Passenger Cars of the South Park

Coach #7 - Como


 U.P. 1885  DL&G 1889  C&S 1899 C&S c. 1904  C&S 1906 C&S 1922
 #7  #56  #56  #154 Coach-baggage #129  #28 Scale Test Car #99362

Denver, South Park & Pacific coach #56 (formerly #7) at Pitkin, 6 September 1885
(1) Newly renumbered Denver, South Park & Pacific coach #56 (formerly #7) at Pitkin, 6 September 1885. Photo at Helmers-165(m) and Kindig-322.


Coach #7—named Como, and the last car other than a Pullman Palace Car to be named—was a 15 window coach with moderately arched, very large single-pane windows (meaning they would open down, rather than up). From the photo below, it appears the window sash was actually square, with the arch being only a moulding on the outside of the window lintel. (See close-up of window at Office Car #050 page.) It appears to have had the same abbreviated broken duckbill  platform roofs as coach-baggage #6, also built (or assembled) by the DSP&P Denver shops. It had a belt-rail running the length of the car and a modest letter-board.

Like most of the early South Park passenger equipment, coach #7 was probably either painted a deep brown (some say chocolate brown, but with a differing eye as to what constitutes chocolate) or stained a medium brown. Lettering would have been of gold leaf with stripes and trimming.

South Park coach #7 as (2) South Park coach #7 as DL&G coach #56 in the early 1890s. Wouldn't it be nice to see the rest? Photo at Digerness2-70, Kindig-281 and Speas-38.


First-class coach #7 was built by the South Park's Denver car shops in September 1879. It was probably assembled from parts obtained from an eastern builder, but if so, it exhibits no clear characteristics of any known builder. At the time a number of builders offered cars in “knocked-down” form for assembly on site. A Jackson & Sharp advertisement from the 1879 Car Builders Dictionary, for instance, says “Special attention given to sectional work for exportation.”

Some authorities believe coach #7 was built by the Union Pacific. This belief is based on both the 1885 renumbering list that is the basis for Ehernberger/UP and on the C&S passenger car diagram page for #7 (by then C&S #28). But —

1.   Ehernberger admits to “correcting” the published list, which makes its “facts” suspect,

at the time the 1885 list was done, the South Park had been reduced to a division of the U.P.


one must remember that the purpose of the diagrams was not primarily historical but mechanical and that we don’t know where the C&S engineering people got their information.


we know some of that information is not accurate.

The best evidence comes from the Denver Daily Times of 10 September 1879: {41}

“The Denver & South Park shops in this city have just turned out a new and elegant passenger coach designated as the ‘Como’, No. 7. The car is similar to those now in use upon the road. It has two rows of double seats and a newly perfected and easily operated window latch which allows opening and closing the windows with little trouble. The cost was approximately $2,600.”

Note the two rows of double seats. Most early narrow gauge cars had two-and-one seating, because of their narrow width. And note the newly perfected and easily operated window latch. This was apparently the downward-opening single-pane windows. $2,600 in 1879 would be equivalent to about $50,000 today: if you could find people with the needed skills at all!

The C&S passenger car diagram page for coach #7 (converted by then to combination coach-baggage #28) lists the builder as the Union Pacific, with a date of 1882. It is hard to say where either of these facts comes from. The South Park had a few more prosperous years yet, and in 1882 it was just reaching Gunnison. But for coach #7 to have been entered on the roster in 1882 or later, one would have to explain why a railroad with 26 passenger cars would enter one on the roster as #7 unless, of course, it was replacing another as had second #2. But there is no evidence any other car had ever before filled this roster slot. Further, one would have to explain why coach #7 was given a name in 1882 when the railroad had added 21 unnamed cars to the roster since the last one that had been given a name (Leadville, in 1878). Given the 1882 date, however, for whatever reason, it would be logical to specify the U.P. as builder. After all, in 1882 the South Park was simply a division of the U.P.

South Park coach #7 was renumbered #56 by the Union Pacific in 1885. It is probable that the Denver, Leadville & Gunnison kept coach #7 under the same #56 that the U.P. assigned it.

Denver, Leadville & Gunnison #56 at Hortense in the 1890s (3) Denver, Leadville & Gunnison #56 at Hortense in the 1890s. Photo at Chappell-78, Ferrell/SoPk-71, Kindig-303 and Speas-65.

DL&G coach #56 went on the Colorado & Southern roster as coach #154. Sometime in the early 1900s, as passenger traffic dwindled, the C&S converted several coaches to combination coach-baggage cars. This is what happened to coach #154, very likely about 1902, together with coach #150. For a short while, then, it bore the coach-baggage number of #129. At the 1906 renumbering, it was renumbered to #28. It was no doubt rebuilt at other times between 1879 and 1902, as average time between rebuilds for these wooden cars in prosperous times appears to have been about five years. But we have no evidence as to when this might have been done.


08 April 2006

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