There are many narrow-gauge locomotives from the Denver and Rio Grande Western in service today: Ride the Durango and Silverton or Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroads and you’ll be riding behind these legacy locomotives. But, number 683 is the only Rio Grande standard-gauge engine to have escaped the scrapper’s torch. The Colorado Railroad Museum is fortunate to have her on display.
By the way – you’ll notice and both D&RG and D&RGW logos denote Rio Grande equipment throughout the museum. The reason? The line started out as the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad in 1870 under William Palmer. In 1920, the line went into receivership. As part of its reorganization, it was renamed the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad and survived as such until 1988, when owner Phil Anschutz bought the Southern Pacific Railroad and put the D&RGW under that better-known name.
This fifty-seven-ton locomotive was built in 1890 by Baldwin as part of a 118- engine order. For their day, they were modern, heavy-duty locomotives. The engine had nearly 28,000 pounds of tractive effort, and boiler pressure was rated, ultimately, at 160 pounds per square inch. Originally the engine had link-and-pin couplers. These were replaced with the Janney automatic couplers in around 1903.
A mainline engine from the start as number 583 on the Denver & Rio Grande, she acquired the number 683 in 1924. The loco was relegated to switching and branchline service when newer and larger mainline power was purchased by the railroad. In 1930, the pilot was modified to a footboard design, and a second sand dome was added – all necessary for switching. In the late 1930s she was assigned to Leadville, and in the early 1940s was equipped with a steel cab from a scrapped engine, which replaced the original wooden cab.
683 was sold to the San Luis Valley Southern Railroad in 1947 and became number 106. By 1955 the engine had been retired, and she sat idle in an abandoned enginehouse for several years.
The Museum bought the engine in 1962 and moved it to Golden in 1963. It arrived with the tender from a different locomotive, but the original tender was later donated to the museum by the Durango & Silverton.
This locomotive was state-of-the-art for 1890. Visit our Burlington Northern, number 5629, beyond the library and on the other side of the loop track to see how railroad technology had progressed in the short span of fifty years!