17 April 2024

About C&S narrow gauge cinder cars - Post 22

 In his discussion "C&S Cinder Cars" Hol Wagner Jr. wrote;

  "In May 1900 the C&S, then still occupying the UP’s 40th Street shops in Denver, converted three of the railroad’s 4000 series narrow gauge coal cars, built for the UPD&G in 1897-98, into side dump cars. ...    "Sometime during the fall of 1900,.. the C&S was approached by a potential customer in Leadville with a proposition that would result in a revenue-producing use for the cars, and soon the conversion of five additional cars.  

Reports from Leadville’s Carbonate Weekly Chronicle:

December 3, 1900:  “The new shaft of the Cloud City company ... is on Lot 1, Block 29, Stevens and Leiter’s addition, at 310 Hemlock street..." [This was four blocks south of the C&S passenger depot and just west of the C&S tracks - Hol]
December 10, 1900:  “A new feature in Leadville mining is the proposition of the Cloud City Mining company to ship all their waste out of the city to be dumped... Arrangements for the transportation of such material is [sic] often made with the railroads at little or no cost to the miners, as the dirt is used to strengthen the grades.”
January 28, 1901:  “... A trestle is run to the railroad, about fifty feet distant, and all the waste dumped into railroad cars and hauled away...
March 4, 1901:
“...  The Colorado and Southern people say they have places for tens of thousands of cars of dirt, and the reason they can haul it away for practically nothing is that they are thus saved the expense of employing men to load the cars.  The gondolas in use are all of an entirely new pattern...
July 22, 1901:  “The Penrose (another mine nearby) has adopted the system of hauling away its waste that was found to work so successfully in the case of the Cloud City... "

"And so, at the end of 1901, two mines in downtown Leadville were utilizing the six dump cars then available, and two more cars would be added to the small fleet in April 1902.  By 1905, however, when a ninth car was added, their revenue producing days would be over and the group would revert to cinder and other company service under a new set of numbers: 0100-0108...." Hol Wagner Jr.

Note: click the link to see a map that shows the lot described as the location of the shaft 310 Hemlock Street Leadville CO - Search (

At C&S Freight Depot south down what would be Hemlock St

Many years ago, someone - perhaps Hol - sent me an electronic copy photo of a standard gauge side dump car. It was not a C&S car and it was not of a post 19th century vintage. Unfortunately I have not been able to find that file; yet I recall that the car was strikingly similar to the C&Sng side dump cars.  

[The direction of the two views at right  are southerly, toward the locations of the Penrose and the Cloud City Mining Co. mine. That mine I've not been able to identify by name but may have been the Bison.

In the upper view, the C&S depot was behind the buildings at the end of the track from the lower left corner of the photo. Hemlock St. was on the other side of the Freight Depot.

At C&S Leadville Depot S.E across what would be Hazel St

In the lower photo the R.O.W. of Hazel St. was under the freight cars. The R.O.W. of Alder St., which was one block east of Hazel, passed through the location of the Penrose mine; about 4 blocks south of the Depot. This was looking up Lost Horse Gulch and the ridge in background of both photos was Carbonate Hill. The mine head behind the pole may have been the Wolftone.]

 "Why would the railroad take nearly new cars and convert them to non revenue service?"

Let us not assume that "side dump car" necessarily meant "cinder car". The railroad listed both dump and cinder cars for their standard gauge (C&Ssg). There were 6 cars prior to 1904 numbered 036 - 041. But neither narrow gauge (C&Sng) dump nor cinder cars appeared in the nationally published "Official Railway Equipment Register" (O.R.E.R.) monthly until late in 1904 - after the ng dump cars were numbered 0100-0107.

Non revenue (outfit) cars were nearly always derived from older, less capable units that may have been nearly worn out and that were often about to be replaced. In particular, the Peninsular cars were 15 years old with an inferior load limited of 40000lbs. They were still in fair shape but not as capable as the 2 - 3 year old St Charles coals with 50000lbs capacity. Surely the Peninsular cars would have been plenty capable to haul cinders. The new cars were used because they had a superior capacity; perhaps well more than cinder cars would have required.

We may not recognize the details of the railroad's logic but it isn't an unreasonable idea. Well, sure. But. There was that pesky zero that assigned them to the Maintenance of Way department. Why?! To answer that, we need a reasonable explanation with a fair certainty of actual circumstance.

Perhaps by examining the key points of the 1900 -1901 Carbonate Weekly Chronicle we may find a hint or two. First, only 3 cars were converted in 1900. This seems a relatively low expectation for what ever the purpose the cars were intended

Next, the Carbonate Weekly Chronicle reported that the Cloud City Mining Co. approached the railroad 7 months after the 3 cars were converted. The report implies the mining company implored of the C&S - and that may be true - but how coincidental is it that the C&S already had 3 cars on hand? Is it possible the railroad was the true initiator of the general idea described by the newspaper? Perhaps the Cloud City Mining Co. adopted the idea after some promulgation on the part of the Railroad?

We further see that not only was the railroad willing to haul this waste material away at a minimal fee but that they would put it to use. In fact, it seemed to be a selling point on behalf of the railroad with perhaps veiled hopes more mining companies would subscribe to the service.

When one spends hundreds of hours reading through old railroad documents it is difficult to miss the impression that they never let a single penny slip away; the C&Sng needed that waste material. The newspaper more or less quoted the railroad as much; "The Colorado and Southern people say they have places for tens of thousands of cars of dirt". Profit enough, as it were.

But wasn't the railroad already mostly built? Mostly.

When the Denver South Park & Pacific built the road in the 1880s they were naturally in a hurry to reach the great mining camps of Colorado. To expedite their efforts hundreds of trestles were built. Trestles were ideal for this kind bee-lining railroad construction through rough terrain (especially covered in timber). They were quick to build and relatively cheap. On the other hand, they were not so much durable. They needed a lot of upkeep and they were vulnerable to fires. 

Mountain railroading involved a lot of cuts and fills and there were many places where there was more filling required than cutting made available. However, the demand for filling a trestle did not exclude it from being used; the railroads often took their time about filling. After all, the train didn't fall down just because bents and cross members were exposed. Not surprisingly, it could take years to fill a trestle.

Cut at Windy Point near Breckenridge CO

What might cause that to happen? Tactically speaking, lack of fill material. But there were other, perhaps more strategic reason. For instance, between 1883 and 1893 the South Park and subsequent companies were owned or controlled by the Union Pacific. The U.P. was notorious for taking a lot out of a subsidiary but not imputing so much to improving it. Filling trestles may not have been a pressing issue in those days.

Then the railroads collectively went into receivership where only the bare minimum would have been attended. What happened at the close of 1898 was that Colorado's dearest home grown railroad finally came home. It was once again "The Colorado Road" and Frank Trumble (receiver and president) and company were determined to live up to that name. Therefore it is not improbable that all of those half dressed trestles and other R.O.W. issues had to be addressed!

 This trestle was being filled in the mid 1880s near Climax CO.

The Cinder cars were not cinder cars - not at first. They were property improvement tools - outfit cars, they called them - and when the heads of the road noted all of that "fill" material piled up around mines and homes it is not unreasonable that they saw a ready source of material they needed to finish the grade. Nor can we dismiss their awareness of the applicability of side dump cars for this project.

Of course, a documented narrative of what I postulate has not been found; not to my knowledge. 

This all happened in less than 2 year2. By the end of 1902 it seems the partnership with the mines petered out. We only know of 2 mines that disposed of tailing material in the fashion described here. Perhaps misfortunes befell the mines that the railroad serviced. Perhaps the Railroad accomplished its improvement and no longer offered the service economically. In which case, where would the waste rock have been shipped too - an increase in cost notwithstanding? 

For whatever reason, after 1902, when the last 2 cars were converted they were all returned to non-revenue service. In support of this logic are the notations in the 1899 Renumbering Schedule that stated the 1902 cars (04003, 04019) were built for the great South Park division point, Como. They were the last modern ng cars rebuilt as cinder cars for many years. In 1905 the railroad added one more car and interestingly it was an old inherited car that was second rate in capacity. This would make sense as cinders don't weight as much as hard rock tailings. 

C&S Cinder Car 0206 at Como in 1931

In 1908 the Chicago Burlington & Quincey acquired the C&S. This adoption brought the railroad into association with the CB&Q's Black Hills narrow gauge line. In 1911, the "Q" inquired of the C&S about available coal cars for use in the Black Hills. They needed ore cars with "dump" capability. The C&S responded with 50 coals that had been built in 1907 - '08. The "Q" leased the cars and paid for the conversions of 4 dumps door per side and sloped floors similar to the 0100 series.

However, by 1916, 10 of the cars were returned to Denver and 9 of those were numbered 2000 - 2008. The "Q" apparently bought 15 of the cars outright but the rest may have been sold to an equipment broker. The 9 cars that were numbered 2000 - 2008 were renumbered 0200 - 0209 in 1920.

Como 1936; on right a 0100 series perhaps next to a 0200 series

Generally, little information has been found about the 0100 series cars, especially later into the 20th century. The most notable news of the cars came as the end of narrow gauge operations approached. All nine of the 0100 series cars survived until 1936. In Nov. of that year 0103 was destroyed at Climax; presumably in a wreck. In 1938, after the R.O.W. was torn up across the South Park, all of the remaining cars were scrapped except 0104. It wasn't until 1943 when the Leadville to Climax line was standard gauged that this last cinder car was finally dismantled. It was built by St. Charles prior to June 1898. In Aug. 1943 it was 45 years old. 

Many of the narrow gauge freight cars were sold (or surrendered) to other companies. Most of these have been disposed of but a small number still remain. Several old survivors have made their way to the South Park Rail Society at Como, Colorado. That includes the 1902 coal car, 4319.  The Society has nicely restored the car with some of the parts from reproductions. 

But when 0104 was scrapped it was among the very oldest cars on the line.

4319 at Black Hawk 1987. Currently at South Park Rail Society
Hol Wagner Jr.'s contribution to the history of this railroad must be honored. His electronic book "C&S - the first 10 years" is the accomplishment of a lifetime. I once printed most of it - as it was still in progress - and it stood over 2' tall (printed one side). Hol's commitment included years of sitting in the midst of dusty railroad records at the Colorado Railroad Museum reading original records and typing the enormous manuscript. 

Of course, Hol's contributions are not the only sources I have... most of the old guard have been gone a long time. But I remember who they were.

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