Galloping Goose

I'm a goose hunter, both the Canadian variety and the RGS version.  My first exposure to the RGS version was #5 in Dolores.  I looked at it and said, "What the He$$??"  A little historical research, and seeing a few run, and I was hooked.   I now have a N-scale of #5.

Rio Grande Southern, in 1913, built an inspection speeder created from a Model-T.  It was modeled after the speeders the Denver & Rio Grande was building.  It was wrecked in 1925 and was not rebuilt.

During the 1930s, the Rio Grande Southern was on the verge of bankruptcy. The Galloping Goose, called Motors by the railroad, were built by RGS Master Mechanic Jack Odenbaugh from scrap car, truck and bus parts at the railroad's Ridgeway Colorado shops.  They were meant to replace conventional steam passenger trains that had become too expensive to operate.  Also, requiring only one operator, versus the six operators steam trains required, there were significant labor savings too.  Steam continued to be the motive force for the limited heavy freight the RGS was still hauling, but the Motors were soon racking up many more miles than the steam.

The Rio Grande Southern built 7 Motors for their own use and ran them from the early 30's through 1951 when the railroad ceased all operation.  They additionally built a Motor for San Cristobal RR in 1932.  It was virtually the same as #2, using a Pierce Arrow 80 body.  Contract price was $2337.  A rebuild in 1934, by the RGS, made her similar to #5.  She returned to the RGS in 1939 when San Cristobal went belly up. It was parted out and used to keep the RGS fleet in operation.  There are no known remains. 

Numerous railroads contacted the RGS for plans and details, but the few written details were just sketches and rough measurements on scrap paper made while Jack Odenbaugh was kludging a new Motor together. Here are photographs of the original builder's certificates.

In 1950 the railroad lost the mail contract, so the freight compartments of #3, 4, 5 and 7 were converted to passenger service.  At this time they were officially renamed Galloping Goose and the railroad embarked on a program of excursion service.  The goose and landmarks were added to the livery at this time.

Legend says the name Galloping Goose came from the "waddling" of them on the uneven tracks, another says it came from the goose-like horn honk of the Motors.  Having rode them, seen the waddling, and having heard the strange honk of the horn, I believe either legend is possible. 

Other rail roads have built a few similar vehicles, but none are as famous, or numerous, as the Rio Grande Southern's Galloping Goose.

Motors #6 and #7 were used to pull track at the lines demise in 1951.

Motor #1
Goose 1
Built:  June 1931
Body:   Buick
Engine:  Buick Six (28 hp)
Rebuilt Body: 
Rebuilt Engine: 
Length:  ~20'
Length Pilot to Express Body:  ~14' (after adding additional seating)
Length Express Body:  6' 9" (after adding additional seating)
Brakes:  Mechanical internal expanding
Total weight:  5,300
Cost to Build: $852.58

Built from a sedan, with an open platform to carry mail.  Originally, there was seating inside for two and excess passengers, along with the mail was carried on the open platform.  After complaints from the Post Office, the interior seating was increased by lengthening the body and shortening the platform so four, or six very friendly, passengers could ride inside and not tamper with the mail.  This Motor soon replaced passenger train service between Durango and Dolores. 

Scrapped in 1933.  Many of the parts found their way into Motor #6. 

A replica was built in 2000 and is located at the Ridgeway Railroad Museum.  The replica is built from the same type of car as the original and is operational.  It was located through a classic Buick club and was located rusting away in a field.  There was some consternation among the club members when they found out what the plans for the classic car were.  There is a short demonstration track at the museum, next to the fairgrounds, and it runs during special events.  It can also be found running various narrow gauge tracks around Colorado.

Motor #2 Goose 2
Builder's certificate issued:  August 12, 1931
Body:   Buick Four Door
Engine:  Buick Six (28 hp)
1934 Rebuilt Body:  Pierce Arrow 80
1934 Rebuilt Engine:  Buick Six
Length:  29' 11"
Length Pilot to Express Body:  14' 5"
Length Express Body:  16'
Brakes:  Mechanical internal expanding
Total weight:  10,300
Cost to Build: $1,751.38

She was also built from a sedan, but with two rear trucks and is twice as heavy as #1.  She can carry four passengers and has an enclosed freight compartment.  It was originally painted black, like #1.  All Motors were repainted silver in 1935 and kept this color through the remainder of service. 

#2 is operational and on display at the Colorado Railroad Museum.  She can be found occasionally running on the museum's circular track, and has also been ran at Durango & Silverton's Railfest.

Motor #3

No Pic

Builder's certificate issued: December 2, 1931
Body:  1926 Pierce-Arrow "33"
Engine: Pierce-Arrow "33"  (39.4 hp)
Mid '40s Rebuilt Body:  Wayne Bus
Mid '40s Rebuilt Engine:  GMC Truck
Length:  43' 3"
Length Pilot to Express Body:  19" 3"  (increased 12" for bus body)
Length Express Body:  24'
Brakes: Mechanical internal expanding  (1938 - rebuilt to straight-line air)
Total weight: 14,800
Cost to Build:  $2,586.18

She is 50% heavier that #2 and is longer too.  It runs on three trucks, articulated frame, with a passenger capacity of ten.  The freight compartment is almost the size of a boxcar. 

She is currently at Knotts Berry Farm and is operational.  She was almost totally rebuilt in the '90s, and now sports Cummins diesel power.

Motor #4
Goose 4
May 2010 - under restoration

Builder's certificate issued:  May 4, 1932
Body:  1926 Pierce-Arrow "33"
Engine: Pierce-Arrow "33"  (39.4 hp)
Mid '40s Rebuilt Body:  Wayne Bus
Mid '40s Rebuilt Engine:  GMC Truck
Length:  43' 3"
Length Pilot to Express Body:  19" 3"  (increased 12" for bus body)
Length Express Body:  24'
Brakes: Mechanical internal expanding  (1938 - rebuilt to straight-line air)
Total weight: 14, 950
Cost to Build:  $2,584.56

She is almost the same as #3.

Was on static display in Telluride Colorado for many years, slowly rotting away.  In May 2008, it was moved to Ridgeway and is undergoing non-running restoration.  Afterwards, it will return to Telluride.  Restoration Progress

August 2011- she runs!!!  And will be seen shortly on narrow gauge tracks around Colorado!!

Motor #5
Goose 5

Builder's certificate issued: June 8, 1933
Body:  1928 Pierce-Arrow "36"
Engine: Pierce-Arrow "36"  (39.4 hp)
Mid '40s Rebuilt Body:  Wayne Bus
Mid '40s Rebuilt Engine:  GMC Truck
Length:  43' 3"
Length Pilot to Express Body:  19" 3"  (increased 12" for bus body)
Length Express Body:  24'
Brakes: Mechanical internal expanding  (1939 - rebuilt to straight-line air)
Total weight: 14,770
Cost to build: ??

She is almost identical to #3 and #4.  Once #5 was in service the railroad discontinued all steam passenger service, instead relying 100% on the Motors, though they frequently required rescuing by the steam equipment.

She is currently owned by the city of Dolores Colorado and is displayed at the Rio Grande Southern depot in Dolores.  She is operational and can be found running excursions on both the Cumbres & Toltec and the Durango & Silverton.

Galloping Goose Historical Society - all about #5 and a little RGS history.  They are also fund raising to restore track from Dolores to Mancos.

Motor #6
Goose 6

Builder's certificate issued: January 15, 1934
Body: Buick  Master Six
Engine: Buick Master Six (28 hp)
Rebuilt Body:  Pierce-Arrow "33"
Rebuilt Engine:  Pierce-Arrow "33" (39.4 hp)
Length:  25' 8"
Length Pilot to Express Body:  13' 8"
Length Express Body:  12'
Brakes:  Mechanical internal expanding
Total weight: 8,700
Cost to Build: ??
Built as a work goose.  Most of the other parts came from Motor #1 which had just been scrapped.  It runs on two trucks with an open platform and passenger capacity of two.  It replaced the steam powered work trains on the railroad.  

Today she stays at the Colorado Railroad Museum and is operational.  At one time, the museum would run her with park benches in the back for passengers to ride.  She had been down for the last 6 to 7 years and after a thorough cleaning, tune-up, upholstery job and building a new left door from scratch, she was once again running in November 2008.  Note that at some time the side cowls on the engine cover have been replaced, they were lost when the RGS tracks were being pulled.

Motor #7
Goose 7

Builder's certificate issued: October 27, 1936
Body:  1926 Pierce-Arrow "33"
Engine: 1936 Ford V-8
Rebuilt Body:  the only Motor to still have her original body
Rebuilt Engine:  original too!
Length:  46'
Length Pilot to Express Body:  20'
Length Express Body:  26'
Brakes: Westinghouse internal expanding (only Motor to originally have air brakes, though they were straight line and not compatible with other railroad equipment)
Total weight: 16,500
Cost to Build:  ??

She is very similar to #3, 4 and 5.   

She is now located at the Colorado Railroad Museum and is operational (major restoration 2007/8).  Scraps of original upholstery where found and identical material was used.  All of the trucks were rebuilt.  Many other components were totally overhauled.  First passenger run after 10 years occurred on November 29, 2008.  She can again be found occasionally running on the museum's circular track.

November 29, 2008 found three Motors running around the track at the Colorado Railroad Museum at the same time!  Motor #2 has been operational, but was recently tuned up.  Also, this was the first time in ten years that Motor #7, and the first time in 6 or 7 years that Motor #6, ran. 

Winter of 2009 finds Motor #7 running every Saturday around the grounds.  Rides are $4, in addition to museum admission.

May 9/10 2009 - A flock of geese were at the Colorado Railroad Museum. In addition to the three (2,6,7) they have, #5 came over from Dolores and the reproduction #1 came from Ridgeway.   They tried to borrow #3 from Knotts Berry, but could not get the funding together.  #4 was in too many pieces to bring as a static display.  The goal is still to get all of the geese together at some point.

August 2011 - Motor #5 was running on the  Durango & Silverton for Railfest 2011.   We rode it to Cascade and back, with numerous stops for photo runbys.  Eureka & Palisade #4 was chasing us and I got a few of it too!.  Bill and Kathy told us that they will have #5 at the Colorado Railroad Museum for Mother's Day 2012, and so far it looks like Motors #1, #3, and #4 will be able to make it too, and with #2, #6, and #7 being permanent residents at the museum, it will be neat to have them ALL together at one time.


FlockingFlocking Motor 1Motor 1 Motor 2Motor 2 Motor 4Motor 4 Motor 5Motor 5 Motor 6Motor 6 Motor 7Motor 7

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