The Rico, built by the D&RG’s Burnham shops in Denver in 1882, was initially mail car number 17 on the Rio Grande. It was redesignated number 4 in 1888. Then it went to work as excursion car number 569 until 1890. It was rebuilt and sold as construction car C-3 to the Rio Grande Southern, which ran from Ridgeway to Durango, via Telluride and Lizard Head Pass, for a total of 172 miles.
The RGS converted the car into one of their two business cars in 1892 and named it “Rico”. In 1909 it was renamed “Montezuma,” and renumbered B-21 in 1917. Finally, it became car 021 when it went into work train service, used by track gangs. It ran on the Bebe and Klegg Special in 1947. The Rocky Mountain Railroad Club purchased the car in 1952, and it was moved to the Colorado Railroad Museum in August of 1958.
The Rico is unusual in that it has 30-inch paper wheels instead of the usual 26-inch steel wheels. Paper wheels consist of tightly packed paper, surrounded by a steel tire, with the paper held in place by a plate on each side.
This type of wheel can be identified by the rivets around the surface of the wheel, just inside the tire, which hold the plates tightly against the paper. Paper wheels were supposed to provide a quieter and softer ride, but the idea didn’t last long, and most were replaced by wrought iron or steel wheels.
The car was rebuilt by the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club. Inside, the car is no longer prototypical, as the Club installed laminate. However, the laminate was laid over the original tongue-and-groove woodwork, so the car could be returned to its earlier state. One side of the car has been resided by the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club, but much more work needs to be done on this unique piece of Colorado railroad history.