D&SNGRR Leases Legendary Southern Pacific No. 18 from Eastern California Museum

Historic 137-Year-Old Railroad in Southwest Colorado to Use and Study Famous Nevada/California Narrow-Gauge Engine as Part of Its Strategy for Converting and Operating No. 493 as an Oil-Burning Locomotive
 
 
Famous Southern Pacific No. 18
Famous Southern Pacific No. 18
 
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DURANGO, Colo. - Oct. 24, 2018 - PRLog -- The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNGRR), which offers distinctive year-round rail experiences and special events to passengers of all ages in the remote, scenic wilderness and high-mountain landscape of Colorado's San Juan National Forest, today announced it has reached an agreement with the Eastern California Museum, owned and managed by California-based Inyo County, to borrow and operate legendary oil-burning Southern Pacific Locomotive No. 18 (SP18). The locomotive, recently restored to service by volunteers with the non-profit Carson and Colorado Railway, will serve the D&SNGRR until June of 2019. The short-term lease will assist the D&SNGRR's mechanical team with finalizing the conversion of Locomotive No. 493 from coal-burning to oil-fired steam motive power, and completion of operational training and the fine-tuning of fuel consumption calculations associated with the operation of an oil-burning steam engine.

In a related announcement, the company also proclaimed it will operate SP18 as a passenger-carrying locomotive on select Thursdays in January and February of 2019, and on other future dates to be determined. In addition, the railroad will showcase SP18 in a special excursion to Silverton in the late spring or early summer of 2019.

"As the D&SNGRR enters its third decade of operation under current ownership, and embarks on a new phase of growth and development, it is imperative for us to consider alternative motive power sources which keep the railroad running safely all year round and in a variety of seasons and weather conditions," said Allen C. Harper, co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. "The SP18 lease is a significant component of this business strategy, and one which enables us to successfully complete No. 493's vital conversion to an oil-burning locomotive, and further diversify our fleet of vintage locomotives. SP18 has played an important role in the West's rich railroading history, so D&SNGRR crew and passenger access to this marvelous engine fulfills our deep commitment to preserving these locomotives and historic rail lines for generation to come."

The actual mechanical work associated with Locomotive No. 493's restoration and conversion is just one aspect of its successful operation on the D&SNGRR line. Crew training, fueling logistics, and fuel consumption estimates also are key elements of the transition from coal to oil, and SP18 will assist in all of these areas. For crews, successful and efficient oil firing is a process that requires practice. While much of the firing process is similar to that of a coal-burning steam engine, oil responds quicker and burns much hotter than coal, and can potentially cause more firebox damage if not handled properly. Oil firing also requires more communication and anticipation between the engineer and fireman. Aside from the operating crews, the shop staff must also extensively train on how to safely start up and manage an oil-fired locomotive. D&SNGRR employees will also utilize SP18 to finalize the implementation and placement of a fueling station and fueling process within the railyard. Finally, the SP18 lease will enable the company to refine optimal fuel blends, estimate fuel usage for the No. 493, and develop accurate per-trip costs for oil operation.

About Southern Pacific Locomotive No. 18
Built in December of 1911 by world-renowned Baldwin Locomotive Works as a 46-ton, oil-burning steam engine, SP18 was commissioned by the Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad (NCO) to run between Reno, Nevada and Lakeview, Oregon as Locomotive No. 12. In 1928, Southern Pacific transferred the engine to its Keeler branch, with service between Keeler, California and Mina, Nevada, and changed its number to 18. The locomotive then serviced the Keeler branch until 1954, when No. 18 and sister engines Nos. 8 and 9 were replaced on the line by a custom-built narrow-gauge diesel engine. On October 16, 1954, the company permanently retired No. 18 in a public ceremony, and moved it to Dehy Park in Independence, California, the seat of Inyo County, where it remained until 2017. Baldwin Locomotive Works also fabricated the many K-36 engines, and parts of the K-37 class, including No. 493, used by the D&SNGRR to this day.

The Carson and Colorado Railway, a nonprofit named after the railroad which constructed the Keeler branch in 1881, formed in 1998 with the intent to preserve SP18. After several years of inactivity, the organization began SP18's restoration in 2010, and spent over 10,000 man hours of volunteer labor over the next six years doing the work in Dehy Park. In June 2017, the Carson and Colorado Railway moved the locomotive to a site three blocks away at the Eastern California Museum, where it was placed inside a custom-built engine house with a small amount of demonstration track on which to operate the engine. The entire locomotive restoration cost approximately $170,000, with another $150,000 spent on the construction of a permanent facility at the Eastern California Museum. The restoration, handled by a force of dedicated local residents and historic scenic railroad employees, including five D&SNGRR crew members, involved a complete overhaul of the engine – from boiler and tender reconstruction, to the axels and wheels, and everything in between. SP18's restoration was performed in accordance with exacting Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) standards, the compliance with which allows for the engine's operation on the D&SNGRR line.

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Keith R. Pillow, APR. MBA
***@caddymarketingonline.com
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