A tale of two gondolas Part II – Pick a car, any car. Just not that car…

By early July, planning for moving the cars from Florence was underway and everything was going along well. Then I got a call from the group that I was purchasing 1083 from. They told me that apparently the owner of one of the sites in Florence where the cars were stored was claiming 1083 for the Florence Museum and would not let it be moved. (Subsequent conversations with the Florence Museum and the gentleman who owns the property have shown that the group that had “sold” me 1083 had actually given the car to the property owner in 2017 in return for being able to store the rest of the cars on his property).

In an effort to keep the deal alive, the group I was purchasing the car from offered me another highside gondola and a drop bottom gondola in place of 1083. At first, I was fairly nonplussed, but I was too stupid to walk away from a two-for-the price-of-one deal, even if the original purpose of the whole project (saving for posterity an untouched car that was in excellent condition and not in need of an immediate major cash transfusion) was out the window. I looked through my photos and notes on the cars from when I saw them at Parkdale in late 2017 and tried to pick the drop bottom gondola that was in the best condition and settled on D&RGW 768. After some back and forth, I was assured that that car was now mine, along with one of the three remaining highside gondolas (numbers 1258, 1646 and 9261).

Some quick research showed that No. 1258 had actually been in Como in February of 1924, filled with a load of coal from the mines at Baldwin, Colorado (near Gunnison) that was headed for Fairplay, Colorado. That fact made No. 1258 seem like a perfect fit for Como, and the car was in decent shape, so I asked if it was available and was assured that it was and was now mine.

Now the seemingly simple and relatively low cost of buying one car that did not need any work and moving it to Como had grown into a more daunting and expensive one of moving two cars that I was not really sure how much work they needed. Thankfully the trucker that would be moving the cars took pity on me and agreed to move them at a very reasonable rate.

At this point my plan was to repaint No. 1258 into its circa 1920 paint scheme and display it in Como as it would have looked when it passed through in 1924, while drop bottom No. 768 would be used as a mobile storage platform for water tanks used to supply steam locomotive No. 4 during operating days. The cars were scheduled to be moved on July 25 and 26. Once again, things were looking good and moving forward.

Then, the weekend before the move (while I was in Como for a track workday and test run of the locomotive in preparation for Boreas Pass Railroad Day on August 17) came another phone call. The group from whom I was buying the cars had provided a list of which cars were going where to both the trucker and the property owners of the sites upon which the cars were stored. The gentleman upon whose property No. 1258 was purportedly located was understandably a bit confused as he said he had brought the car to the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad several months prior after the group that I was supposedly buying it from had given it to the C&TS. Well, at least it has a hopefully happy home back on its home turf. On the plus side, the property owner was able to confirm that the other two highside gondolas, 1646 and 9261, did indeed exist and were still in Florence and thus potentially still available.

The “Plan B” highside gondola, D&RGW 1258 at Parkdale, Colorado, November 2017.
Drop bottom gondola D&RGW 768 amongst the tumbling tumble weeds, Parkdale, Colorado, November 2017.

Moving on to “Plan C”, instead of just walking away from the impending fiasco, I once again consulted my photos and notes from Parkdale. Gondola 9261 had been severely overloaded with track material and other parts when it was moved to Parkdale in 2004, and it was actually sagging in the middle enough that its side sills looked as though the car was smiling at you. Even after being unloaded it remained bent enough that the couplers sat the better part of six inches higher than they should. I had never really looked closely at 1646, other than to take a few photos which seemed to show a pretty straight car without any real severe issues. So, I chose 1646. Turns out there may be something to that “devil you know” cliché.

The “Plan C” highside gondola, D&RGW 1646 at Parkdale, November 2017. The car looks to be straight and solid.


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