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Galloping Goose to run winter excursions

Historic motorized rail car will run up Animas Valley

For the third winter in a row, the Dolores-based Galloping Goose No. 5 will run winter excursions up the Animas Valley on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

On Feb. 15 and Feb. 18, the historic, gasoline-powered rail bus will participate in the Durango & Silverton Winter Photographer’s Special. The full-day excursions run from Durango to Cascade Canyon and back.

On Feb. 15, the trip will include stops along the way for a photo. Tickets are $169.

During a photo run-by, passengers temporarily deboard at a scenic point, then the Goose backs up and runs forward for an ideal photo opportunity. Tickets are $169.

On Feb. 18, passengers participate in a rare rail-fan adventure. Half the trip is spent riding the Goose, and the other half of the day is spent on historic rail cars pulled by vintage steam locomotive SP-18 visiting from Independence, California.

Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-877-872-4607, or by visiting the DSNGRR website.

On Feb. 22 and 23, the more casual fan can ride the Goose on a five-hour trip to Cascade and back. No photo stops are included. Tickets are $115.

“The Animas Valley in all its winter glory can be enjoyed by all passengers, regardless of the excursion they choose,” said Joe Becker, a motorman and member of the Galloping Goose Historical Society of Dolores.

The excursions are an opportunity to photograph and experience winter mountain railroading in remote locations, he said.

All passengers are given the opportunity to sit up front in the cab and watch operations out the front windshield, looking over the motorman’s shoulder. The vantage point is not available on any other train ride.

The historic wood stove will keep passengers warm in the back, and a recently installed bus heater will warm passengers in the cab. A replica snowplow will help keep the tracks clear of snow. Snacks and beverages are available for a donation.

Trips include stories of winter stories of travel on the Goose, including one from the 1930s where passengers had to jump off into the snowdrifts at Trout Lake after a broken drive train severed a brake line. Another story is of a snowbound Galloping Goose that was stranded for three days. Supplies were dropped by an airplane from Cortez, and Ruby Gonzales’ dad hiked in with additional supplies.

Also, on Feb. 20, fifth-graders from Dolores School District Re-4A will tour the Durango & Silverton train museum and roundhouse, then enjoy a 1.5-hour ride on Goose No. 5 to Railroad Park and back.

“This unique opportunity allows students to live history and experience what it was like to ride the Goose,” Becker said.

Dolores began as a railroad town in the 1890s and grew up with the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, which extended 160 miles between Ridgway and Durango. The RGS transported ore, lumber and livestock out of remote areas of the San Juan Mountains.

In response to severe economic challenges during the Great Depression, motorized rail cars were built in the RGS’ Ridgway Shop in the 1930s. The gasoline-operated “Galloping Geese,” as they came to be known, transported passengers, U.S. mail, and essential supplies from Durango to Mancos, Dolores and the mountain towns of Rico, Placerville, Telluride and Ridgway.

The Goose No. 5 was originally built with a 1928 Pierce-Arrow limousine body and running gear. It was rebuilt in 1946-47, using a World War II surplus GMC gasoline truck engine and a Wayne Corp. school bus body. In 1950, the freight-mail compartment was converted to carry 20 additional passengers for sightseeing trips.

The Galloping Geese operated for 20 years and kept the RGS railroad and the area that they served economically viable until the railroad was abandoned in 1952.

The Dolores Rotary Club purchased Goose No. 5 in the early 1950s, and it is currently owned by the town of Dolores. The Galloping Goose Historical Society was organized in 1987. Using volunteer labor, the Society built a replica of the Dolores Train Depot in 1991, where the museum, gift store and GGHS offices are now located. In the late 1990s, the Society completely restored Galloping Goose No. 5. It is open to visitors and runs on track in front of the museum.

The fully restored Goose No. 5 is the only Rio Grande Southern motorcar that regularly runs excursions through the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com

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