In the fifties, the discovery of oilfields in the Farmington, New Mexico area and their intensive development brought a very important traffic to the Rio Grande narrow gauge, particularly on the Durango – Farmington branch line. To deal with this influx of traffic, the D&RGW built 103 flat cars with a capacity of 25 tons (#6600 to 6694 and #6400 to 6407) between 1955 and 1957, using the steel frames of standard gauge cars (boxcars and stock cars) and equipped them with Andrews trucks salvaged from retired narrow gauge stock cars. A number of these cars are now on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad and the Durango & Silverton, most of them without their trucks. A large part of the traffic generated by the Farmington oilfields consisted in drilling pipes for the oil wells. To carry these pipes which were longer than any car the railroad had, the Rio Grande modified some gondolas by removing their ends and sides, and used them as idler flat cars put between each pipe cars in the trains to allow the pipes to overhang at the ends of the pipe cars. Around a hundred high side gondolas were converted to idler flat cars in 1955 by removing their sides and often reinforcing their frame with rails. They have kept their original numbers. Seven idler flat cars of this type are conserved on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Between 1953 and 1957, another class of about 74 idler flat cars, numbered 6700 and higher, was obtained by transforming boxcars of the 3000 class and stock cars of the 5500 class. Three of these idler cars are preserved on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad and another at the Colorado Railroad Museum. All these idler flat cars, weakened by the removal of their superstructures and despite having their wooden frame strengthened with rails, did not withstand very well a heavy handed brake application on a pipe train and have often been damaged or even destroyed in service.
#10792 – 22 feet long – T-Section Andrews Trucks – Double step strap steps.
Channel side sills facing in.
#10793 – 22 feet long – T-Section Andrews Trucks – Round rod steps – Channel
side sills facing in. – Channel end beams.
#10794 – 27′ 7″ long – U-Section Bettendorf Trucks – Strap steps – Channel side
sills facing in – Channel end beams.
#10795 – 21′ 7 ½” long – T-Section Andrews Trucks – Strap Steps w/Back – Channel
side sills facing out – Channel end beam.
#10796 – 22 feet long – T-Section Andrews Trucks – Round rod steps – Channel
side sills facing in – Channel end sills.
#10797 – 27′ 6 ½” long – U- Section Andrews Trucks – Round rod steps – Channel
side sills facing in – Channel end sills.
X3050 21′ 7 ½” long – T-Section Andrews trucks – Strap steps – Channel side
sills facing out.
In addition, not sure if built with the rest:
#010798 ex-Tender frame from #964 2-8-0. About 22′ long, wood end beams, short
WB Archbar trucks. Side stakes with enclosed section above (probably for
weight). Car sold to SLVS and converted to diesel locomotive. Still exist at
Other 2-coupler idler cars included W-488, ex-#273 tender and W-499, ex-Uintah
All of above based out of Alamosa, except #010795 which was used at Montrose.
In addition before 1940 Montrose used a S.G. wood truss rod gondola with 2
couplers plus foot boards. Part of it can be seen with #463 in Dennis O’Berry’s
“Mudhen” book from R/Robb. Montrose also used a S.G. wood trussrod flat that
shows in the Dick Jackson movie. This could had been converted from the same
Alamosa also had a S.G. truss rod wood flatcar (#20400) that had 2 additional
truss rods and queen posts above the deck. This car shows in a Dick Jackson
photo in 1935 and there is a folio of it.
And at Santa Fe, N.M. they used a high side n.g. gondola with dual gauge
couplers. This car may had been used early from Salida to Leadville before the
3rd rail was removed. A caboose with dual gauge couplers was also used between
Salida to Leadville too. There is a John Maxwell plan, from the D&RGW, that
shows how the 2 couplers were mounted.
Most cars with 2 couplers only had 1 knuckle between them. The switchman could
move the knuckle in a matter of seconds, according to Bob Richardson. No. 010795
used at Montrose did show both couplers with knuckles. Also, the 2 couplers
were notched, so that they would fit close together.
I hope some of this information will be useful. I am open to any corrections as
I am only working from photos in my collection, most taken by me and some by Bob
Richardson and others.
Coronado Scale Models