Rio Grande Southern Railroad

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The Rio Grande Southern Railroad (RGS) was a narrow gauge railroad which ran from Durango to Ridgway in the western part of the US state of Colorado.



The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG) had built branch lines to the mining towns of Silverton and Ouray, but the San Juan Mountains between Ouray and Silverton were too formidable to allow the building of a railroad directly connecting the two towns. The Silverton Railroad, built north from Silverton, had reached within 8 miles (13 km) of Ouray, but the remaining stretch through the Uncompahgre Gorge was considered too difficult. A cog railway was briefly considered but was never built.

The RGS was founded in 1889 by Otto Mears, and construction began in 1890 from Ridgway (north of Ouray) and Durango (south of Silverton) to go around the most rugged part of the San Juan Mountains and also reach the mining towns of Rico and Telluride.


The route passed over Dallas Divide west of Ridgway and over Lizard Head Pass north of Rico. The most famous structure on the route was the Ophir Loop near Ophir. At this point the railroad was built up a narrow mountain valley and looped back up the other side to gain elevation over several tall trestles.

The RGS filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission for abandonment on 24 April 1952.

Galloping Goose

The most famous aspect of the RGS was its fleet of Galloping Geese. During the Great Depression it became increasingly expensive to operate trains over the mountain railroad. The RGS came up with a concept to build a rail car out of a car or bus body front end and a box car rear end. Seven Geese were built, all but one of which survive to this day.

Goose Built Type Current Location
#1 1931 Buick Replica at the Ridgway Railway Museum
#2 1931 Buick Colorado Railroad Museum
#3 1932 Pierce-Arrow Knotts Berry Farm
#4 1932 Pierce-Arrow On Display off Main Street in Telluride, Colorado
#5 1933 Pierce-Arrow Dolores, Colorado
#6 1934 Pierce-Arrow Colorado Railroad Museum
#7 1936 Buick Colorado Railroad Museum
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