For many years, various narrow-gauge railroad enthusiasts have been engaged in the study, documentation, restoration, operation, and modeling of D&RG equipment. Over the most recent two-dozen years, this has resulted in completion of well-detailed, accurate restorations and operation of full-scale as well as precision-scale model live-steam engines and rolling stock of historical significance. Many of these enthusiasts have come to know each other and share their wealth of skills, interest, and knowledge about this important history.

Recent discussions about C-16, formerly Class 60, locomotives have brought together a strong nucleus of talent, representative of broader support for preserving the legacy of these locomotives. Beginning 140 years ago and growing to eighty-two engines, more than any other class, C-16’s were the backbone of narrow gauge operations for the first several decades of the Denver & Rio Grande. Remaining in service for over 70 years, the number eventually dwindled to only three remaining at the time of the last retirement in 1955. It is unfortunate that the significance of these locomotives to the development of railroading in the Rocky Mountains is greatly under-represented.

With only three C-16 engines remaining in various states of repair today, the core group of experienced railroaders have brought together resources to found a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation to address the issue of their preservation while it remains possible. The Colorado based organization is incorporated under the name of C16 Society and will use a more web-searchable name of C16 Locomotive Society. (C16locomotivesociety.org). The specific focus of the C16 Locomotive Society is on the D&RGW locomotives #223, #268, and #278. (see Three Survivors)

These three locomotives also have an intertwined history pointing to another appropriate reason the C16 Society has been formed. Although this trio served the vast D&RGW system for decades in many locations it was the light rails and weight restricted bridges of the Gunnison area that brought them together for their final years of service. Newer and larger locomotives could not service the branch lines in the Gunnison area so this old motive power, class C-16, was saved from being scraped to share the Gunnison roundhouse. Stock trains moving cattle for ranchers and coal for the WWII steel mills in Pueblo gave these three locomotives a reason to survive. Communities which were on these weight restricted branch lines received extended years of service from these small legacy locomotives providing motive power 70 years after they were delivered from the factory.

Three Survivers

#268 was donated to Gunnison Colorado and displayed at Gunnison Heritage Park. This locomotive is the most accessible of the three. #268 was painted “Aspen Gold” to represent the streamliner colors of D&RGW for the 1948 Chicago Railroad Fair. It's nickname is the “Bumblebee” and has been maintained by ad hoc volunteers over the years. Currently two of the C16 Society’s founding members are actively performing restoration work.

#278 was donated to Montrose, Colorado and is displayed on a bridge in Cimarron near The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. This is a classy locomotive because it was rebuilt several times in its 70 plus years of service and still retains the original beautiful Baldwin fluted domes and smokebox door. Because it is being displayed outdoors with no weather protection, and also without access, it is subject to a higher level of deterioration. In the short years from its last reconditioning it has again suffered extensive damage, especially to the cab.

#223 is unique in that it is the only known remaining narrow gauge locomotive built by the Grant Locomotive works. This locomotive was donated to Salt Lake City in 1941 and was transferred to the Utah State Historical Society in 1979 and moved to Ogden in 1989. From 1991 until 2019 #223 was being rebuilt by the Golden Spike Chapter of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society which made extensive repairs and rebuilt the cab and tender. In 2019 the city of Ogden locked the Chapter out of the restoration facilities and forbids anyone from entering. The Utah State Historical Society is now working to establish control over the locomotive and determine future restoration plans. #223 is currently disassembled and will require extensive fund-raising efforts for completion. The goal would be to return the locomotive to Colorado, rebuild it to operational status to be hosted on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.