D&RGW 6000 Series Flatcar History

In March of 1887, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad took delivery of 98 30-foot flatcars numbered from 6000 to 6097 (some records indicate 100 cars up to #6099). Designed with the era-typical wooden frame construction at a cost of $398.96 each, these cars weighed in at 13,500 pounds and could accommodate a 20-ton load. The many D&RG flatcars of the previous 16 years had not exceeded a 15-ton capacity.

Of all cars in the rolling stock fleet of the Colorado narrow gauge, flatcars were arguably the most versatile, and most abused! Their many uses stemmed from the relative lack of restrictions for the kinds of loads they could handle. Ranging from lumber to farm and industrial equipment, many diverse lading combinations were possible. If a customer’s goods were not fit for boxcar loading, a flatcar would probably do the job!

In addition to traditional revenue service use, flatcars were often put to alternate uses by rebuilding them into gondolas, various tank cars, idlers, and an array of company work equipment. In his book “A Century + Ten Of D&RGW Narrow Gauge Freight Cars, 1871 to 1981”, Robert E. Sloan mentions the “casual disregard” by the railroad in keeping track of whether a car belonged in the flatcar or gondola category! This was no doubt largely because of the ease of converting one class of car to the other in minimal time. Simply removing or adding stakes and side boards on either style of car would render a viable piece of rolling stock and accommodate the evolving needs of the railroad’s customers.

While this frequent adaptation of gondolas and flatcars generally took place prior to the 1890s, the 6000 series flat cars came along during a time when the railroad was initiating a small replenishment of an aging flatcar and gondola fleet. The 6000 series flatcars saw their own varied service uses throughout their checkered careers. In 1906, the D&RG converted approximately 12 cars to work service or for use as tank cars. As of 1923 the number of 6000 series flats converted to work service had reached approximately 30 cars. By March of 1926, the fairly high casualty rate had adjusted the active revenue roster to approx. 42 cars. At this time fourteen of these flat cars were used as parts to build “new” 40-foot flatcars in the 6300 series, while 27 of the remaining 6000 series cars were rebuilt in this same time period by replacing the side bearings and reinforcing the body bolsters. 14 of these cars were retired throughout the 1930’s and on February 28, 1942, the remaining 14 cars in revenue service were retired and sold to the U.S. Navy showing a book value of $604.06.

From the D&RGW files:

AFE #9286 February 28, 1942 Retired-Sold 6001, 6004, 6009, 6013, 6023, 6032, 6033, 6040, 6041, 6056, 6057, 6058, 6069, 6077.

Today four examples of the 6000 series work flats survive in Chama, New Mexico on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.

6000-Series Flatcars on the Rio Grande Southern

In May of 1892, at least 10 of the 6000 series 20-ton flat cars were sold to the fledgling Rio Grande Southern Railroad to be used as construction cars. Roadbed improvements to the newly completed 160 mile line would continue, and work cars would be put to extreme use in the process. Two examples of these cars are RGS #0500 and #615. The 0500 and 615 were built as D&RG 6060 and 6003 (respectively) in 1887. On May 7, 1892, both cars were purchased by the RGS for $269.69 each and were re-numbered as construction cars C-18 and C-12.

In June of 1897, flatcar C-18 was re-numbered RGS 500*. The 500 was slated for scrapping in 1903, yet survived to be placed in work service and was re-numbered to 0500 in 1904. According to roster information from “The RGS Story Volume XII”, the car was then used as a tool car assigned to Roadway Service Extra Gang No.1, and was listed as an outfit flat car by 1942. The last known photo of the 0500 was taken in Ridgway on September 30, 1945. It was scrapped sometime between this date and the final days of RGS operations in 1951. RGS flatcar C-12 was re-assigned to road number 615 in October of 1892 and lasted into the 20th century serving this most tenuous of “wooden axle” railroads ever to grace the landscape of the Rocky Mountains.

* C-18 became the second flatcar #500 for the RGS. The first car was destroyed prior to 1897.

Blackstone Models 6000 Series Flat Cars in HOn3

Blackstone Models has endeavored to bring you a fine and detailed HOn3 version of this most versatile of narrow gauge cars. The decorated versions represent the appearance of the car in D&RGW revenue service throughout much of the early 20th century and into the 1940s. With its slightly weathered deck, various paint shades and multiple road numbers, you will find this diminutive version as versatile as the real thing! If you have our Painted/Unlettered version, your imagination is the limit for your adaptation of this car to your personal HOn3 empire. We have used a combination of plastic and die cast parts to create a thoughtfully weighted and balanced car that will cut into consists and operate with ease. They are truly ready to roll!

History Sources:
“A Century + Ten Of D&RGW Narrow Gauge Freight Cars 1871 To 1981” by Robert Sloan
“RGS Story Volume XII - Locomotives and Rolling Stock” by Sundance Publications
D&RGW Authority For Expenditure records courtesy of John Templeton, Boulder, Colorado