History Rail Road Livestock Freighting SW CO
Narrow Gauge Livestock Freighting - Cigy & Tobacco
Imagine a time when virtually everything was transported by narrow gauge steam engines chugging into Durango; when railroads were the best way to get around. Located where the Doubletree Inn now stands, the Rio Grande Southern’s railroad cars converged onto Durango making their transfers with the Denver Rio Grande Western Railroad. Trains ran around the clock carrying everything imaginable from mineral ores and concentrates from the mines, oil headed for the refinery in Salt Lake City, farm produce such as dried beans and peas, livestock and logs 3 feet in diameter. At one time, the lumber shipped from McFee and Dolores accounted for 1/2 of the timber being cut in the western half of the State.
In 1924 oil was discovered near Bloomfield. A 3″ line was laid transporting oil to the Farmington RR station. As many as 108 Conoco oil cars a month were transported from Farmington into Durango paralleling Highway 550 and then through Dolores, Rico and Ridgeway on their way to Salt Lake City to the refinery there. Leopard Creek, Lizard Head, Saw Pit, Muldoon, Placerville and Franklin Junction were all names of thriving railroad stations and whistle stops long forgotten along the Rio Grande Southern route. In the late 30’s during the Fall rush, 1,500 cars of livestock consisting of sheep, cattle and goats (for their milk and angora hair) were transported by rail from the stockyards of these high elevation towns. At Dolores, the stockyards had a capacity of 50 car loads, Placerville 40 car loads. Located North of Rico by 40 miles, Placerville loaded more stock animals than any other town in Southwest Colorado. The town boasted a hotel for the stockmen and drovers offering lodging and dining. A three story general store was located there as well.
Every stock car had a main loading door where the animals would enter from the stockyard into the rail car at the top of the loading ramp. There was also a small door at the end of the car called an end door. Some of the stock cars were double deckers – built with two floors to carry twice as many animals like calves and sheep.
When time was of the essence, ever wonder how thousands of cattle and sheep were coaxed to walk up ramps through narrow doors into the dark cavern of a railroad car, let alone the double decker cars where each level was only a few feet high?
An old timer can tell you how goats were used to lead the animals up the ramp into the stock cars. An exceptional goat could be trained to lead the stock animals up the ramps into the cars and then walk back to the small end door where the cowboys would retrieve the goat in order to load another car.
If you’re lucky enough to know an old cowboy, he might tell you about goats he trained to use at the stockyards. Goats like Cigy and Tobacco. Savvy enough to know they were indispensable, they insisted upon being bribed each time they lead the animals up the ramp. Cigy demanded a Lucky Strike Cigarette each time he worked – the whole cigarette, no partial stub would do; no other brand would do. He’d balk or butt you off your feet or flat refuse to work if he got anything less. Tobacco, another Billy Goat, demanded a generous plug of Day’s Work Tobacco. If you tried to get by with just a sniff or a taste – forget it, he’d butt you off your feet. On a busy day at the stockyards with goats demanding Lucky Strikes and Day ‘s Work Tobacco, the goats were more costly to employ than the cowboys who in those days earned $1/day.
5875 Highway 550
Durango, Colorado 81303
We are located 12 miles South of Walmart
8:00 AM - 06:30 PM
Monday - Sunday