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Re: "Extra 483 East" - 10/16/70 (pics)

November 20, 2010 11:29AM avatar
Hi, Rich -

IIRC, 10/16/70 was a Friday - but at least it wasn't the 13th . . .

(My earlier post at [ngdiscussion.net] lost its photos when the NGDF was moved to a new server a while back, so I've copied the relevant section below, and added a couple of new photos.)

In late October 1970, I took advantage of a long weekend at the school where I was teaching to bring two students from Thailand and a lawyer friend on a quick camping trip to Colorado.  It was snowing north of Durango, so we headed down to Chama. On arrival, we immediately headed for Kelly's Mexican Café (!), "official" train crew and railfan headquarters in those days. I warned Bill, Amnaj and Pravidja that when eating the mild chili there I needed at least three beers to put out the fire, and definitely to avoid the hot. The students ignored me. "Oh!  Mr. Sperry!!" they exclaimed when their dinners were served, "First time in America we have really good food!!!" (Thai chilies are apparently even hotter than the potent New Mexico standard.)

Next morning, we checked to see if there was any action on the railroad. What luck!  I was told a freight had been planned to pick up some cars at Osier and take them to Antonito, but they were short a brakeman. "We can help with that part", I said, pointing to Bill (who wasn't even a railfan) and exaggerating my own experience at the Orange Empire RR Museum a little, "if you let the boys ride along."  Eddie Martinez, the long time night watchman at Chama and conductor for this trip, checked with engineer Sid McKinney, who also agreed. The rest of the crew consisted of Rich Braden, fireman / student engineer, and Herb Owens, brakeman / student fireman.  My friends and I joined Eddie in the caboose; Sid, Rich and Herb headed for the engine and whistled off.  I rode the roof of the caboose as far as Lobato Trestle, but the wind and snow flurries eventually drove me inside:
701016-x483-1.jpg

We stopped for lunch and engine water at Cumbres.  Later, between Cascade Creek trestle and Osier, a huge boulder blocked the tracks.  It took all eight of us the better part of an hour to work it over the outside rail and off to the side – it's a good thing Bill & I and the boys were along, or they'd have had to back the train all the way to Cumbres . . .
701016-x483-3.jpg

At Osier I threw the switches, helping Herb to couple three gondolas full of ties into the train. The sun broke through the clouds as we cleared the Rock Tunnel, the next hour or so, with evening sun on the steam and fresh snow on the pines, was among the most beautiful I can remember, on or off a train:
701016-x483-5.jpg

Somewhere along the way, Eddie fixed dinner in the crew car; Sid stopped the train, and we all sat down to eat. A few miles later, something in the chili disagreed with Sid; he stopped the train and retired, moaning, to a bunk in the crew car. Rich took over the throttle, and Herb became fireman. Rich stopped for water at Sublette. Later as we tipped downgrade near Big Horn the train stopped very suddenly, and I ran up to the engine. Rich had noticed that the water had dropped out of the gauge! The top two try-cocks blew pure steam, but the third one sputtered; he cautiously turned on the injector and waited while water became visible in the glass and slowly rose to a safe level. I stayed on the engine to help shovel coal (not a major task as we drifted downgrade), and we whistled off.

The train was turned at Lava Tank and run backwards to Antonito, since there was no way to turn it there, and I rode the platform of the caboose holding a lantern to light the way.  (Sadly, the wye and beautiful stone depot in Antonito were not included in the C&TS preservation.)  We didn't get into town until nearly midnight, and were up until about 2:00 am throwing ties out of the gons. We spent the rest of the night in the caboose, and the next day drove another volunteer's car back to Chama while he rode the train.


This crew list - written on the back of a D&RGW Form 3924 TRAIN DELAY REPORT and signed by conductor Eddie Martinez - was in the box with the carousel of slides:
701016-16-x483-Crew.jpg

Here's another shot of the crew - minus me - taken at the west portal of Rock Tunnel on a dark and stormy day:
701016-17-x483-Crew.jpg
From left to right are Pravidhya, Amnaj, Bill, Herb, Rich, Eddie, Sid, and my dog Nikki.

- Russ



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 12/01/2017 05:26PM by Russo Loco.
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