Railroad society members roll out restored gondola car

Four years, thousands of work hours involved

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$The recently restored gondola railcar, built in 1904, is pulled onto a flatbed trailer truck for transport to Silverton. Members of the Durango Railroad Historical Society restored the gondola car beginning in 2008. Ron Knott watches.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$ Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$The recently restored gondola railcar, built in 1904, is pulled onto a flatbed trailer truck for transport to Silverton. Members of the Durango Railroad Historical Society restored the gondola car beginning in 2008. Ron Knott watches.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$

A 1904 drop-bottom gondola car restored by members of the Durango Railroad Historical Society has a new home in what was the Silverton Northern Railroad engine house, now a budding repository of rail memorabilia.

Members of the railroad society last week rolled the piece of rolling stock out of a hangar near the Durango-La Plata County Airport where most of the reassembly occurred since December 2011.

Earlier work was done on private property east of Durango. Restoration started in 2008.

Society members watched last week as the 31-foot gondola was winched onto a flatbed from McKnight’s Towing for the trip to Silverton.

In the former Silverton Northern engine house already are:

The anchor display – Engine No. 315, an 1895 steam engine that society members restored from 2001 to 2007. When they fired up the engine, it was the first time it had run since the locomotive was retired in 1949.

A disassembled 1902 high-sided gondola that is next in line to be restored.

“This one isn’t as complicated as the drop-bottom,” said Dennis D’Alessandro, who was in charge of the drop-bottom restoration.

A disassembled Silverton Northern caboose, a four-wheel bobber, owned by the San Juan County Historical Society.

“It’s a four-wheel bobber that’s jacked up and ready to be worked on,” said Jerry Hoffer, a retired electrical engineer and railroad buff who will be involved with the restoration. “The trucks of the four-wheel didn’t swivel so it derailed easily. Cars now have eight wheels and trucks that swivel.”

A drop-bottom gondola opens at the bottom to drop bulk cargo. This newly restored car used to carry ore out of Silverton, D’Alessandro said.

The gondola stood on a siding exposed to the elements for decades at Tacoma, a stop on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad about 20 miles north of Durango, D’Alessandro said.

“We got it as a derelict,” D’Alessandro said. “It had been rebuilt in 1917 and again in 1925. It had taken a beating mechanically, but we found parts to restore it to its 1925 appearance.”

All the wood – floor and siding – had to be replaced because it was rotten, D’Alessandro said.

The railroad society has about 225 members, the vast majority of them people interested in the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad’s history.

daler@durangoherald.com

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$The newly rebuilt gondola railcar will be displayed at the Silverton Northern Railroad’s engine house, now a repository of rail memorabilia. Dennis D’Alessandro inspects the railcar built in 1904. $PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$ Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$The newly rebuilt gondola railcar will be displayed at the Silverton Northern Railroad’s engine house, now a repository of rail memorabilia. Dennis D’Alessandro inspects the railcar built in 1904. $PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$

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