A collection of color photos by Fred Springer of the Galloping Goose No. 3 running the tracks at Ophir and on Lizard Head Pass are a window back in time.
Richard Clauser, then 6 years old, is featured with the Goose in most of the 1951 photos, beaming from ear to ear.
There he is riding the Goose along a towering wooden trestle near Ophir, posing with the motorman on the front of the Goose, climbing to the top of a railroad water tower used for locomotives, and viewing mountain panoramas with his mother.
“It was when the Goose ran as a tourist line,” said railroad historian Lew Matis.
The unique rail-bus design first went into service in 1933 for the Rio Grande Southern railroad hauling freight and mail, and eventually passengers.
There are seven “Galloping Geese,” with a fully restored No. 5 based out of Dolores. The original design was a 1927 Pierce-Arrow limousine, and in 1946 it incorporated a Wayne Corp. bus body.
Dolores was a railroad town, and locomotives coming and going was a way of life. A new display features an impressive is a 1 inch equals 1 foot, scale model of local locomotive No. 20 built by expert modeler Bob Walker of DeKalb, Illinois.
The No. 20 ran on the Rio Grande Southern Railroad from Durango, through Dolores, and on to Ridgway from 1915 to 1952.
Nice photos accompany the model showing the behemoth Iron Horse at Priest Gulch and leaving Durango towards Mancos.
“It was a pretty famous locomotive; rail fans really love it,” Matis said.
The train was featured in the feature film Ticket to Tomahawk,and was dressed up with a diamond stack and painted red.
An amusing local backstory is a scene in the movie that required a team of horses to pull the train.
“They couldn’t budge it, so the directors made a fake locomotive of wood and fiberglass to shoot those scenes,” Matis said.
The full-size replica was also used in other movies and is displayed in Santa Rita Park in Durango. Ticket to Tomahawk is considered historic because it was the first significant role for Marilyn Monroe, who portrayed a chorus girl.
The detailed No. 20 model was a “scratch build” meaning each part was custom-made.
Walker worked 1,350 hours on the project over eight years and has 8,000 custom-built parts made from metal and wood. Walker is a columnist for Railroad Model Craftsman.
“He had it on his mantle for years and decided it needed a new home,” Matis said. “It is a beautifully proportioned locomotive built in 1899 by American Locomotive Works.”
While a model of it is in Dolores, and a life-size model is in Durango, the actual No. 20 is being restored for display at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden. An anonymous donor contributed $600,000 for the restoration, Matis said.
A comprehensive history of all seven Galloping Geese has also been added to the museum, along with improved spot lighting and new display cases.
“We’ve added quite a bit,” Matis said. “It’s more than just the Geese, it is the stories and people that go with them.”