Locomotives pull (or sometimes even push) a train along the track. Steam locomotives move as pressurized steam created by heating water with a coal, wood or oil fire is fed to cylinders with pistons in them, causing the pistons to move back and forth. The pistons are connected via cranks to the drive wheels which propels the locomotive.
Diesel locomotives work by burning liquid fuel oil in an internal-combustion engine. The engine’s crank shaft turns an electric generator, which sends electricity to traction motors on the trucks of the locomotive. A gear on the traction motor shaft engages a gear on the axle and moves the locomotive wheels. In the following descriptions, (N) indicates narrow gauge and (S) indicates standard gauge.
Denver & Rio Grande Western No. 491 (N)
Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad steam locomotive no. 491 is the largest operating narrow gauge steam locomotive in the Western Hemisphere. Locomotive 491 is truly a “Colorado Original” having been built entirely in Colorado during the spring of 1928 through a cooperative effort between the Stearns-Roger Manufacturing Company of Denver, and the D&RGW Denver Burnham Shops. It ran for the D&RGW until 1963 when it was donated to the Colorado Historical Society (now History Colorado) and placed on display at the Museum on loan in 1985. Locomotive no. 491 was donated by History Colorado to the Museum in June of 2013 and was returned to service on August 28th 2014. Along with D&RGW 346, D&RGW 491 is becoming our most important operating steam locomotive, serving the Museum’s large themed events such as Day Out With Thomas, and the Polar Express.
Chicago Burlington & Quincy No. 5629 (S)
The largest steam engine at the Museum, CB&Q No. 5629 was built in 1940 by the Burlington Route Railroad in their own shops and was used for heavy freight and passenger service. It remained in service until the early 1960s, when it was purchased by the Intermountain Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and moved to the Colorado Railroad Museum in 1963. No. 5629 is one of only four Burlington locomotives of its type still in existence. (Data Sheet [PDF])
Denver & Rio Grande Western No. 318 (N)
D&RGW No. 318 was the product of the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia and completed in January of 1896. It is a C-18 consolidation locomotive sporting the 2-8-0 wheel arrangement of that class. Its life started on the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad. The Rio Grande purchased the engine in 1917 for $2000 and assigned it the number of 428. It was later renumbered 318 and spent much of its Rio Grande life plying passenger and freight trains out of Salida, Durango and Montrose. In its twilight years it made short runs out of Pagosa Springs and Ouray.
Denver & Rio Grande Western No. 346 (N)
D&RGW No. 346 is the oldest operating steam locomotive in Colorado. Built by Baldwin in 1881, No. 346 ran for the D&RG until 1947. While on loan to Colorado & Southern in 1936 it was wrecked in a runaway on Kenosha Pass and was rebuilt by Chicago Burlington & Quincy Denver shops. Purchased in 1950 by Museum founder Bob Richardson, No. 346 is the Museum’s premiere operating engine and runs regularly during steam-ups.
Denver & Rio Grande Western Nos. 5771 & 5762 (S)
The last operational F-unit on the Rio Grande, F9 No. 5771 powered the Rio Grande Zephyr passenger train between Denver and Salt Lake City from 1971 to 1983. The Rio Grande Zephyr was the last non-Amtrak intercity passenger train in the United States. In 1984 Nos. 5771 & 5762 powered the Ski Train from Denver to Winter Park and back each weekend. Both were retired that year and donated to the Museum in 1996.
Denver Leadville & Gunnison No. 191 (N)
DL&G No. 191 is the oldest steam locomotive in Colorado. Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia in early 1880, this engine moved gold and silver ore, coal, timber and merchandise between Denver and many mountain communities in central and southwestern Colorado. (Data Sheet [PDF])
Rio Grande Southern No. 20 (N)
Built in 1899, RGS No. 20 ran on the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad southwest of Pikes Peak. Named Portland after a profitable mine in the Cripple Creek District, No. 20 hauled freight and passengers. It was sold to Rio Grande Southern in 1916 after flash floods destroyed much of the F&CC, putting that line out of business. In operation until 1951, No. 20 was purchased by the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club and eventually donated to the Museum. It is currently undergoing restoration in Strasburg, Pennsylvania.
Manitou & Pikes Peak No. 1 (S)
M&PP No. 1 is a unique locomotive specially designed to climb steep mountain slopes with grades up to 25 percent. The underside is equipped with a toothed cog wheel. As the wheel turns, it connects to a stationary rack rail in the track, thus helping to pull a train up the mountain or provide braking on the way down.
(Data Sheet [PDF])
Rio Grande Southern Galloping Goose No. 7 (N)
Three of the original seven Galloping Geese can be found at the Museum. Created from a freight box mounted on an automobile frame, the “Geese” allowed RGS to continue passenger and freight service to remote parts of southwestern Colorado. Geese were less costly to build and operate than traditional steam passenger trains. Designed to self balance on uneven mountain track, the swaying back half of these cars look like geese waddling down the line; hence their popular name.