~ Latest Update: March 28, 2014 ~
The old South Park narrow gauge system and its’ corporate descendent, the Denver, Leadville & Gunnison, was reorganized into the C&S System in 1898. At the time it was under the ownership of the Union Pacific. Like the D&RG Narrow Gauge, the C&S was faced with re-capitalizing its physical plant, and which same included the construction of new cars to replace the first-generation cars of the 1880’s.
These new cars were ordered from the St. Charles Car Works, an outfit near St. Louis, Missouri, which later became a part of the American Car and Foundry Company. In spite of a change of ownership in 1907, when the CB&Q took over the helm, this rebuilding continued, with the C&S constructing many of the cars themselves from ordered parts.
Three general types of cars were delivered over a twelve year period: Type I: (1898-1900) which featured Truss Rods and Arch Bar Trucks; Type II: (1900-1901) Much like the above but with Cast Steel Bettendorf “T” Section Trucks; and the Type III which had the cast steel Bettendorf trucks, plus very modern all-steel underframes. In fact, these Type III cars were comparable to the best built standard gauge cars of the day. The latter is what is replicated by this model.
However, the C&S narrow gauge system began losing money early on. It was always an expensive railroad to run, what with its numerous helper districts, small power, competition from the D&RG, and a declining customer base. In fact, there was an attempt to abandon most of the system in 1912, but the federal government was not to allow it for another quarter of a century.
When abandonment proceedings were initiated in 1935, resistance came from an unlikely source: the receiver of another railroad! Victor Miller, a Denver attorney who had successfully turned around the fortunes of another Southern Colorado Railroad; the Rio Grande Southern. He proposed that the old Denver - Leadville line could be successfully run using rail busses ( like the Galloping Geese of his R.G.S. ), with freight being handled on an “on-call” basis. But suddenly Mr. Miller’s challenge was dropped. Then, a year after abandonment of the old South Park was granted, Mr. Miller’s R.G.S. received 48 of their cars at a bargain price. Of these 48 cars, 34 were of the “Type III”, steel underframe style. There has been much speculation over the years that some sort of “back-door deal” was cooked up between the C&S and Miller. Whatever the circumstances however, unlike the C&S, the R.G.S. turned the cars into revenue producers.
Most of the box cars were sold to an equipment dealer in 1942 and ended up rolling their last miles on the White Pass and Yukon. But the majority of the Stock Cars stayed on the R.G.S. up until its abandonment in 1951. ( They probably don't run many cattle in Alaska. . .)
Surprisingly, old D&RGW railroaders recall seeing the Type III cars passing through Chama and Alamosa in the 1940’s so it’s unfortunate that none are known to exist today. In fact, of all the Stock Cars the R.G.S. once owned, only a single “Type I” Stock remains, on display at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Colorado.
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