier. Than a very large, standard, gauge railroad. The. Challenge, of establishing. Transportation. Systems in the Rockies, particularly. Through railroads, was. The most important, engineering feat in Colorado, in the 19th, and early 20th centuries, the San Juan Mountains of, southern Colorado are the most rugged remote, mountainous. Mistake. And this, is where the goose walks the, silver. Strikes in the San Juans Silverton, tell your own your Rea, Durango. Led for, a demand, to get goods into the mountains and wore back out and so. In 1890. Otto Mears, began working on what was known as the Rio Grande southern, would align. That connected Ridgeway Colorado, to, mining camps all the, way through the mountains to Durango. By. 1891. The. Railroad. Was. Complete, for the Rio Grande southern that, 164. Mile stretch, when. The railroad, had. The mail contract, they, had operated a passenger, train from, each end of the line every, day it. Took maybe four. To five people, to. Operate the Train, plus. One or two people to. Service it overnight the railroad boomed for, about the first 10 years 12, years. 1893. Was, another story, that was the big silver bust, they, repealed, free. Coinage of silver and. Mining. Collapsed, and, at that point the, Rio Grande southern went into depression from, which it never really recovered. But. Even after the collapse of silver mining there was still a need to get Goods and supplies and groceries, into, the remote, communities. Of Telluride. And Rico and offer. And so, the Rio Grande southern continued, on into, the 1910s, and 1920s. It became more and more expensive to maintain the line and to maintain though the large steam. Locomotives. That ran in the mountains and by, the time the depression came around almost. All of the mines had closed and then there was no revenue. For the railroad with, no, passengers. It, was hard to justify the passenger, trains with, one passenger, per day each way now to Telluride that. Passenger, train was only there for the mail by, the 1930s. They got to be too expensive to. Run, the, passenger, trains I saw the railroad, actually, was considering, abandonment, in the 30s. Many. Railroads had, tried making. Track. Inspection vehicles, out of Model T's and Model A's and, other. Vehicles it's, really quite easy for, standard, gauge because. The wheel, spacing, of most automobiles, is pretty close to standard, gauge or was it that. Narrow. Gauge is a bit more complicated, by. 1913. Engineers. Were beginning to play around with the idea of building, hybrid, locomotives and, in fact the first galloping. Goose is what some people called tallip and goose number one was built in 1913. As a railroad, inspection. Car this. Was the first of the high production brass seventies as a. Vehicle, for the personal, use of the general superintendent WPA. It, had a very checkered, career, it ended up upside down in the river more than once.
One. Of the first times they took the car out they were finding out how fast it would go the newspapers. Were claiming it would go 60 miles an hour but nonetheless the, track was only good for 20 and at some point they probably went too fast they may have had men but, the thing, went into the river with. Deputy, Lee his wife and two. Other people there were some injuries and. W. Dee's wife decided. That she would not ride in it again that was enough. Galloping. Goose number one crashed, in 1925. And it was retired although, its parts were used to build the, subsequent, fleet flock. Gaggle, of geese, and, ultimately. Seven, galloping. Geese were put, into service over, time. And. Forest white was the superintendent. And he, knew a fellow in Dolores by the name of Jack Oden baa Jack, and his brother were, running a family auto repair, business and, the, railroad hired, him, he, had a lot of mechanical, knowledge and, it was just Yankee ingenuity that, he designed, these galloping, goose with and. He started by buying this Buick from some people in Dolores. It was a 25 master, six touring car so it was six years old, this, was in May of 31. Jack, was very ingenious, the way he did things that was literally I found that laying on the ground that'll fit in that space weld that in to, make a bracket or a brace or something like that and they were so strapped, financially they. Were just real. Creative guys with good skills in the shop it, was their plan your spirit if. They needed a part to go to the checker and if they didn't have one they'd make one and, by, the first, of June they actually headed out for test operations. And by. The 16th. Of June they put it in service between, Telluride, and Dolores. And. It was real cheap to operate one guy need to take the gas the geese were actually, their, formal, title, was motor one motor two galloping. Goose number one that was built in June of 1931. Costs. About, $850. For the railroad to build and. It paid for itself within the first months that, proved, to be inadequate, because, it was too small and it. Didn't have an enclosed right, compartment for the mail the post office complained, that their mail was insecure so, when they built motor 2 they built in a closed Freight box number. Two proved to be too small so then they went to what we real fans called the limousine, version number. Three was the first of the big pierce-arrow. They. Bought secondhand. For about ten cents on the dollar this is very very expensive automobiles. That they were buying for scrap. Price, it went from, Dolores, to Durango where, there was more traffic there, was more mail there, were more milk cans and Parcel Post and, that sort of thing in 32, they built number four it was just like number, three. Number. Five was a pierce-arrow model, thirty-six everything. Else was pretty much the same yet, has had many interesting, things happen, to it one of which was that, it ended up upside down in the river just. Out of Rico. And we. Still do not know why. Number. Six was, a four axle, machine this, one was used by the Roadmaster, to do maintenance around the railroad they, told, trailers with it, gu7. Was the last one to be produced, in 1936. It had been used at the Broadmoor from 1926. To 1936. They, no longer needed, it and. It was actually originally, equipped with the necessary, refrigeration. Equipment such, that they could carry hanging meat over.
The Years the, bodies. On the pier Saros were starting, to wear out the, doors, wouldn't closed and the, joints, in the wood frame, were gradually. Coming apart, and so. In. 1946. They. Picked up some wayne bus bodies, that hadn't been built. For the US Army, for use in Europe. For. Nearly 20 years the seven operational. Motors as they were originally, called ran, daily, service, to and from Ridgeway. To Dolores, and Telluride and to, and from Mancos, and Durango carrying, light cargo, groceries. Passengers. And the, United, States mail. If. A question about where, the name came from the, galloping, geese, the Rio Grande southern track. Was really, ill kept when, those galloping. Geese went. On the track they. Rocked. Back and forth. The. Galloping geese had been called other things besides, motor and buses they've been called the trundling trash heap the galloping. Garbage can I'm sure that the mechanics, had worse. Motor. One the, Dolores, newspaper. Referred. To it as the two nerville trolley these, galloping, geese didn't, really gallop, they rode, along at a maximum. 17. Miles an hour so it, was a pretty slow ride but engines, were always overheat, what they would do is raise, the, side panels, by the radiator, and, that. Would give them a little, bit more air circulation, and they. Look like wings when, they're going down the track they would sit there and flap, so. It's the wings of a geese trying to get off the ground they, had electric, horns, that had a hawk, sound, to so. The wings flap, they. Waddled and they hogged as, they have sort of this long snout and many of them had, sort of cowcatchers, or snow plows on the front of them that looked like the beak of a goose so between, the beak-like nose of these things it's waddling, gait and a hawk these. Vehicles, reminded, everybody of a goose trundling. Along the railroad bridges and trestles. At, the Museum and Dolores we always have people stipend, by and, one. Of the persons, that stopped by was a woman. Who grew up in Cortez. And this, woman had said I was a Girl Scout, we took the galloping goose up to preach Gulch, and we caught the galloping, goose on the way back there was no room in the front of the goose so the motive and opened the back and there. Was his big long bench in back everyone. Sat on the back of this bench had a great time they got to Delores and truck. Pulled up four. People picked up the box and put, it in a hearse and so they basically spent, the whole ride down riding a coffin. One. Of the better stories is of a goose going downhill in, the wintertime and the brakes froze up with ice and they couldn't stop at, some point they slowed down enough where they could jump out and the goose just kept going that expected at some point to see it laying. On its side and a ditch somewhere on the side of the tracks they. Got down to Ridgeway, and there was the goose sitting there idling away right in front of the depot and what had happened as it came down the hill the brakes heated up and it actually slowed, down came to a stop right where it needed to like it was trained and the station agent came out and was dumbfounded, to see the goose sitting there idling was no one in it and no one around. There's. Some story that's that they parked, somewhere, to. Unload passengers and, they went inside for lunch or something and a brake released and the, goose started to roll unattended. Down the hill they, telegraphed. Ahead and said the goose is coming through with nobody in it those were known as Rio Grande southern moments, there. Were two. Of them that ran away, ie their brakes failed and the, mortarman, that day had a pregnant, woman on board and. Fortunately. There were deep snow banks he, convinced, her to jump into a snowbank, and then. He did the same thing attract. Workers through, two. Big double chains across. The track. And actually derailed. It but, the interesting. Thing they sent a repair, crew out from. Ridgeway, they repaired, it that night and the.
Next Morning the. Woman she got on board remote. And wind got on board and they, finished the trip to Richmond. It's. A fine line between how many of the stories are true and how many of them are legend with. Used, equipment broken, equipment cheap, equipment these. Guys kept these trains running in the mountains. In. The winter of 1949. The. Railroad, had a steam, powered rotary snow plow that they used on the north and south sides of Blizzard head pass boiler. Exploded, and it destroyed the river as, a result, of that the. Railroad was no longer able to keep lizard head Pass open in the winter and, this. Caused, them to be in violation of their contract, with the Postal Service so, the, railroad hired a trucker to handle the mail and the post offices below will, hire our own truck. So, that railroad lost the mail, contract. The. Rio Grande southern was, not going, to go down without a fight so, in, several, of them they, cut side, windows, they, added Denver, tramway seats they, converted. These into, scenic, rides and ran. For, a number of years on the, hold, narrow. Gauged from Ridgeway, to Telluride and over, lizard, had passed to Dolores areas. Like that, the. Galloping, goose should only be used in reference to the tourist version, after, 1950. That's when they labeled, them galloping, geese and started using that there's, a marketing, thing the. Rio Grande southern finally. Could no longer, keep. Afloat. Financially, and, in, 1952. It, shut down they. Began to use the geese to, take up the track and, dismantle. The, Rio Grande southern line it was a very sad day for, a lot of rail fans. Except. For goose number three that was purchased by Knott's Berry Farm in 1952. The. Remaining, geese slowly, began, to decay waiting. Nearly 50, years to, be lovingly and expertly, restored, by, the Colorado, Railroad Museum the. Rio Grande Southern Railroad Museum and, the. Ridgeway railroad museum and eventually. Registered, as Historic Landmarks, they. Were just sitting here for 50 years they sat in static. Display until 2005. When. The, Colorado air museum received, a State, Historic Fund, grant, to. Restore them back to service. One, of the whole issues, about preservation is. Do. We want it to be operational. Or do we only want static, display, if. It's going to be static display we're gonna pick a photograph, that is a date that we're going to work to and, we're gonna make it look like that picture, when. We're going beyond static, display however there are operational, issues, some. Of them might have to do with the federal railway administration, but. We're. All standing on the shoulders of giants in, the form of the people who did this originally.
The, Original restorations. It's. Not uncommon to designate, historical. Rolling stock railroads, box, cars as, historic. Structures. And because railroads were so essential to America's economy where. It. Makes sense to preserve them for their engineering, accomplishment. By. The time that we began working on them we're in awful. Condition. The, interiors. Had. Decayed, the, exterior, looked awful, you wanted. To retain the. Majority of the fabric. Of the. Geese but. You wanted to make sure that. They'd be operational. So, all, of those, interior. Panels. And the doors, all, the door frame would had. To be replaced because it had rotted out over, the decades we, had to replace, the, operating. Wheels and, all. Of, the mechanical. Systems. We had to replace. And machine. Parts. That were, obsolete. Fifty. Years ago. The. Railroad museum tries, to, repair. Rather, than replace whenever, possible one, of the interesting things that happened is that as, we were taking apart goose, number Seven's, seats. We, discovered, some of the original upholstery, and we. Used that fabric, to find a replica. Fabric. That is almost identical to, the original. On. August 29th, of 1951. My. Mom and dad came out here on their first vacation, from. Oklahoma. And, for, the princely sum of five dollars and fifty cents apiece, they, got round-trip, tickets from Ridgeway to lizard. Hit Pass, including. A box lunch. Number. Four operated, one more time after my folks rode on it then it sat in Telluride until, 2008. The, Telluride volunteer, fire department, was established in 1878. In, the, late 50s. The, fire department acquired the galloping goose and has, owned and maintained, its since and just. Recently we went through a full. Restoration. With. The, Ridgeway, Railroad, Museum we. Took the whole skin, the metal sheeting off and, there. Was a bunch of the wood frame that, we had to repair. And/or replace, and then, put the metal skin back on same. Thing with the seats all the brackets and everything are original, we had to redo, all the, wicker the, restoration. Is you. Know really key in carrying. On the history, of the Telluride region. Number. Four was a bit of a time capsule so as we took it apart we took thousands. Of pictures. Documented. How it was built and then, covered it all up you, put the lining on the inside you put the tin on the outside and all. Of that work, that we did is all hidden but. The next time somebody takes that apart they're gonna see the same thing we did that. Is we preserved. How, it was done not just what, it looked like we, had a little about a hundred feet of test track here in Ridgeway and, when we got it running I brought. My folks back down here, and took, him for a ride. 60. Years to the day of that original ride, that. Caused us to move here. We. Restored galloping. Goose number five from. The spring of, 1997. Until the spring of 1998. And, that was funded, mostly through a grant from, the stateís Historical, fund but. We had a total, of three thousand, volunteer. Hours 12 volunteers. Who. Pretty much worked every weekend. Basically. Taking, it apart. Documenting. Things and then. Slowly. Putting, it back together the. Wooden. Frame works on the, seats, in the back the trolley car seats, were. All worn out, we hired a cabinet, shop to build those, it. Took a full year for. Us to restore it. In. 2012. Except for goose three the, rail cars had their first-ever reunion. At goose, fest, although. No plans for another reunion currently.
Exists Visitors. From around the state and the world still. Flocked to see these marvels, of the 1930s. Today. The restored, and operational. Geese have permanent, homes in Knott's Berry Farm at, the Colorado, Railroad Museum in, golden at the Rio Grande Southern Railroad Museum in, Dolores, at, the Ridgeway railroad museum and, in, the town of Telluride. Galloping. Goose is, this. Unique, aspect, of Colorado history that really is replicated. In the same way nowhere else if. You want to know what Colorado is like go ride the galloping, goose, there. Wasn't any glory in working for the Rio Grande southern it was hard work in terrible weather with. Faulty equipment and. These guys made this work for 60, years I mean we're real proud to be part of that tradition and, keep it going we, run this goose, in all weather out here on Saturdays. It. Gives, an opportunity. To experience. What. It was like to. Ride. In, something. That has. Such a historical. Importance, it's a wonderful, legacy. Of the, human spirit, to not. Give. Up its. Reuse, reduce, recycle, right, taking, auto, parts, and reusing, them repurposing. Them on a railroad line that is the ethic of preservation, to use, the originals, when you can it's, more economical it's more efficient it's marca logical and it's. More true, to the historical, context, of the. Geese themselves, it. Was a remarkable, case of ingenuity, and it, has developed a legend, and a following that is just hard to imagine they've. Got this mythic, proportion. They, are romantic. And heroic, small. Machines, and, iron men, against. Huge, country, and, amazing. Odds. That, was part of the American dream what, it really shows is there was a time when. We believed we, could do anything.