On The Page: Exploring The Historic San Juan Triangle

I finally go smart this summer and made a box specifically of “books I haven’t read” since I’m on a strict “you can’t buy any more books until you finish the ones you already have” budget. One of those books was Exploring The Historic San Juan Triangle by P. David Smith. I bought this book back in 2013 when I first moved to Ridgway and it just never seemed to be accessible when I needed a book. I definitely missed out due to my procrastination!

Exploring the Historic San Juan Triangle

Smith’s history of the San Juan Triangle, the area roughly bounded by Ouray, Telluride, and Silverton, is an excellent crash course in the history of settlement and mining in the region. The first chapters of the book describe the histories of the main towns in the region: Silverton, Lake City, Ouray, and Telluride. (My beloved Ridgway sits just outside the triangle and has some definite ranching vs mining roots.) Just a few pages into the history, as Smith described how miners started to drift into the San Juans while they were still officially Ute lands, I realized I know nothing really about this area. Since the book is written partially as history and partially as a travel guide there was some emphasis on the locations (past and present) of key buildings but I really enjoyed that since I could picture each of the towns.

After the histories of individual towns, there is a series of chapters that give a fairly exhaustive explanation of mines and ghost towns that existed along Jeep routes in the area. I can picture many of the places he mentions but I’m just itching to get back out and check out the rest of them! In addition to covering the “classic” routes (Imogene, Black Bear, Cinnamon, Engineer, etc.) Smith talks about spur roads and lesser known routes as well.

Beaumont Hotel Ouray,CO

As I mentioned, the book is written as a guide to travel so sometimes the narration is a bit clunky. Dividing the history up into specific locations is helpful when you’re driving or visiting one of the towns but sometimes that also makes for a bit of repetitiveness to the history. That being said, however, if you like history and context for your exploring and you plan on visiting the San Juans (or if you need some inspiration to come check out my gorgeous mountains), Exploring The San Juan Triangle is an excellent place to start diving in!

Ouray FSJ Invasion: Maggie Gulch

Every year, a group of full size Jeep enthusiasts descends upon Ouray for a couple of days in July. I had absolutely no excuse to not attend since it is so close to home and I was excited to see more Wagoneers, Cherokees, and J-trucks!

I was able to join everyone for a barbeque dinner on Wednesday evening and a mellow ride up gorgeous Maggie Gulch near Silverton before it was time for me to head out for Ice Lakes Basin and the start of my county high point adventure. While my jeep isn’t pictured, this photo I stole from our Facebook group shows just how many FSJs were present! It was pretty cool:

FSJ lineup

Although I’ve done quite a fair amount of exploring in the Ridgway-Ouray area I haven’t driven any of the roads heading south out of Silverton. I am so glad to have gotten to head up Maggie Gulch; I’ll be back since there are a handful of 13ers that are pretty easy to access from the top of the road!

Jeeping

Maggie Gulch (also known as CR 23) is located about six miles east of Silverton. The road isn’t long and isn’t difficult at all but the views were absolutely incredible.

Maggie Gulch

FSJ at top of Maggie Gulch

Sprocket immediately went into his classic alpine dog mode, sniffing his way through the tundra. As we were hanging out, a family showed up with a 12 week old puppy named Clifford. Sprocket and Clifford weren’t too sure about each other but I’m pretty sure that if they’d have had more time together, Sprocket would have been teaching him all about hiking:

Sprocket and Puppy

Like many roads in the San Juans, this ends at an old mine. It’s always kind of neat to poke around and check out the old workings:

Mine at the top of Maggie Gulch

I really thought that they were kidding when I was asked if I wanted cheese crisps and ribs. No one was kidding.

Trail food

Sprocket above Maggie Gulch

FSJ, Maggie Gulch

Maggie Gulch

Maggie Gulch

Looking forward to next year!

Galloping Goose(es)

Home of the Galloping Goose

Here’s a unique bit of railroad history from Colorado’s San Juan Mountain region. Forrest, Sprocket, and I have seen the replica of Motor #1 and the originals of Motor #4 and #5. I hope to see the others sometime in the future. I’ve included C.W. McCall‘s “The Galloping Goose” for your listening pleasure:

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Founded in Ridgway, Colorado in 1889, the Rio Grande Southern Railroad was a narrow gauge railroad founded to connect the towns of Ouray and Silverton. (Both of these towns were reached by branch lines of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad but were not directly connected). Soon after the railroad was completed, the Silver Panic of 1893 took away most of the railroad’s traffic.

Rio Grande Southern caboose

In an attempt to stave off bankrupcy, the Rio Grande Southern looked beyond the mines for a way to stay viable. In 1931, the railroad built RGS Motor #1 to be a cost efficient way to transport the U.S. Mail. The motor was built from the body of a Buick “Master Six” sedan. RGS Motor #1 could carry the mail, some passengers, or up to 4,000 pounds of freight. Motor #1 was so successful it paid for itself within a month. Unfortunately, the original Motor #1 was scrapped as parts for the other motors in 1933. A very exact replica of Motor #1 was built in 2000 by Karl Schaeffer and is on display at the Ridgway Railroad Museum. The replica is fully operational. (For more on the replica check out the Ridgway Railroad Museum’s Motor #1 page.)

The name “Galloping Goose” was not adopted by the railroad until 1950 but the name is believed to come from the “waddling” rocking motion the trains had going down the track. Another suggestion is that the air horns (compared to steam whistles) were compared to goose honking. Regardless, the informal name stuck while the railroad officially called them motors.

Motor #1 Replica

A larger Motor #2 was built later in 1931 using the same Buick body as Motor #1. In 1935, it was repainted silver to match the other Motors. In 1939, Motor #2 was revamped with a Pace-Arrow body and received many parts from a motor retired in 1939 from the San Cristobal Railroad (that motor was built in 1933 by RGS for the San Cristobal and is not considered one of the seven “geese”). Motor #2 was placed mostly on standby after its rebuild as newer motors were in use. Motor #2 undergoing restoration at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Colorado and is considered operational.

Galloping Goose #4

Motors #3, #4, and #5 were all built with Pace-Arrow parts. They had three trucks (the middle truck was powered) and articulated bodies. Motors #3 and #4 were built in 1932 and Motor #5 followed in 1933. Motor #3 operates occasionally at Knott’s Berry Farm’s Ghost Town & Calico Railway. Motor #4 belongs to the Telluride Volunteer Fire Department but is currently on display at the Ridgway Railroad Museum where it has been returned to operational status; its restoration is on going. Motor #5 is on display in Dolores, Colorado. Either in 1945 or 1946 (conflicting reports) Motors #3, #4, and #5 were refitted with Wayne bus bodies and WWII surplus GMC engines.

Galloping Goose #5

Motor #6 was built in 1934 mostly with parts from scrapped Motor #1. As a “work train” Motor #6 never saw passenger service. It is currently at the Colorado Railroad Museum and is considered operational.

Motor #7 was built in 1936 and is nearly identical to Motors #3, #4, and #5. Unlike the other motors, it retained its Pace-Arrow body when the others were updated to Wayne bus bodies. Along with Motor #6 it was used for scrapping the Rio Grande Southern operations. Motor #7 is located at the Colorado Railroad Museum and is operational.

Galloping Goose Logo

In 1950, the Rio Grand Southern lost its mail contract (trucks took over the task of driving the mail) and Motors #3, #4, #5, and #7 were converted entirely to passenger operations to attract tourists. Large windows were cut in the freight compartments and seating was added. It was at this time that the railroad formally accepted the “Galloping Goose” moniker for its motors and added the goose logos. Passenger operations ceased at the closure of the railroad in 1951.

 

 

Sources:

Wikipedia: Galloping Goose (railcar)

Wikipedia: Rio Grande Southern Railroad

The Galloping Goose Historical Society

Ridgway Railroad Museum

American Steam & Narrow Gauge: Rio Grande Southern Galloping Goose

 

Ridgway, Ouray, and Silverton

After a chilly night in the parking lot of Thunder Mountain Raceway, we headed south through Montrose towards adorable Ridgway. We ate breakfast, walked around town, checked out the Railroad Museum’s outdoor displays, and generally became enamored with the place.

Ridgway, Colorado fire truck and fire station

After awhile, we headed for Ouray. It has more dramatic mountain views than Ridgway but comes with the bustling feel of a tourist town to match. I obliged and snapped pictures all over town. (Adorable Victorian buildings! Mountains!)

Ouray Colorado

Ouray County courthouse

Eventually we headed out of town making a quick stop to peer into the winter site of the Ouray Ice Park and to walk to Box Cañon Falls. (Sprocket was not a fan of all this metal grating!)

Sprocket at Ouray Ice Park

Box Canon Falls

Box Canon Falls

Box Canon Falls

Box Canon Falls

Finally we were on our way. The million dollar highway (US 550) is really one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever been on. I can’t wait to see it again in the summer time.

Million Dollar Highway Views

Million Dollar Highway

Million Dollar Highway Views

Mt. Abram

We headed up and over Red Mountain Pass (11,017’…Sprocket’s lifetime high point) to Silverton. Once a bustling silver mining town, it

Sprocket in military vehicle

Silverton City Hall

On our way back over the pass, we stopped to play in the snow. Sprocket was quite delighted.

Sprocket on Red Mountain Pass

Red Mountain Pass

Red Mountain Pass

Mining building