D&RGW Steam Locomotive No. 491 Rollout Party

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Steam Locomotive No. 491 Operational Debut

Friday, August 29, 2014  5:00 – 8:30 P.M.
$100 per ticket
Limited availability, call 1-800-365-6263 for up-to-date ticket information.

Locomotive No. 491 is once again operational and will make its debut at a special after hours event on Friday, August 29 and to the general public on Saturday August 30. Locomotive No. 491 was donated to the Museum by History Colorado in 2013 and has been made operational as a result of its nearly pristine boiler and the efforts of Master Mechanic Mike Spera and his crew. We are very excited to be able to put this impressive 2-8-2 K-37 back into service! If you are a photographer, a fan of steam locomotives or train enthusiast, you will want to make your reservations for Friday Night’s special event.

This exclusive experience includes:

  • Catered dinner and array of beverages
  • Exclusive behind the scenes tour of the Locomotive
  • Outstanding photo opportunities with great late afternoon/early evening light
  • Opportunity to be among the first to ride behind newly restored Locomotive No. 491 since the 1963!
  • Tickets to the public event on Saturday Aug. 30

Reserve now!

Saturday August 30, Locomotive No. 491 returns for its public debut from 10:00-4:00PM.

Colorado Railroad Museum volunteers interested in participating should contact Volunteer Coordinator
Lauren Giebler at Lauren@crrm.org

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Information on Locomotive No. 491

Denver & Rio Grande Western Locomotive No. 491 (K-37 2-8-2 “Mikado”) is a narrow gauge locomotive of the “Mikado” type, indicating a 2-8-2 wheel arrangement with outside frame design. The 2-8-2 wheel arrangement consists of two lead truck wheels, eight driving wheels, and two trailing truck wheels under the firebox, or rearmost portion of the locomotive. The term “Mikado” is a popular nickname and trade name for the 2-8-2 wheel arrangement, and refers to the fact the first locomotives of this wheel arrangement, constructed by Baldwin Locomotive Works (Philadelphia, PA) were ordered by the Imperial Railways of Japan. The “K” in the “K-37” class designation references the “K” in “Mikado,” as the D&RGW already had an “M” class (“Mountain” class, or 4-8-2 wheel arrangement).


D&RGW Locomotive No. 491 was built by the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad’s Denver Burnham Shops in June of 1928. This locomotive is a model of efficiency: it was constructed using a boiler, tender, and other related equipment from the 1902 Baldwin Locomotive Works-built standard gauge locomotive No. 1026. The current locomotive unit has two major components, comprising the locomotive itself, which provides power, and a tender, which carries the water and fuel for the locomotive’s boiler. The two are semi-permanently attached by the means of a drawbar and pins along with large safety chains. The entire locomotive is 65’3” long, 10’5” wide, and 13’4” tall. The operating weight of the locomotive is 187,250 pounds, while the fully-loaded tender weighs 120,000 pounds, yielding a total weight of 307,250 pounds. D&RGW Locomotive No. 491 is a true Colorado original, having been assembled in Denver and incorporating parts from local suppliers throughout the state. Later, when the locomotive required a new boiler, its original East Coast-built boiler was replaced by a new one from the Denver & Rio Grande Western shops in Alamosa, Colorado.


Like all locomotives during their working lives, D&RGW Locomotive No. 491 has had periodic alterations applied in order to maximize its utility and lengthen its working life. All known alterations to D&RGW Locomotive No. 491 represented upgrades as new and better safety and mechanical technologies became available, ranging from storm windows to an automatic firedoor to a flanger plow.


D&RGW Locomotive No. 491 is historically significant both for the histories of transportation and engineering that it illustrates. The locomotive operated from 1928 until 1963 on the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, supporting economic and population growth in Colorado. The locomotive also demonstrates innovation by the railroad for repurposing an existing boiler in 1928; for a cooperative effort of three Colorado companies to reverse engineer an existing class of locomotives; and, in 1947, for adding thermic siphons to boost steaming efficiency and increase heating surface within the firebox, a practice not previously applied to narrow gauge locomotives. In effect, D&RGW Locomotive No. 491 was the “test case” for applying these boiler improvements, common on standard-gauge locomotives, to a narrow-gauge locomotive.


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