DURANGO, Colo. — Seventy volunteers of the Carson & Colorado Railway got to ride behind Southern Pacific No. 18 on Aug. 23 as it made its way from Durango to Silverton, Colo. The private excursion was hosted by Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which has been leasing the 4-6-0 oil-burning locomotive built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1911.
The D&SNGR is converting its Baldwin 2-8-2 No. 493 from coal to oil to use along its 46-mile route from Durango to Silverton, during times of high fire danger. The railroad leased No. 18 to gain experience on the operation of oil-burning locomotives. The lease expires in September, and the engine will be returned to its home in California in October. The last public excursion for SP No. 18 occurred Aug. 24.
“The D&SNGR has been very happy with the knowledge gained from our locomotive, and they plan on having the 493 operational next year,” says David Mull, president of the Carson & Colorado Railway.
No. 18 may later operate on other narrow gauge railroads. “We do have plans to run her on other railroads,” Mull says, “but need to work out details before we announce that. We do plan on running in Independence [Calif.] on Nov. 2, 2019.”
SP No. 18 was originally built for the Nevada–California–Oregon Railway and was sold to Southern Pacific in 1926. It was retired in 1954 and donated to the Eastern California Museum in Independence. The engine sat in a park for decades until local residents Myron Alexander, David Mull, and Randy Babcock embarked on a journey to restore it. From 1997 to 2009, little work was done on the restoration until the Inyo County Board of Supervisors developed a comprehensive plan to restore it. The group completed restoration in 2016.