By Railfan & Railroad Staff
DURANGO, Colo. — There will soon be three, oil-fired Denver & Rio Grande Western 2-8-2 locomotives in the southwest. On the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge, K-28 locomotive 473 recently entered service following conversion to oil over the winter and on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic, shop workers are putting the finishing touches on their coal-to-oil conversion of K-36 489.
Last year, the D&SNG successfully converted K-37 493 to burn oil, the first time any of the former D&RGW 2-8-2s had been converted.
Both railroads decided to convert some locomotives to burn oil so that they can continue to operate during dry summers when the danger of wildfire is high. In 2018, a wildfire along the D&SNG closed that railroad for weeks. Federal investigators believe that the fire was started by one of the coal-burning steam locomotives. Both railroads have said they will continue to operate coal-fired locomotives when conditions allow.
Durango & Silverton K-28 473 entered service this spring after being converted to burn oil. Photo Courtesy of the D&SNG.
“We have not forgotten, nor will we ever forget, the importance of our historical DNA and the critical role the C&TS plays in preserving the most authentic steam railroading experience available anywhere, now, and for future generations,” said C&TS CEO Eric Mason back in December when it announced the conversion of at least one locomotive. “We will strive to always have the best examples of operating coal-fired steam locomotives in service when conditions permit.”
According to the C&TS, K-36 489 was successfully fired up a week ago. It’s likely the locomotive will be entering service in the coming weeks or months. The C&TS will begin its 2021 season out of Antonito, Colo., on May 29 and out of Chama on June 5. Visit the railroad’s website for more information.
The D&SNG began its summer season last weekend with the first trips to Silverton in a year. Along with K-37 493 and K-28 473, the D&SNG has a third oil-fired steam locomotive on the property this summer: Southern Pacific 4-6-0 18. The locomotive is being leased from the Eastern California Museum in California and will stay in Colorado through the fall.