Don’t miss taking a ride behind RGS #73. She was probably the least photographed locomotive on the entire Rio Grande Southern roster. Only two surviving photos of the loco in RGS livery are known to exist and both show it partially obscured behind #455 while double-heading. One of the best references for this engine is this famous Otto Perry shot.
This photo was taken on 5/20/1930, while she was still being leased to the C&S. Notice that she still sports the Burlington and Missouri River paint scheme from her Black Hills days. The shop in Denver was in the process of rebuilding #537 using many parts from scrapped locomotives. This probably accounts for the odd look of the engine at that point. After being renumbered to #73, she was sold to the RGS in November 1948, along with #74.
Unlike #74, which was a normal inside frame 2-8-0 design, #73 was an outside frame engine with external counterweights similar to the K class locomotives. This arrangement was similar to the D&RGW C-21 and C-25 2-8-0s. Although #73 outweighed her sister #74 by 3000 pounds, she only generated a tractive effort of 20,800 pounds, compared to the 21,170 pounds of the #74.
#73 was not a popular engine to fire on the RGS, as most firemen were not used to firing her wide square firebox. She was seldom used on the runs over Lizard Head and usually spent most of her time between Rico and Mancos. This probably accounts for the lack of good photos in the RGS sunset logo paint scheme. Most photographers tended to concentrate on the more scenic locations north of Rico.
Engine #73 was used sporadically on the RGS after 1953. She was donated to the city of Telluride in 1959 when the RGS converted over to diseasels. She remained on static display in the city park for twenty-five years. After being totally rebuilt in 1985, she was leased to the Silver San Juan Scenic Railroad. This tourist line continues to run daily excursions from Telluride during the summer months. During the week, the short run goes from Telluride to Vance Junction and back. On weekends, the run continues from Vance Junction up to Lizard Head. If you get a chance, take a ride behind #73 on your next trip to Colorado. There’s nothing quite like rounding the loop at Ophir and climbing the high line behind an authentic narrow gauge iron horse.
P.S. Only in my dreams!