By Railfan & Railroad Staff
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad plans on restoring former Denver & Rio Grande Western 2-8-2 478 to service, giving the Colorado tourist railroad three operating K-28 locomotives. The railroad made the announcement this week as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the K-28, a class of locomotive synonymous with the Rio Grande narrow gauge.
“Over the past few years, the D&SNG has continued to see record ridership, which has resulted in daily scheduled doubleheader trains. That continued growth and need for regular doubleheaders is what makes returning the 478 to service a natural choice,” said D&SNG general manager Jeff Johnson.
The 478 last saw service in April 2016 and has been on display in the D&SNG’s Roundhouse Museum ever since. Work to return the 478 to service is expected to begin in early 2024 and take between 24 to 36 months to complete. Aside from the standard Federal Railroad Administration Form 4 requirements, work will also include a conversion to burn oil.
The railroad also announced that this coming winter would most likely be the last for coal-powered steam on the Silverton Branch. Since 2018, when a steam locomotive started a major wildfire along the railroad, the D&SNG has converted a number of locomotives to burn oil. The last one, K-36 481, will be converted in the spring.
“A few years ago I always thought we would want to keep a coal burner,” said Randy Babcock, AHR Chief Mechanical Officer. “The reality is that it just doesn’t make business sense to maintain a locomotive that we only intend to use a quarter of the year.”
Conversion of the 481, along with the return to service of the 478 will ultimately give the D&SNG an active roster of seven operational oil-fired locomotives – 473, 476, 478, 480, 481, 482, and 493. Additionally, locomotive 486 will remain on display in the D&SNG Roundhouse Museum.