The surviving Rio Grande’s 2-8-2 Mikado K-28 locomotives celebrated their 100th birthday in early October, often referred to as the “Sport Model” often compared to the classic '67 Chevrolet Chevelle SS and the smooth Rolls Royce, these locomotives have spent a century hauling tonnage across some of the most challenging narrow-gauge right of way in the mountains of Colorado, and perhaps the world.
On October 16th and 17th, 2023, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&S) hosted a two-day photo excursion with K-28 Nos. 473 and 476 to commemorate the centennial. The event saw No. 476 serving as a mid-train helper with No. 473 on the point, recreating a train operating scenario that had not occurred on the High Line since 1958. The photo charter included runbys on the first day north to Silverton with Nos. 473 and 476 at nine different locations deep within the Animas River Canyon.
On the second day, the 473 and 476 operated separate passenger and freight consists, again displaying operating scenarios once seen on the Silverton branch. The D&S has three K-28 locomotives: Nos. 473, 476, and 478. The No. 478 has been out of service since 2016 but is slated for restoration over the next 24- to -36 months. She will be converted to an oil-burning locomotive as part of the project.
In all, ten K-28 locomotives were built by Alco (American Locomotive Co.) in 1923 and delivered to Rio Grande at Salida, Colo., in September of that year. The first three locomotives delivered were not in numerical order: Nos. 470, 473, and 474. The 473 has been in service longer than any locomotive in the USA, made the first run of a K-28 on the Rio Grande on Oct. 2, 1923, from Salida to Sargents over Marshall Pass.
Over the course of their service time on the Rio Grande, the K-28s were used to haul both passenger and freight trains. The three K-28s currently owned by D&S were initially used in freight service from Salida to Gunnison and on the Crested Butte branch. Two other K-28s were sent to Alamosa, Colo., to power the San Juan Express, a passenger train from Alamosa to Durango.