10 April 2024

About C&S narrow gauge cinder cars - Post 21

C&S 72 perhaps pushing several such cars into position 1901-1902?

If you've read this blog through you've probably encountered the Colorado & Southern narrow gauge cinder cars. (See; 7th Street Shops - Rails Flanges & Gears Post 12 and Post 20). No doubt historian patriarchs were aware of the cars but only in the sense that they encountered them in overall equipment listings; "Oh, by the way the C&S had some narrow gauge cinder cars..."  

None of what you read here has been published in any of the major historical tomes about this railroad; not from the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club, the Colorado Railroad Museum, not from Mal Ferrel or any other similarly well known volume. Some of the magazines have since touched on the cars but not to the degree you will find here. At least not to my knowledge. 

The iconic historical accounts were focused on overall strategic level history. Only in the photographs was there any insight into the tactical day to day operation and details of the equipment. Modelers look at the pictures. Subsequently it seemed there was always a Pictorial or Pictorial Supplement. If you sought to know details that's what you did; photographs. Photographs are great but they are always limited to what is there in that briefest instance - nothing before or after. The photo above, for instance; locomotive 72 is pushing a rather odd car that only shows up in its original configuration in this photo. Fortunately it has a readable number on it. But without more information nothing further can be said except that (presumably) the engineer and fireman in the cab and perhaps a brakeman on the running board were looking at the camera. (The fact that a brakeman or switch-man stands ready suggests a shuffling operation in progress.)

When you are both historian and modeler it can take years of deep digging to answer enough questions to understand what a photograph may have to say. That information may be the critical point that results in the building of the model. In this and perhaps the next few Posts I'll share what I've learned about the cinder cars and about the model I built in 1990.

This study began when I became intrigued by the car in this photo. I'd seen the nomenclature "cinder cars" in various rosters. Cinder cars seemed uninteresting so I paid little attention. Then in the late '80s my friend Dick Kindig loaned me 100s of prints and slides to copy. Among those photos was very early C&S 72 and this car. Then it became interesting - but I knew nothing about it.

Berlyn Loco Works offered RTR On3 Cinder cars
They were hand built in Korea and offered in the early 2000s

Another friend, John Maxwell, was also sending many railroad documents that included a copy of Folio No. 27. This official document was detailed with a generalized drawings of each type and nominal data about all of the narrow gauge cars according to their serial groups. Certainly that was a bound forward but until he shared the Railroad's Renumbering Schedule of 1899 I still didn't have enough information to really understand the cinder cars. Receiving that hand written document opened up a very revealing and confident new perspective.

This then was the intrigue that started the forth-telling of an otherwise obscure series of cars that no one I know of ever even mentioned before. Nor to the best of my knowledge did anyone build a model. This study would culminate in award winning models, commercially built copy models, scratch and kit-built model in several scale and even a few magazine articles.

C&S 4038 at Blackhawk was built in 1897 as UPD&G 3952 


The history of the cinder cars began in St. Charles, MO in 1897. The St. Charles Car Co. built 50 modern coal cars for the Union Pacific Denver & Gulf Railroad. The cars delivered that year were numbered 3930 - 3979. They were built with low boxes made up of 3 boards per side. The bottom coarse was 12" while the top two coarse were 10" boards. The cars were supplied with 4' Rigid type trucks (with trussed truck bolsters). 

An additional 36 cars arrived in the first half of 1898. They were were exactly like the earlier cars and number congruently 3980 - 4015. The car in the photo at left was an example of the 1897 coal cars in 1910.

When the C&S Ry took over the railroads in Feb. 1899 the cars were repainted in the new company's "Roman" style lettering ("The Colorado Road" Herald). The renumbering of this series was itself interesting if not directly important to understanding the cinder cars. Units 4000 - 4015 kept their UPD&G numbers while all 50 of the 1897 cars plus 20 of the 1898 cars were renumbered above the newest cars of the entire batch. Therefore 3930 became 4016 and so forth to 3999 as 4085.

The Rigid type truck as on stock car 7064  - Poole

From under the bolster toward the Spring box - Poole
And over the axle; more clarity of the truss rods - Poole.

Presumably, cinder cars existed in some form prior to this "modern" series. Most likely such cars would have been ordinary coal cars assigned to the M.O.W. department. But such cars were usually older units perhaps in poor shape. After all, cinder cars mostly sat around gathering cinders and then occasionally venturing out along the R.O.W. to scatter the inconvenient waste or to hauled it away to some other means of disposal. 

 Why would the railroad take nearly new cars and convert them to non-revenue service? This is a question that has an answer as yet uncertain. We will examine events that may well establish that as a tentative answer.

There were 9 side dump cars built from ordinary coal cars. Eight of the cars came from the 3-board 4000 series coal cars described above. The 9th car was built from 4796, a 30' coal built by the Peninsular Car Works in 1885. 

Initially, the cars converted prior to 1903 kept their coal numbers but with a zero placed in front to identify the cars as non-revenue service types. Folio No. 27 listed all 9 car and averaged data about their construction. The information did include what revenue cars were converted to side dumps. But the most detail reference of the conversions is found in the Renumbering Guide. Here was provided specific dates of  dispositions and (important to our discussion) exactly when any conversions took place. From this record we can identify not just what coal became which cinder car, but also when it was converted and when to what number it became. Beginning in May 1900 coal cars 4000, 4001 and 4041 were rebuilt to cinder cars. In 1901 cars 4011, 4013 and 4085 were converted. In 1902 cars 4008 and 4019 were converted. 

Perhaps most telling of all was that the last 3 cars had notation that may hint at our question above. The 2 cars built in 1902 were specifically built for Como. That alone isn't much to go on but it was nearly 3 and a half years - in 1905 - that the last car was converted. This was the ancient Peninsular built coal car. It may seem nebulous at this point but as we examine the cars and the events surrounding them these details may lend support ro the reasons so far theorized about why the cars were built in the first place.

The rebuilt 4796 was directly numbered 0108. Since the rest of the cars had already been renumbered to 0100 - 0107 in July 1904 this car was never numbered 04796.

4915 at Blackhawk (1902 plus) was an example of the car used for 0108 (4796)

In the title photograph the locomotive does not have the number on the cab. The photo was cropped for use here. Therefore the location of the number on the tender is not included. The view is likely prior to the Entwined Herald that may have appeared on 72's cab later in 1902.  The road used this emblem on several engines for passenger service. But not all motive power used it. The Herald on this cab was simply "Colorado & Southern" typically in gold leaf (which often does not show up well in photos) as was wont of newly repainted engines at that time. This disappeared when the Entwined C&S was applied the cab because the railroad sheathed all the cabs with metal as an upgrade. The 72 itself is only a few years old.

Next time we will get into the question; why rebuild new cars when plenty of inherited coals were available?


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