Kevin’s Komments 10/21/2021


I stumbled upon this great pick of the station (and mine loading platform) at Ophir, Colorado. I had heard of Ophir, but knew nothing about the place. I immediately thought of Matt’s endeavors in Colorado style narrow gauge, and decided to do a little research. Matt – check out the railroad crossing sign!

The Rio Grande Southern (a narrow gauge line) serviced Ophir and the mines. The locomotive on the track appears to be RGS #461, a 2-8-2. #461 was rescued from the scrap heap when RGS acquired it from the D&RG in 1950 for a mere $2,634.60. This is believed to be the last locomotive purchase by the RGS. #461 ran a few years longer until dismantled in 1953, a year after the RGS shut down.

Here’s another great look at #461 with the station behind.

The track that #461 rides on is the Ophir Loop track. This part of the RGS worked its way south from Telluride on a ridge. Then, it turned east along the northern rim of a canyon, made a large loop around the station to head back out of the canyon near the bottom on the south side, and then turned south through a valley towards Trout Lake. Here’s a look at the north side of the loop going into Ophir station.

The view behind the mine loading platform shows the aerial tram from the mine to the platform.

Coming around the south side of the railway station the line continues the loop to head back into the canyon. To the right of the station with the steps leading up to its entrance is the liquor store (always an important landmark for a small town).

I like this view because it shows the cribbing below the spur track.

More of the town is shown south of the liquor store – “Buildings at Ophir Loop circa 1900”. This is Ophir loop during it’s prime. The structure closest to the trestle is the general store.

Here’s another view of the town south of the station. In this pic, the general store doesn’t exist. Not sure if this is previous to the 1900 pic, or later. But it appears that the general store still existed in the ‘50s, so I’m guessing earlier than1900.

Here’s a look at the station from the buildings to the south. The front of the liquor store is on the right, and the roof and dormer (top level entrance) of the general store is on the left.

Looking south from around the mine loading platform, you catch the track side of the station, the south side of the loop track, and a nice view of the front of the general store. Pics can be deceptive on slopes, but the road going by the general store makes quite a climb over the length of the building.

Here’s a pic of the town of Ophir in 1954. The RGS would have been shut down at this point, but this gives a good view of the trestle on the north side of the loop leading to the station

Here’s a great view of RGS #20 crossing the trestle on the north side of the Ophir loop. #20 is a Baldwin 2-8-0 acquired from D&RG in 1891. #20 was in a head-on collision with #2 in snow shed in 1908. It took about 3 months to get it running again because of a machinists strike. But then it ran until 1916 when it was dismantled.

…Another view of the north trestle looking west.

Looking along the north wall of the canyon leading away from Ophir, you see the RGS work its way via multiple trestles and bridges.

Anyone who’s heard of the RGS, probably knows about the Galloping Geese.  Here’s Ophir station with Galloping Goose #5.  Running on a shoe string budget, the RGS was constantly trying to service what traffic it had however it could.  The galloping geese, or motors, were combinations of gasoline powered vehicles with railcars.  The geese could carry a few passengers and/or a small load of freight.   The Rio Grande Southern shops built Goose #5 in 1933 (following in the footsteps of #3, & #4 – designed for passengers and mail).  She was still based on Pierce-Arrow body and engine. Once #5 was put into service, the railroad discontinued the last steam-powered passenger trains, so Geese #3, 4 and 5 were in charge of all the passenger service. They also carried mail and express. In 1946, Geese #3, 4 and 5 received new Wayne Bus Co. bodies. Soon after, they exchanged their Pierce-Arrow engines for WWII surplus GMC engines.

Here’s another couple pics of a Goose peeking out behind the station – not sure which of the Geese these are.

I’m not sure of the location of this RGS shot, but I had to throw it in for Matt. This is a great study of the trackwork on the RGS. The spur is definitely a lot rougher than the mainline. Neither has much ballast around the roadbed. The roadbed is low with not a lot of buildup. If I remember correctly, the rail was 55 & 65 lb rail. I don’t see any tie plates – I think they spiked the rail directly to the ties.

Now…No research project is without it’s sidetracks and miscues. While searching on “Ophir” and “railroad”, I stumbled across a little silver nugget of a railroad. A small standard gauge railroad was formed in 1912 called the St. John & Ophir Railroad. The St.J&O was about 8.6 miles long connecting the Ophir silver mines to the LA&SL Railroad in St. John. Check out the 3-truck Climax!

The St.J&O employed two 3-truck Climaxes: #1, an 85 ton built in 1912 and bought new; and #2, a 90 ton built in 1912 and bought from the Verde Tunnel & Smelter RR in 1919. I have no info on #2, but #1 survived until scrapped in 1940 – which is interesting because the St.J&O was abandoned around 1928 (officially declared abandoned in 1938). Here’s a couple pics of #1:

Here’s a pic of the loading platform for the silver mines in Ophir.  Note the switchback tracks.  One of the gondolas is displaying D&RG prominently.

A little piece of info I picked up in the St.J&O search is that St. John’s entire population consisted of St.J&O crews and office personnel! A great pic of a passenger train working the switchbacks down the mountain.

…And a finally great pic of one of the Climaxes.

By about this point, a good RGS fan, or a railroad historian is asking, “Whaaaaat?”  Standard gauge in Ophir?  LA&SL RR, and St. John?  Turns out that LA&SL is the Los Angeles & Salt Lake RR.  The RGS ran to Ophir Colorado.  The St.J&O ran to Ophir Utah, south of the Great Salt Lake and a little southwest of Salt Lake City!  But between the name Ophir, pics from the west base of mountains, and silver mining, it took a little bit to find out the two Ophirs are over 400 miles apart (straight line). 



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