Ken in Front of Galloping Goose 2

Father’s Day at the 2012 Goose Fest with Isaac

Ken in Front of Galloping Goose 2
Ken in Front of Galloping Goose 2
For father’s day this year, because Isaac had to work on Sunday, we spent a great day together at the 2012 Goose Fest that was held at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Colorado. It has been a long time since all of the Galloping Geese have been in the same place at the same time.

We stood in line for a long time to ride one of the Geese. I took this first video on one of my turns to go off exploring while Isaac waited in line and saved our places. They kept Galloping Goose 1, 2 and 6 on the sidings and only VIP members could walk up to them and ride them. Galloping Goose 4, 5 and 7 were on the 3/4 mile loop the museum has and us regular visitors got to ride them around once-per-ticket. They gave you as many tickets as you wanted, but only one-at-a-time.

Galloping Goose 2, 6 and 7 are owned by the Colorado Railroad Museum and are part of its permanent display. On any given Saturday members and visitors can come and ride one of them. So when it was out turn I was going to make sure to ride either Galloping Goose 4 or 5 since this would be my only chance.

Galloping Goose 1 is a perfect replica built to the original specs. The original number 1 was completely dismantled to make one of the later geese.

Galloping Goose 3 belongs to the Knotts Berry Farm. They run it every day. It was supposed to be here today but for some reason they backed out at the last minute. Boo!

Galloping Goose 4 had just finished a major restoration by a group of volunteers in Ridgway, Colorado. It is owned by the fire department there. It has not been run since 1953 I think they said. They only have 60 feet of track so they just ride it back-and-forth about 40 feet. So this was really the first time that it was able to go for a good ride. I’m glad it was the one that we were able to get on and ride since it was the first day anyone could ride it since 1953! One of the volunteers who was in charge of the crew that rebuilt the box on the back rode with us and told us all about it. I bought a book that he helped author about Galloping Goose 4 and the other things they have at the Ridgway Railroad Museum. He signed the book for me.

Galloping Goose 5 is cared for by The Galloping Goose Historical Society in Dolores, Colorado. I really should have gotten a second ticket, got back in line and rode it too so I would know more about it. I threw away that opportunity, but still thoroughly enjoyed the day.

So we finally get in front of the line and Galloping Goose 4 rolls up and unloads. Yay! We get to get on board…just as soon as a small group of boys from some camp goes first…and takes all of the seats in the cab of the bus up front. Oh well, it turned out better anyway because in the back box we got a fully guided tour as we rode.

Here is the video I took while riding Galloping Goose 4 (17 minutes, 37 seconds):

So, once we were done riding Galloping Goose 4, I walked around and got some more video of the others coming round the loop:

The Denver Garden Railroad Society maintains and operates this fantastic garden railroad layout at the Colorado Railroad Museum. On this day, they had a model of the Galloping Goose 7 running on the inner loop:

It took me a minute to realize what he was telling me…that he could mount my camera on his live steam engine and give me a special ride around the steam loop:

And here is the result:

I didn’t know the lights on diesel engines moved like this:

I got in on the end of a lecture about the Galloping Geese given by Stan Rhine:

Here are the photos I took at the 2012 Goose Fest at the Colorado Railroad Museum:

From the Iron Horse News Spring/Summer 2012 Issue #233, A seasonal magazine of Colorado Railroad Museum (used without permission):

Imagine turning an automobile into a train capable of hauling passengers, mail, freight and supplies to elevations over 10,000 feet across spindly wooden trestles and through magnificent alpine scenery. Now imagine doing that seven times. Starting in 1931, that’s exactly what the Rio Grand Southern (RGS) did with their famous “Galloping Geese”.

From the hatching of the first Goose in 1931 through their last runs in 1951, the Southwestern Colorado’s famous “Galloping Geese” were the Depression-era answer to declining traffic for the narrow gauge RGS. The four Galloping Geese (plus three other similar machines) kept the RGS operating for another two decades.

The first “Goose” showed the unbounded creative talents of the RGS’s “motor mechanic,” who started with a Buick touring car (an open, four-passenger car), chopped it down, added a wooden box for passengers and an outhouse-like locker for freight and mail.

In less than a year, the design had been greatly refined to produce the first tru “Galloping Goose, ” an articulated, three-truck machine capable of carrying passengers, mail, freight and the occasional tourist high into nosebleed country.

One of them said that riding a Goose was like “going over Niagra Falls in a Barrel.” The RGS bought a used limousine for $350 and turned it into a Galloping Goose and then replaced the old limousine bodies with bus bodies to carrying throngs of tourists.

On the RGS, the Galloping Geese suffered numerous indignities: burned out connecting rods, derailments, wheels falling off, getting stuck in snowdrifts, but they kept going — and kept the railroad going for 20 years.

But that is not even the end of the story: the RGS has been abandoned for more than half a century, but all of the Galloping Geese are still alive and flapping their tin feathers. See all seven waddling around the track at the Colorado Railroad Museium’s Goose Fest on June 16 and 17.

Excerpts taken from Tin Feathers, Wooden Trestles and Iron Men: The “Galloping Geese” of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad. Published by the Colorado Railroad Museum, written by Stan Rhine.

About the Galloping Geese

The Galloping Geese are a series of seven railcars that ran on the Rio Grande Southern (RGS) Railroad from 1931 – 1952. They helped accommodate travel by rail in the remote and isolated regions of far southwestern Colorado. They traveled a stretch of rail over 160 miles long that ran from the town of Ridgway, Colorado on the north to Durango, Colorado on the south.

The RGS called these unusual vehicles Motors, using them as less expensive alternatives to operating steam engines. The Geese retained the automobile engines and bodies from the original cars, mounted over a frame that included attached cargo boxes.

How did they get their name “Galloping Geese”?

  • The uneven railroad track made them “waddle” when they traveled.
  • The air horn sounded more like a “honk” compared to the regular steam locomotive whistle.
  • The Goose was run with its hoods flared open to facilitate greater engine cooling and looked like a goose straining for airspeed. This was necessary because the altitude made the water boil off quickly.
  • The Goose would frequently stop at water towers along the way to “take a drink” and fill up their radiator.

Galloping Goose Facts

  No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4 No. 5 No. 6 No. 7
Built June 1931 August 12, 1931 December 2, 1931 May 4, 1932 June 8, 1933 January 13, 1934 October 27, 1936
Original Engine
Original Engine #
New Engine
Latest Engine
Original Body
Rebuilt Body
Length of Pilot to Freight Body
Length Freight Body
Height (rail)
Total Weight
Cost New
Disposition Scrapped in 1933, Karl Schaffer, from Ridgway, Colo. has built a replica of No. 1 Colorado Railroad Museum Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, Cali. City of Telluride, Colo. Galloping Goose Historical Society in Dolores, Colo. Colorado Railroad Museum Colorado Railroad Museum