DSP&P Fleet Information
An overview of what we know about the South Park’s passenger car fleet.
At the head of each individual car page are five sets of numbers: DSP&P, U.P. 1885, DL&G 1889, C&S 1899 and C&S 1906.
The DSP&P number is the original number of the car when it was added to the South Park roster. With one exception—second #2—the South Park numbered its passenger cars in the order received, beginning passenger-carrying cars at #1 and non-passenger-carrying cars at #40.
The U.P. 1885 number is the number assigned 1 June 1885 by the Union Pacific Railroad, which had taken control of the South Park and a number of other lines. There was much duplication of car numbers between lines, and to put this straight the U.P. renumbered all cars as of this date, publishing a guide book for employees in order to help them maintain proper records. This guide book is the first authoritative information we have on many of these cars, and is the basis for Ehernberger/UP. The U.P. appears to have numbered narrow gauge coaches upward from #50, combination coach-baggage cars upward from #700, excursion cars upward from #800, emigrant and excursion sleepers upward from #900, baggage cars upward from #1000, mail cars upward from #1100, express cars upward from #1200, baggage-mail-express cars upward from #1300, baggage-mail cars upward from #1375 and baggage-express cars upward from #1400. Within types of cars, cars of each of the acquired railroads were numbered together, apparently in blocks by builder.
The DL&G 1889 number is the number assigned at the 1889 reorganization as the Denver, Leadville & Gunnison Railroad. The DL&G apparently retained the U.P. numbers, so where a car has a different number here than in the U.P. 1885 column, it shows it had been rebuilt into another type of car.
The C&S 1899 number is the number assigned when the cars were taken over by the Colorado & Southern in 1899. The C&S numbered its standard gauge passenger cars under #100 and the narrow gauge cars numbers over #100. In the narrow gauge cars #101 and up were baggage cars, #110 and up were baggage-mail cars, #120 and up were coach-baggage cars, #141 and up were coaches, and #181 and up were excursion coaches.
The C&S 1906 number is the number the C&S assigned when it realized the mistake it made in its original numbering scheme. As time went by, the C&S had acquired more and more standard gauge passenger cars, and it soon approached the #99 limit. Instead of “leap-frogging” the block of numbers assigned the narrow gauge cars, it renumbered the narrow gauge cars under #100 and the standard gauge cars over #100. But beware lest you think it just dropped the 100 from the narrow gauge car number! That would be too easy. In the 1906 renumbering cars were numbered by type, and within type by length, from shortest to longest; except that coaches were only numbered this way through #62, 43'-0" long. A new group of 14 coaches—apparently the lines better ones—began at #70 and went to #83.
Until recently there is a significant gap in the authority for these car numbers.
We have good authority for the relationship between the U.P. 1885 and the original DSP&P numbers. As noted above, it is based on the Union Pacific’s own printed guide book.
The relationship between the DL&G 1889 and the U.P. 1885 numbers is based on the reasonable assumption that the Denver, Leadville and Gunnison was too poor to change anything it didn’t have to, and so kept the Union Pacific numbers. There appears to be no documentary evidence to either support or contradict this assumption.
The “gap” was between the C&S 1899 and the DL&G 1889 numbers, for which there seemed to be no documentary evidence. Between a fire destroying the Mechanical Engineer’s office in 1905 and a general housecleaning of “useless” old records in 1921, it seemed nothing had survived (if indeed it ever existed). But recently [January 2006] Hol Wagner shared with us information he had discovered at the Colorado Railroad Museum which bridges the gap. This information will no doubt be disclosed in full in an upcoming book, but in the meantime, it is being incorporated into our car histories as rapidly as we can update them.
There is quite some discussion as to what constituted “chocolate” brown. During the era in question one didn’t just walk into a paint store and buy a bucket of quality-controlled ready-mixed paint. Car builders mixed their own paints from oils and pigments that were locally available. There was bound to be variation in even “standard” colors.
Jim Wilke has supplied several contemporary formulas for “chocolate” brown:
To give you some idea, while recognizing that computer monitors do not show colors consistently, and eyes do not see colors consistently anyway, to the right is a sample of what one modern supplier calls “Indian red.” It is an earth-tone pigment that appears to our eye, at least, to be a combination of red, purple and brown.
Several model builders have suggested combinations of available paint to approximate “chocolate” brown:
Richard Boulware reported having a wooden record box from the C&S dating to the early 1900s which was painted “a dark, rich and warm brown.” He described this box as being the color of Hershey’s regular milk chocolate.
Depending on the quality of the car, there would have been one to three coats of paint. The paint would have been flat when dry, and would have been rubbed smooth before lettering or other decoration was added. Generally two coats of varnish would then be added, one of rubbing varnish and one of coach varnish. The varnish would have deepened the color, as well as providing a smooth, glossy, watertight finish.
Since varnishes of the day were not UV resist, the varnish would tend to darken with age, and additional coats of varnish could darken the color considerably. How quickly the varnish turned yellow or discolored would depend on the quality of the varnish. Cheap varnish might turn after only a year, but even high quality varnish lasted only two or three years.
Paint shops became quite adept at sanding down or removing the varnish coat without damaging the paint. Then fresh varnish was applied. The process was much like waxing the finish on an automobile, but requiring quite a bit more skill. This method of “renewing” the finish without repainting saved time, money and effort.
But the lifespan of the paint wasn’t indefinite even if protected with several coats of varnish, renewed regularly. Probably six years was maximum. So most of the South Park’s cars, built between 1878 and 1880, were in need of repainting sometime before the Union Pacific renumbering of 1885. And just as the U.P. had adopted a standard numbering scheme by then, so had it adopted standard colors and finishes for all its equipment.
The U.P.’s standard color for passenger equipment was an “olive green.” But as with “chocolate brown,” there was great variation. According to Jim Wilke, “Olive greens were made from lemon chrome or ochre (sometimes both) with Prussian blue and black in equal proportions.”
Ken Martin reports having a paint chip taken from C&S business car #911, which was built by the South Park shops in 1878 as pay car #051. In an e-mail to the DSP&P discussion group at Yahoo.com, he said —
Later, Ken adds, “On the paint chip analysis I have from 911 only the first two layers of green have varnish, the rest have none.”
It seems likely pay car #051 was painted brown over a gray primer, with several coats of varnish over that. The varnish was probably replaced a few times, then removed altogether about 1885, when DSP&P pay car #051 was repainted the U.P.’s standard “olive green,” probably with several coats of varnish. This varnish may have been replaced a few times. But by the time it became necessary to repaint a second time—likely in the early 1890s—the road was in dire straits and the varnish was not removed before being painted again. This apparently happened a second time, with varnish not being removed. Subsequent paintings were without varnish perhaps because (a) the road wasn’t so particular about the finish on its cars, or (b) it couldn’t afford to be, or (c) the ability to refinish varnish coats had been lost, or (d) paint technology had progressed to the point the varnish coat wasn’t necessary to obtain a glossy finish.
More than likely, a similar scenario played out with regard to all the South Park’s passenger cars, as they passed from the South Park by bankruptcy to the Denver Leadville & Gunnison, and thence by bankruptcy again to the Colorado & Southern.
The paint-and-varnish treatment apparently was still being used as late as 1927, as we have seen an internal C&S communication indicating that "Combination 40 is realy [sic] in bad shape for outside paint and roof work" and "I do not know whether we should give the outside regular treatment or simply enamel it at this time. Mr. Mason had in mind paint and varnish as the car has to be burned off." Thus all exterior coating had to be heat-stripped ("burned off") and there was a choice between the "regular treatment" of paint-and-varnish or simply applying enamel.
The early cars of the South Park used Eames Vacuum Brakes. These brakes had the usual brake rigging of levers and rods which pressed iron shoes against the car wheels. The motive power for this rigging was provided by one or more cylinders on each car from which air was sucked through a train-line by an ejector on the locomotive. The vacuum thus created allowed atmospheric pressure to apply the brake. There were just two problems with this concept. First, atmospheric decreases with altitude. Thus, the higher above sea level the railroad runs, the less effective is the braking action. Second, if something happens to the train-line, such as cars parting company, there is no braking power at all.
The South Park was one of the foremost users of the Eames brake, as was the Union Pacific. Sometime during 1880, the South Park purchased Eames Vacuum Brake apparatus for 700 cars. (29) A year later, the Union Pacific purchased 300 sets.
But within three years, the South Park was switching to the new Westinghouse automatic brake. These brakes not only worked under compressed air provided by a pump on the locomotive, but through the magic of the “triple valve,” applied the brakes automatically if the system failed for any reason. It appears that the winter of 1883/84 was the period of the changeover.
The Chicago Railway Review of 15 September 1883 noted the Westinghouse air brake was being put on all U.P. freight cars, beginning with the DSP&P. The 4 December issue of the Rocky Mountain News said, “The automatic air brake has been put into use on the Denver, South Park & Pacific in place of the vacuum brake, which was formerly employed.” (31) (Since passenger cars were not only hauled by the same locomotives but were often used in “mixed” trains, we presume they were similarly equipped.)
George Sebastion-Coleman points out that “the Cooke Moguls and Consolidations arrived factory equipped with automatic air (not even straight air) starting in the fall of '83.” (30)
This is much earlier than formerly believed. Mac Poor (38) says Eames would be the South Park’s standard braking equipment until the early 1890s, at which time it began to be supplanted by the Westinghouse automatic. He further quotes a former railroader as saying the Westinghouse brakes first showed up in Denver about 1893. Could Mac have made a typo and meant 1880 and 1883?
South Park passenger cars were equipped with Miller patent semi-automatic couplers (the Miller “Hook”). The Colorado Railway Commission Report for 1885 (21) stated the Miller automatic coupler was standard equipment for all passenger cars of the DSP&P as of that date. Many of the “head end” cars—baggage and baggage-mail-express—had Miller couplers on one end and link and pin couplers on the other, as the link and pin was necessary to couple to the locomotive tender. The Miller couplers were probably supplanted sometime after 1900, when the South Park (by then the Colorado & Southern) finally applied the Janney knuckle coupler.
Over its lifetime, the South Park owned a total of 44 passenger cars. This includes baggage, mail, express, private and Pullman sleeping cars. The table below shows the cumulative breakdown. The first column shows the number of cars by type when received. The second shows the numbers of cars by type at the 1885 renumbering.
Obviously, a number of the cars acquired between 1874 and 1882 were converted to something else by 1885. The majority of these were chair cars or coaches converted to coach-baggage cars. Several coaches and a baggage car were a good consist when times were good, but by 1885 they were not so good, and a single “combine” would often do to handle the traffic. But interestingly enough, at least one car—Halls Valley—may have been built as a combine and converted to a coach. About the only conclusion possible is that cars were freely rebuilt as the times necessitated, and the South Park literally went from nothing (1872) to shortline (1874) to boom (1880) to streak of rust (1884) to bust (1889); 17 years in all.
On the other hand, some of these cars were rebuilt into something else. Coach #4 may have been converted from a combination passenger and express car to a coach before 1885. Coaches #11-15 had already been converted to outfit cars by 1885. Coaches #9 and #10 (U.P. #57 and 58) were converted to combination coach-baggage cars before 1889. Pullman South Park was converted to a coach in 1892, and then to a business car two years later. Coach #7 was rebuilt to a combination coach-baggage car by the C&S in the early 1900s. Pullmans Kenosha and Hortense were rebuilt by Pullman to another plan and shipped to Mexico in 1890. Pullmans Bonanza and Leadville were rebuilt to combination coach-RPOs in 1906.
Explanation of table headings —