Denver & Rio Grande Western Engine 278, its tender, a boxcar, and a caboose, have been returned to the truss bridge at Cimarron in Curecanti National Recreation Area. The engine and cars, as well as the bridge, have been undergoing extensive restoration over the last eight years.
The National Park Service (NPS), under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, uses fees collected at parks to restore infrastructure, like the train exhibit, for visitor education and enjoyment.
Denver & Rio Grande Western Engine 278 and the tender, owned by the City of Montrose and on long-term loan to the NPS, were restored by Mammoth Locomotive Works of Palisade, Colorado. The caboose, also part of the agreement with Montrose, was restored by Wasatch Railroad Contractors of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Work on the box car was done in Durango, Colorado by the Durango and Silverton Railroad.
The train set rests in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison at Cimarron on its historical truss bridge, recently restored by Eddie Lopez Construction of Hurricane, Utah. All of the train pieces, as well as the truss bridge, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Though other engines and cars still exist throughout the area, these are significant in that they are in their original place, giving viewers the opportunity to experience the train as it would have looked coming through the canyon on its way to Montrose.
The Denver and Rio Grande Western Scenic Line of the World ran freight, livestock, and passengers from August of 1882 through 1949.
Park Archaeologist Forest Frost was the project lead for the full eight years of contracting and he paid careful attention to historical accuracy throughout that time. “I’m happy to see this unique display is back in place and available for the public to enjoy,” said Frost. “I hope this may spark visitors to investigate other historic sites in the area.”
Superintendent of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Curecanti National Recreation Area, Bruce Noble said, “In addition to the great work done by Forest Frost, I want to thank all park divisions for playing a part in making this project happen. We appreciate the fee money that made this project possible and it’s a tremendous pleasure to restore this wonderful historic train display to public view.”
For more information on the Denver & Rio Grande Western Engine 278, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Curecanti National Recreation Area, please visit: www.nps.gov/cure