Stepping out on the High Bridge. On a beautiful, summer morning, Eureka & Palisade #4 "Eureka" steps onto the High Bridge over the Animas River Gorge at Tacoma, Colorado (MP 471.23), hauling a special passenger excursion during the Durango & Silverton's Railfest 2010. Originally built as a wooden trestle in 1880, the bridge you see here was upgraded to an iron truss in 1894. The jungle of extra members and bracing wires you see have been added over the years, as the bridge was upgraded to handle heavier locomotives than the ones that existed when it was constructed.
Folks often ask why we (nearly) always see this exact consist behind Eureka. While there were a few variations over the years, this coach/caboose combo proved to be the most optimal during her many visits to the Durango & Silverton. First and foremost, the two cars pretty much represent the limit with regard to the load she can pull on the steepest grades featured on the Silverton Line....mainly, the stretch between Hermosa and Rockwood. Although she might have pulled twice as many cars back in her day, her owner, Dan Markoff, has told me that the D&S rolling stock has been modified over the years and contains a lot more iron and steel that would have been the case when they were built. Consequently, they are considerably heavier than 1875-vintage cars. The coach is typically reserved for the paying patrons, while the caboose is mostly reserved for the crew and their equipment. The cupola seats are typically sold as premium fares, and that's where I was riding this day. Eureka typically travels with half a dozen or more crew members, or about 2 full crews. Running this engine is a pretty tiring experience for the firemen (usually 2), so the relief crew rides in the caboose, and they switch off a couple of times during the day. On board the caboose, the crew carries one very important appliance. That would be a chainsaw. Yes, Eureka has a voracious appetite for wood and has either run out or run into bad wood (aka "Death Wood") on a few occasions. The chainsaw gives the crew some....uh...."options" for such situations.