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Car Loads on the D&RG Western

Started by mudhen, August 09, 2009, 08:42:54 AM

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On the D&RG Western:
They used open ended pipe gondolas with idler cars on each end for the over length pipe which swung over the idler cars. Does anyone know the size and length of these pipes they used.
I am under the impression the pipe was for oil well drilling. Also any pictures of how they looked and how they loaded these gondolas of pipe, would be most helpful and since we are on car loads. How about flat car loads, any pictures of typical flat car loads would also be appreciated.
Followed by my long caboose, I have been waiting for. Anticipation will have soon paided off, I hope !!!!.. Sorry about that....., I couldn't resist.
Thanks in advance. ;D

Charlie Mutschler

Not sure what all the diameters of pipe were, but most was in 40 foot lengths.  The 40 foot lengths of pipe fit neatly on standard gauge cars from the manufacturer's plant to Alamosa.  No overhang.  The narrow gauge cars, however, were mostly shorter than the pipe.  The 6500 series flats, rebuilt from standard gauge gondolas, were 41 feet long over end sills,but there were not enough of them to handle the business.  Nos. 6500 - 6544 were rebuilt in four groups, between 1940 and 1944. 

The most convenient source of cars for the pipe trade was taking the ends out of the 32 foot long gondolas, and placing blocks over the bolsters to carry the weight of the pipe  This left about four feet of pipe extending at each end.  The idler cars were converted from a variety of sources - some were gondolas, with the sides removed; some were box cars with the superstructure removed above the decking, some were 30 foot stock cars with the superstructure removed above the decking.  There were problems with idler cars buckling if the brakes were applied too aggressively or the slack ran in too fast.  The idler cars made from gondolas were the most prone to breaking under strain.  Lengths of rail were bolted to the side sills to stiffen these cars, as well as to stiffen idler cars made from 30 foot box and stock cars. 

The D&RGW rebuilt some 40 foot standard gauge box cars into 40 foot pipe gons, the 9600 - 9619 group.  The management decided it was simpler to convert standard gauge box and stock cars to 37 foot narrow gauge flats, resulting in the 6600 - 6619 (converted from standard gauge box cars) and 6620 - 6694 (converted from standard gauge stock cars). 

Other manufacturers may be offering the pipe gondolas and idler cars.  Or you could scratch build your own - plenty of scale drawings exist, plenty of photos.  The pipe trains were the last major traffic boom on the D&RGW narrow gauge

Charlie Mutschler


Sean like you know your stuff :0)



There is a video on Youtube of a Cumbres and Toltec triple header with a pipe gon in the consist.  (Look up 'D&RGW Triple' to find it.)  It appears to me that the largest pipe in that load is about an 8" or 10" pipe (judging by the side boards of the gon).

Also based on the fact that the oil producers in that area during that time frame were not large producers, that would most likely have been the larger sizes delivered.  I would believe that 3", 4", 5" (not used any more) and 6" would have most likely been the most prevalent.

If there is anyone with better information (intuition) than I, I am will to learn.

Bob C.


if you want to get serious
in addition to drill pipe going up
you'll need boxcars full of drilling mud
plus supplies for the workers
plus drill equip like packers, etc
plus turnaround coming down
like "GRAMPS" tank cars


The Gramps cars were not involved with the drilling pipe traffic of the fifties and sixties. 

Besides the pipe cars Charlie mentioned, a major group of cars were the high-side gons with the ends removed and the brake staffs moved to the corner. These were about 30-32 ft long, so needed idlers to space them apart.  The first idlers were more cut-down gons, then they built the 67xxx class from lboxcars (6700-6725) snd stock cars (6726-6750).    the boxcar-based idlers can me distinguished by the pieces of siding left under various pieces of hardware.  There are some good photos of the pipe trains in Steinheimer's  "Backwoods RAailroads of the West"

Most of the pipe was the smaller-diameter pipe used to get the oil out of the ground.  There was some larger diameter pipe that was used as conductor casing for the upper part of the well.  Pipe joints were welded.  Also there was "drill-stem" that was heavier-walled pipe with tapered threaded joints that was used in the actual drilling.  This had a fairly heavy wall as it was turning to drive the drill bit.  This was hollow to pump the drilling mud down the center and flush the cuttings up and out of the hole.    gj


yes and no
the gramps field was brought in in maybe '37 or so
crude was piped to chama
loaded on gramps cars
sent east to alamosa
only about 20 wells
fields around farmington came in year or two later
crude went to durango, then north
don't know where pipe came from
i have or have seen pix of trains full of pipe
in both chama and alamosa
was destined for farmington
if you're going to model from chama to alamosa
would have gramps cars back and forth
pipe cars back and forth
as i said elsewhere i am not model railroader
i have a bunch of toy trains
anything else would insult you guys
i get flat car kits and do "good enough" stuff with them
among other things,
i have a pipe "three-fur" load with a big christmas tree
gets attention

Old John

On pages 344, 345, 362 & 369 in Narrow Gauge Country by Mallory Hope Ferrell, contains enough pictures of consists with drilling equipment to answer some of your questions.  You may want to contact Mr. Ferrell as e is a wealth of information and does model the Colorado narrow gauges in On3.  His E-mail address can be gotten from the Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette, in which he has a column.