The Rio Grande Chap. NRHS has
an ongoing program to obtain, preserve, and display rolling stock of the Uintah narrow
gauge railroad. These cars are owned by the Museum of Western Colorado,
Grand Junction, Colorado and are located at the museum's Cross Orchards Living
The restoration program is
conducted by a volunteer group of chapter members. Work is done on the
cars every Tuesday morning from 8 am to 12 noon (weather permitting).
Being as all work is outside, work is begun each year when it becomes dry and
warm enough (usually in March) and shut down when it gets too cold and wet
(usually in late November). The crew usually consists of around six persons,
four of which are retired Rio Grande Railroad employees.
Exterior restoration of some
cars required only the replacement of a few boards followed by painting, while
other cars required extensive siding, roof, and roof walk replacement followed
by painting. The underbody of all cars required installation of trucks,
brake components and rigging, truss rods, and couplers. It was standard
practice of railroads to push surplus cars onto their side, cut away all
underbody metal for scrap, and then sell or burn the remaining car, thus all our
cars needed a full set of these items. Caboose #3
required a complete rebuilding as discussed in the next section.
There are two unique problems in restoring Uintah
rolling stock. One is is that the Uintah used relatively modern 4' 6" wheelbase
freight trucks with brake shoes mounted on the truck frames. These are
next to impossible to obtain, so we have substituted the more readily available
older style D&RGW 3' 7" trucks with the brake shoes suspended from the car
frame. The Uintah also used a different coupler and coupler mounting, then
other narrow gauge railroads, to allow more coupler swing on tight curves.
Here again, these are next to impossible to obtain, so we have substituted the
more readily available D&RGW standard couplers on the cars we have
restored. The only ex Uintah cars known to exist that have Uintah couplers
and trucks are water cars 021 and 023 which went to the D&RGW when the Uintah
Our work car #01 was built by the Uintah utilizing
an old D&RGW flat car body that originally had link and pin couplers. Although
the Uintah did not use link and pin couplers, we have installed a set on this
car in order to show the public what they look like.
Caboose #3 was
obtained in very poor condition (see picture). It had been used for
farm storage for many years and was setting on the bare ground with one
side against a dirt embankment. It had such extensive rotting of the under
body, floor, and one side that it had to have interior and exterior bracing just
to be moved to Cross Orchards.
In the summer of 1996 it was
decided to attempt a rebuilding of this car. Many interior and exterior
measurements and photographs were taken both before and during disassembly.
Approximately 50 pictures were taken and eight computer aided design (CAD)
drawings were made from the dimensions obtained.
The car was in such poor
condition that it was completely disassembled and a new car was made, reusing
original parts and materials as much as possible. The new under body frame
beams were salvaged from an old standard gauge flatcar and were ripped to size
by Skilsaw. The frame beams and end sills were attached with mortise
and tenon joints and secured in place with steel tension rods salvaged from the
Most vertical frame members
(studs) were in good condition except that the bottoms were rotted, so they were
repaired by splicing in new wood sections. Long angle braces with rot on
one end were trimmed to replace shorter rotted pieces and new wood was used to
replace the long pieces.
It now has all siding, windows, roofing, both
most of the exterior hardware installed including steps, end rails, ladders,
See the latest picture. We have also
mounted it on trucks and placed it on a short section of track with a stairway
and platform for visitor access
We purchased and installed 1,800 linear feet of
Wainscoting for the interior walls. There are no
known interior pictures, or details, for this caboose so we designed a
"typical caboose interior" based on the D&RGW long cabooses.
Both cupola "platforms" with seats, the conductor's
desk, and the bench seats are finished, the interior painting is nearly
finished, and the seat cushions are about to be made. See latest interior picture.
The Chapter obtained two D&RGW flat cars in fair
condition. One has been used for parts for caboose #3 but the other has been restored to
represent a Uintah flat car. Although this is not an authentic Uintah car,
we feel that our collection should include at least one flat car as the Uintah had 71
of them (58% of their freight cars).
This car is now on trucks and the truss rods, brake system, couplers
and new decking have been installed.
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