A Western Regional Railroad - 1930's - 1940's
Rio Grande Southern Railroad


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The Rio Grande Southern Railroad (RGS) was a short line railway in the state of Colorado, running 163 miles from Ridgeway to Durango, Colorado. Built to serve the mining regions of the San Juan Mountains, the goal was to haul gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc. The RGS hauled ore from the rich mines of Telluride, Rico, Ophir, and the La Plata Mountains, but it also hauled mundane materials such as cattle, coal and oil. RGS31
Rio Grande Southern - May 31,1931

RGS31
Rio Grande Southern - 1931
However, the most unusual freight hauled by the little line was the feedstock of the nuclear age-uranium. For, unknown to its builder, the RGS was the nearest railroad to the world's largest uranium deposit, the Paradox Basin area of the Colorado Plateau! The RGS was not a very profitable railroad, using mostly used locomotives and rolling stock, and developing an unusual auto-bus-boxcar-rail vehicle called the Galloping Goose to haul passengers and express. It did soldier along with passenger service from Ridgeway to Durango, and then only to Dolores through the 30's and 40's. The early radioactive metal hauling was to obtain radium primarily for medical purposes. As deposits in Africa became known the radium bubble burst, and traffic was down for a while until the value of uranium, for nuclear uses became known, then a boom time, again followed by a bust. The RGS finally gave up in 1951 as mining tailed off and insufficient traffic remained. The road is now abandoned.
Short History of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad
1881 - The major Colorado railroad the Denver & Rio Grande completed a line to Durango.
1881-90 - Yellow rock found in Paradox Basin which contained vanadium, radium and uranium,.
1882 - The D&RG completes a line north from Durango to Silverton, near mining areas.
1887 - The D&RG completes a branch off their main line south to Ouray, again near mining areas.
c 1887 - The San Juan Mountains between Ouray and Silverton were too formidable to allow the building of a railroad directly connecting the two towns. Otto Mears built the Silverton Railroad north from Silverton and reached within 8 miles of Ouray but the remaining stretch through
the Uncompahgre Gorge was considered too difficult. A cog railway was briefly considered but was never built.
1889 - The RGS was founded in 1889 by Mears to go around the most rugged part of the San Juan Mountains and also reach the mining towns of Rico and Telluride.
1890 - Construction began from Ridgeway (north of Ouray) and Durango (south of Silverton)
c 1892 - The RGS was completed only a little time before the Silver Panic of 1893 which resulted in most of the mines closing overnight and the railroad losing most of its traffic.
1893 - RGS is bankrupt. D&RG takes over as receiver.
1898-1924 RGS hauls vanadium, radium and uranium in quantities, and is supported by heavy cattle traffic during parts of each year.
1920's Richer finds of ores in the Congo in Africa drop uranium, radium and vanadium prices,
1924-35 - Bust years for Colorado mining and RGS traffic falls. The RGS struggled to survive against all odds through the Great Depression.
1931 - The RGS was operating one passenger train per day between Ridgeway, where it connected to the D&RGW, and Vance Jct. in the Telluride mining area, and also one train between Durango and Vance Jct.
1931-36 - The RGS builds seven "Galloping Goose" rail cars, fashioned from Buick and Pierce Arrow vehicles with bus bodies and box car rear ends.
1940 - In 1940 the RGs was still running a passenger train (Galloping Goose) between Ridgeway and Durango, , with bus connections between Vance Jct. and Telluride, 7 miles.
1942-45 - RGS gets a traffic boost as the value of "yellow cake" vanadium ore is recognized as a need for atomic production.
post 1945 - Paved roads take over traffic formerly hauled on RGS. The line continues on for a few years with tourists attracted to the line and an occasional cattle drive, but deteriorating trackage and small volume signals the end is near.
1943 - By 1943 the RGS had discontinued the passenger service between Dolores and Durango, 60 miles. The Telluride bus connection remained.
1949 - Telluride bus service has been discontinued but galloping goose is still running between Ridgeway and Dolores, 102 miles.
1951 - RGS is finally closed.
1952 - RGS petitions for abandonment.

Our Sources
Private Collection of Richard R. Parks(rp)
Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia [web](wik)
Official Guide- Various editions
Uranium and the Rio Grande Southern Railroad Stephen S. Hart
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Web Page Written and Maintained by Richard Parks
Copyright Richard Parks, May 1,, 2009,revised Oct. &, 2011