Springtime in the Rockies

Originally published on DRGW.Net on May 30, 2010.

The first run-by was near milepost 287.5, where one of the small trestles was recently replaced with a culvert. It’s rumored that the lead greenie was the one who slathered it in green paint, which just so happens to match 489’s boiler…

Sixty years ago on 21-May-1950, the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club sponsored a trip on the narrow gauge from Salida to Monarch to Villa Grove and then back to Salida. For this trip – which cost a mere $4.95 (about $45 in today’s dollars, using the consumer price index) – the Salida shop crews repainted K-36 489 with a green boiler jacket. This is the only time we have conclusive evidence that a K-36 ever had a green jacket on the Rio Grande.

Several years ago, Russ Sperry (“Russo Loco” on NGDF) and other started discussing the possibility of doing a green boiler on 489 as part of a charter. The discussion started as a bit of a joke, I believe as a result of a spirited discussion about how many Grande narrow gauge engines had ever worn green jackets. Over time, though, the idea of actually doing this became progressively more serious. (It also became more of a running gag on NGDF at the same time, with regular cracks being made about Russ’ obsession with painting anything and everything green.) Earlier this year, Russ started a serious effort for a “season in green”, with a request to see who was willing to put up the cash to make it happen if the C&TS would allow it. That eventually turned into the proposal for “Springtime in Rockies” – a photo freight that a green-jacketed 489 would power.. Thanks to the efforts of Russ and Alan Loomis, C&TS conductor and fan trip coordinator, for setting up the trip, and Steve Forney, Nathan Zachman, Jan and Jeff Ellingson, and Jim Poston for throwing in the elbow grease to actually repaint 489, the trip became a reality on Tuesday, 25-May-2010 – just a few days after the 60th anniversary of the first trip.

While the Rocky Club didn’t officially sponsor the trip, president Dave Schaaf was there with the Club’s wooden drumhead – the one built by Ed Haley and Charlie Ryland back in 1947, and almost certainly carried on the rear of the original 1950 green 489 trip. With a little ingenuity (as well as copious bailing wire, wooden shims, and gaffer’s tape), we managed to firmly affix it to the back of the caboose. It seemed historically fitting that the same drumhead from 489’s first green trip would also bring up the rear of it’s recreation, six decades later.

As I said in my NGDF post immediately following the trip – this was a spectacular charter, and one of the best I’ve been on in years. Great weather, good people, and just an all around fun day. Thanks to everyone who was there, and thanks especially to Russ and Alan for making this possible.


All photographs in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS 40D or 7D using either a Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS/USM, Sigma 18-50mm, or a Canon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS/USM.

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This work is copyright 2020 by Nathan D. Holmes, but all text and images are licensed and reusable under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. Basically you’re welcome to use any of this as long as it’s not for commercial purposes, you credit me as the source, and you share any derivative works under the same license. I’d encourage others to consider similar licenses for their works.