Lineside Legacy - September 2001

Great Western "Dinkies"

C/N 2090 on display in Lovell, Wyoming. Photo: Jeff Terry
THE GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY of Loveland, Colorado, was well-known in the 1960s as one of the last places in the U.S. to photograph standard gauge steam in regular freight service. Documented in Gary Morgan's Sugar Tramp and Ron Ziel and George H. Foster's Steam in the Sixties, Great Western had a fleet of aging 2-8-Os (Nos.51, 60, and 75) and one 2-10-0 (No.90) which hauled sugar beet trains during the annual fall harvest. Not as well known was the fleet of Davenport 0-4-OT saddle tankers -popularly known as "dinkies" - owned by the Great Western Sugar Company and used to switch cars at their refineries in Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana. By 1975, long after the Great Western Railway's steam was retired and sold, most of the 13 remaining dinkies continued to operate. At the time, they comprised the largest fleet of steam locomotives in freight service anywhere in the U.S.

All but two of GW's 0-4-0T's were acquired second hand, and so each one is a little bit different. Over the years as they were modified and overhauled, they developed a "family" look; most had oversize coal hoppers on the fireman's side, electric headlights, turbogenerators and footboard pilots. All of the 0-4-0T's were set up for one man operation, and all controls (injectors, brakes, throttle, etc.) were within easy reach of the engineer. To my knowledge none of the dinkies, except the one at Scottsbluff, Nebraska, had anything more than steam jam brakes. Air brakes were not needed, as the engines normally only moved two or three cars at a time. Photographs during their last years of service show most dinkies were painted light gray (including the running gear) with "GW" initials.

Why did Great Western retain outdated 0-4-0T's instead of acquiring diesels? The answer lies within the sugar refining process. At the refineries, loaded cars were pushed through a "wet hopper" where steam and hot water jets loosened the frozen beets for unloading. This created a damp environment which would have damaged a diesel locomotive's electrical wiring and traction motors. Thus, the dinkies were retained long after other industrial railroads had sent their steamers out to pasture. It should be noted that a single diesel-mechanical - a Davenport - was modified to combat moisture and used at the Longmont refinery, but a steamer was always kept there on standby.

The dinkies were retired as imported cane sugar replaced beet sugar on America's tables and the sugar factories were closed down one by one. In the early 1980s, GW was acquired by a Texas holding company and today only a few former GW refineries remain in operation, all under the "Western Sugar" name. The last stand for Great Western 0-4-0T's was at Fort Morgan, Colorado, when Davenport 0-4-0T No.13 (a 25-tonner built for the Merritt, Chapman & Scott Corporation of Manistique, Michigan, in April 1929) was fired up during the '83 campaign. That engine (C/N 2148) last ran for a ceremonial steam-up at the Fort Morgan plant in 1987 and now sits overlooking Main Street. It is a source of pride among Western Sugar employees, often decorated with lights during the Christmas season. Along with No.13 (which was the original Loveland factory engine, moved to Fort Morgan in 1976) there are two other dinkies displayed along Main Street in Fort Morgan. No.2176, a 21-ton 0-4-0T which was the first assigned to Fort Morgan, currently sits outside the old municipal power plant near Riverside Park and has been repainted from the old gray GW livery to a more "touristy" red and yellow. Built in 1930, No.2176 worked first for the Galesburg Mining Company at Galesburg, Illinois before joining the GW roster in 1939. Well-worn and missing many parts, it has not operated since the early 1970s.

Dinky No.17, first assigned to the Brighton, Colorado, factory, was built in 1923 (Davenport C/N 1950) for the H.D. Conkey Company of Mendota, Illinois, and has been an outdoor exhibit at the Fort Morgan Library and Museum since 1984. It is painted aluminum and sports an oversized cab, added in later years to help engineers peer around loaded beet hoppers. No. 17 is missing its headlight and the small four-wheel coal tender which was built by GW shop crews using the frame from scrapped Fairbanks-Morse motor car M-3. Before the engine was placed on display the tender was sold, but it has been "preserved." Today, what remains of the M-3 frame is underneath a restored streetcar run by the Fort Lincoln Trolley Company of Mandan, North Dakota.

At Sterling, Colorado, is dinky No.2121, exhibited in the shadow of the town's water tower since 1981, within sight of the GW sugar plant where it labored for so many years. Built in March 1928 for the Newhall Company of Maple Grove, Ohio, and acquired by Great Western in 1931, No.2121 is in poor condition and unfenced.

The Ovid, Colorado, engine, No. 2150, was built by Davenport in 1929 as a 36" gauge 0-4-0T for the Corroda & Caliardi Construction Company of Monongahela, Pennsylvania, and was converted to standard gauge in 1943. It was presented to Ovid in 1987 after being stored inside the abandoned sugar factory for years, and today sits at the city park. Protected from vandals with a high fence, the engine is in excellent condition, although its tasteful paint job is somewhat inaccurate. For some reason, it has the number 4109 painted on the number plate and cab. No.2150 is mechanically complete, right down to the steam gauge on the backhead.

Davenport C/N 2089 from the Brush, Colorado, plant is owned and maintained by Ken Kafka at his ranch near Pierce, Colorado. It was in very poor condition and missing several key components (including the drivers) when Kafka purchased it, but he has done a good job cosmetically restoring the 0-4-0T as well as his former GW wood caboose. The missing drivers have been replaced with modified freight car wheels, and the engine has been painted and once again sports the GW logo. No.2089 was originally built in 1928 for the Egyptian Tie & Timber Company of Mill Shoals, Illinois.

Outside Colorado, the former Scottsbluff, Nebraska, dinky, 0-4-OT No.2003 (the largest, at 40 tons) is also in private hands. Ken Layher of Wood River, Nebraska, has restored it to operating condition as "GW No. 1" for occassional use on his farm. Also in Nebraska is Davenport 0-4-0T No. 29 a 21-ton model which was built new for Great Western in 1924 (C/N 1990) and is displayed near the sugar plant at Mitchell. The fate of the engine that worked the Bayard, Nebraska, factory (Davenport C/N 1988, built in 1930) is unknown, but the other dinky assigned to Bayard, 16-ton C/N 1871, was cannibalized for parts during the 1960s and later scrapped.

South Dakota is home to one dinky, No. 7, which was built new for GW in August 1938 as Davenport C/N 2267. It is the former Gering, Nebraska, engine and today heads up a simulated freight train at "1880 Town" near Murdo. The 0-4-0T sports a diamond stack which was added in a vain attempt to make it appear as a locomotive of the 1880 era, which fools the tourists but not the railfans. Today No.7 is in very poor condition and deserves, at the very least, a new paint job.

Lovell, Wyoming, has in its city park dinky No.2090, outshopped and delivered to the Dewey Cement Company of Davenport, Iowa, in 1927. It came to the Great Western in 1940 and worked at the Lovell plant for the next 40 years before being retired and stored. Interestingly, No.2090 was one of the few dinkies that didn't burn coal; it burned either natural gas or oil as conditions warranted.

No. 2123 from the Longmont, Colorado, plant came close to being rebuilt for service when it was purchased in 1978 and moved to the now-defunct Kansas City Railroad Museum. The restoration was halted and the engine sits in pieces, stored in the Kansas City area. Eventually it may be moved to the Midland Railway at Baldwin City, Kansas, and reassembled for display. No. 2123 was noted for its enormous coal bunker, which extended over the cab roof.

One other surviving GW tank engine should be mentioned, although it can't be categorized as a "dinky" per se. Porter 0-6-0T No.3 (built for the Keystone Steel & Wire Company in 1928) last operated at GW's large Billings, Montana factory. It was occasionally steamed up during the 1980s, but is now a static display at the World Museum of Mining in Butte, Montana.

This page, its content, images, and data © 2001, by Carstens Publications, Inc.