Class K-28

The 470 series or 2-8-2 K-28 locomotives were ten engines designed for freight service along the D&RG. They were built by the Schenectady Locomotive Works of the American Locomotive Company (Alco) inSchenectadyNew York in 1923. The K-28s have 28,000 lbf (124.550 kN) of tractive effort, superheated, and the boilers are fed by two non-lifting injectors. Air brakes are 6-ET automatic and also feature a straight air secondary braking system for daily passenger trains. Due to their smaller size these engines are often used on the Durango & Silverton for shorter trains, usually the first or last on the schedule, and often for helper service or sectioned trains. Despite being smaller than the K-36 class locomotives, older, and less powerful, the engine crews tend to favor a trip on these engines because the design ALCO used was superior in balance and servicing. Firing can be tricky when the engine is working hard, as the clam shell-style firedoors tend to pull into the backhead of the boiler due to the draft, and if any flues in the boiler are leaking, the loss of draft on the fire is much harder to work around than on the K-36 locomotives. Firing while the engine is working hard is done with a large “heel” pattern, generally with as little coal on the flue sheet as possible, and gradually sloping the fire bed towards the door sheet to the height or higher than the firedoors. This results in the draft being forced through the fire bed in the thinner areas towards the flue sheet, which usually is hindered by the lack of draft between the grates and the arch brick. New firemen sometimes have a hard time learning this because the art of reading a fire takes time to learn, and the amount of time working on the K-28 class locomotives is far reduced compared to the railroads usual K-36 workhorses which have a larger firebox and are more forgiving in technique.

Durango & Silverton 473 and 478 at Hermosa on 30 June 1963. Photo by Bill Bogle of Durango

Durango & Silverton 473 and 478 at Hermosa on 30 June 1963. Photo by Bill Bogle of Durango

Twenty years after purchasing its last new class of narrow gauge locomotives, the K-27 in 1903, the Rio Grande implemented a system-wide track modernization allowing the use of heavier engines and acquired ten new outside frame Mikado in 1923. Equipped with superheating, a little heavier and marginally more powerful than the K-27, these locomotives were ordered this time from the American Locomotive Company (Alco), they formed the class K-28 (briefly designated class 140 before 1924) and were numbered from 470 to 479. Because of their (relatively) large 44″ drivers allowing them to reach 40 mph, they were specialized in passenger service, which earned them the nickname Sport Models. The K-28 were used to replace the antiquated 4-6-0 T-12 on passenger trains thoughout the D&RGW narrow gauge system and particularly on the Marshall Pass and Cumbres Pass lines. In 1936-37, the K-28 were equipped with steam heating and air signal system to pull the modernized passenger cars used on the Shavano (Salida – Gunnison) and San Juan (Alamosa – Durango) trains, except for #474 which was exclusively used on freight trains around Gunnison. The K-28 were assigned to these two trains until they were discontinued in 1940 and 1951 respectively. A K-28 was also used on the Chili line mixed train (Antonito – Santa Fe) until the line abandonment in 1941.

Out of the original ten only three 470s remain, and all are owned by the Durango & Silverton. The other seven were requisitioned by the US Army in 1942 to be used on the White Pass & Yukon Route in Alaska during WWII. They were later dismantled for scrap in 1946.

Locomotives 473, 476, and 478 operated on many parts of the D&RGW. Engine 473 served frequently on the Chili Line that operated between Antonito, Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico. 473 served on the Chili Line until it was abandoned in 1941. 476 and 478 saw an extensive service on the San Juan passenger train, which ran between Durango, Colorado and Alamosa, Colorado until 1951. 473, 476, and 478 operated on the Silverton Branch from the 1950s through 1980 and are still in service today.

  1. 473 is operational.[9]
  2. 476 is currently stored and on display in the museum.[9] Is awaiting major repairs.
  3. 478 is currently operational.[9]
K-28 specifications (#470 to 479)
Builder (year) Alco (1923)
Wheel arrangement 2-8-2 (Mikado)
Cylinders (diameter x stroke) 2 external (18″ x 22″)
Boiler pressure 200 psi
Drivers diameter 44″
Total weight (loaded tender) 127.2 t (49.3 t)
Maximum tractive effort 27,500 lbs

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