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Jim Pearce, former D&RGW Engineer

November 24, 2014 04:04PM
I just got word from a friend that former Rio Grande narrow gauge engineer Jim Pearce passed away on Nov. 14. Jim grew up in Durango and hired out on the Rio Grande in 1949 as a Fireman. He was later promoted to Engineer and then on to management as Road Foreman out of Pueblo. He returned to the locomotive cab later and retired in the 1980's as an Engineer out of Alamosa on the standard gauge.
I first met Jim at the top of Cumbres Pass in 1998 when I was working as a Fireman. A simple offer from Gerald Blea and myself to ride with the light engine down to Coxo Crossing began a 17 year friendship. With his help we organized several dinners between the retired Rio Grande railroaders of Alamosa (Jim, Eldon Morgan, and Carl Jack) and several C&TS employees. All of these meetings were pure gold as to stories told and yarns spun both from the "old timers" as well as the "newer gang".
Jim had some incredible stories, but like many of the "old timers" he didn't think what he had done for a career was worth writing down. I'll pass on one of his gems: In 1949 Jim was on the Extra Board and was called for a trip to Chama. When they got to Chama it turned out the Fireman on the San Juan had to lay off so Jim was asked to fire the passenger train back to Durango. As they headed westbound Jim noticed the Engineer (a very elderly gentleman) kept turning his back to Jim and drinking "something" out of a flask. A few miles west of Dulce the Engineer suddenly passed out and fell off his seat onto the floor.
It was clear from the evidence that Rule G had been violated. Jim managed to get the train stopped and whistled for the Conductor. When the Conductor arrived Jim pointed to the motionless shape of the Engineer and asked what should they do. The Conductor asked Jim if her had ever run an engine before. Jim said no, but he had been watching what they did in hopes of promoting some day and thought he might be able to run for a little bit.
The Conductor told him that if he could run the engine the Brakeman could fire and they could get underway at least to Gato where maybe Durango could round up an Engineer to meet the train. All three of them moved the Engineer's limp body to the Baggage car. The Brakeman jumped up in the cab and grabbed the shovel and Jim sat on the right side for the first time in his life. He was thinking "Boy, I've always wanted to do this, but my first time has to be the San Juan???!!! Jim managed to get the train underway and when they got to Gato the Conductor informed him that Durango felt if he could get the train to Gato, then he'd be OK to get to to Durango. Jim said he was both scared out of his mind as well as being thrilled to have the chance at the narrow gauge's passenger train.
I know others on here have stories from Jim, maybe they would like to share as well...
Here's a link to his Obituary:Jim Pearce Obituary


Clear track ahead Mr. Pearce! You were a good friend and will be missed!!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/24/2014 06:35PM by Dave Peterson.
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Jim Pearce, former D&RGW Engineer

Dave Peterson November 24, 2014 04:04PM

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