The year 2011 marks three important anniversaries for the Golden Spike Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society. The group, based out of the Utah State Railroad Museum in Ogden, Utah, is restoring D&RGW 223, one of three remaining narrow gauge C-16 class locomotives and the only surviving one built by the Grant Locomotive Works in 1881.
That’s the first anniversary: this year marks the 130th birthday of the 223. The locomotive was built for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in 1881 as a class 60N locomotive. In 1924 the D&RG was reorganized, with the word “Western” tacked on the end of “Denver & Rio Grande”. The 223 was reclassified as a C-16, and she served for another seventeen years on the Baldwin Branch in Colorado.
Thus, we come to the second anniversary: The year of its retirement. The 223 was removed from service 70 years ago in 1941, and at the request of Salt Lake City was dressed up with a fake diamond stack, box headlight, and an 1880’s style paint scheme, then sent to Utah for the 1942 Pioneer Days celebration.
Immediately after the celebration, the 223 was placed on display in downtown Salt Lake’s Liberty Park, where it sat until 1980 when it was moved to the Utah State Historical Society at the former Rio Grande/Western Pacific union station. Later, in 1991, the 223 was moved to Ogden, which marks our third anniversary: the 20th year since we began restoration on the unique locomotive.
Progress was slow during our first few years. However, we have accomplished much, a fact that can be discerned from a visit to our shop at the Utah State Railroad Museum. Under the continued guidance of Maynard Morris (nuclear engineer, draftsman, inventor extraordinaire and overall genius) and the contributions of countless businesses, individuals, and volunteers, the cab has been rebuilt, the bell refurbished, a new headlight obtained, the dynamo and air compressors restored, and a brand-new tender tank is under construction on the reconstructed tender frame.
Other small projects, like the wishbone steam pipes in the smokebox, are being finished as I write. The major project, the one taking up most of our time and money, is the tender tank. Being reconstructed exactly as the original, rivet by rivet (no wimpy welding here!), it has been said by Jerry Day, noted railroad historian, that this will be the most accurate reconstructed tender on any locomotive.
Riveting is done during our Saturday morning work sessions by a dedicated crew of five: one to open the furnace, one to fling the steel, one to tap the rivets home, one with the air hammer and one with the bucking bar (a rod of steel and lead used to keep the rivets in place). The work is hard, hot, and loud, yet ask anybody who has tried it and they’ll say it’s fun. That’s what keeps our eighteen regular volunteers coming week after week- the fun and satisfaction of hard work. Okay, a love of trains has something to do with it too.
Our goal is to have the tender done by the end of the 223’s 130th anniversary. We’re almost there, too. All we have left is to rivet around the top edge, then secure the top plates, grab irons, marker brackets and water portal. Then it’s out with the tender and in with the boiler, bringing us one step closer to another 130 years the 223 under steam.