Denver & Rio Grande Western’s locomotive number 346 was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1881 and was originally named “Cumbres”, and wore road number 406.
This type of engine was needed for the then new “San Juan Extension” of the D&RG, which ran from Alamosa, over Cumbres Pass, to Durango and Silverton. This is one of the Denver and Rio Grande’s heavier Consolidations: A type C19 – “C” for Consolidation, and “19” for 19,000 pounds of tractive effort.. It was primarily used in helper service. In 1923 it was renumbered 346, and in 1924 was fitted with a new boiler. At that time, due to an ICC edict, all locomotives with wrought iron boilers had to be refitted with steel boilers… or scrapped.
When the newer 400-series locomotives were purchased by the Rio Grande, 346 was transferred to the lines out of Gunnison and occasionally would be leased to the Rio Grande Southern for use on their lines from Durango to Telluride and Ridgeway.
During the 1930s, the engine was one of three locomotives leased to the Colorado & Southern. C&S engines were old and small – that railroad had a habit of building new cars, but using old engines.
346 was wrecked on Kenosha Pass in runaway incident. It was rebuilt in the Denver railroad shops, which became the Associated Grocers’ Warehouse. The rebuild took only 3 weeks, and during that reconstruction, the engine got a steel cab, but lost its dome rings.
After the rebuild the engine sat idle. It was sent to The Montezuma Lumber company in 1947, to be used on the Rio Grande Southern just outside of Durango. When the mill burned down, the engine was no longer needed.
Bob Richardson, one of the Museum founders, bought 346 in 1950, and managed to get it to Alamosa, where he situated the engine at the Narrow Gauge Motel.
The engine looked pretty sad without its dome rings, though. A friend of Bob’s, working in the railroad shops, spirited dome rings away from a locomotive which had been wrecked in the movie “Denver and Rio Grande” and gave them to Bob as a gift, and they were then mounted on this engine.
The engine was first steamed up at the Colorado Railroad Museum on July 29th, 1962. It has just recently been reassembled here at the museum after being reworked in Strasburg, Pennsylvania.