Rio Grande class K-28

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Denver & Rio Grande Western
K-28 Class
D&RGW 473 Silverton1.jpg
D&RGW 473
Type and origin
Power typeSteam
BuilderAmerican Locomotive Company (Alco)
Build date1923
Total produced10
 • Whyte2-8-2
 • UIC1′D1′ h
Gauge3 ft (914 mm)
Driver dia.44 in (1,118 mm)
Adhesive weight113,500 lb (51.5 t)
Loco weightAs built:140,000 lb (63.5 t)[1]
Later:156,000 lb (70.8 t)
Tender weight98,500 lb (44.7 t)
Fuel typeCoal
Fuel capacity16,000 lb (7.3 t)
Water cap5,000 US gal (19,000 L)
 • Firegrate area
30.17 sq ft (2.8 m2)
Boiler pressure200 lbf/in2 (1.38 MPa)
Heating surface:
 • Firebox
102 sq ft (9.5 m2)
SuperheaterType A
CylindersTwo, outside
Cylinder size18 in × 22 in (457 mm × 559 mm)
Valve gearWalschaerts
Valve type11-inch (279 mm) piston valves
Loco brakeStraight air
Train brakesNo. 6 E-T
Performance figures
Tractive effort27,540 lbf (123 kN)
Factor of adh.4.12
OperatorsDenver and Rio Grande
Denver and Rio Grande Western
White Pass and Yukon
Durango and Silverton
  • D&RG: 140
  • D&RGW: K-28
NicknamesSports Model
LocaleColorado, New Mexico & Alaska
Preserved473, 476, 478
DispositionThree preserved on D&SNG; remainder scrapped after WW2

The K-28 is a class of ten 3 ft 0 in (914 mm) narrow gauge 2-8-2, steam locomotives, built in 1923 by the Schenectady Locomotive Works of the American Locomotive Company for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. They were the first new narrow gauge locomotives ordered by the railroad since 1903.[1] They initially comprised class E-4-148-S, but were reclassified K-28 in 1924 when the railroad reorganized into the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad.[3]


The chassis is of outside-frame design with the drive wheels placed between the two main frames, and the steam cylinders and running gear (cranks, counterweights, rods and valve gear) to the outside. This general arrangement was also used on the earlier class K-27 and later class K-36 and K-37 engines.


Among other duties, they were tasked with hauling the express passenger trains over the D&RGW's narrow gauge lines such as the San Juan from Alamosa to Durango, the Shavano from Salida to Gunnison, and The Silverton from Durango to Silverton. The K-28s also operated on the Chili Line from Antonito to Santa Fe until that route was closed in 1941.

White Pass & Yukon[edit]

During World War II, seven members of the class were purchased by the US Army for use on the White Pass and Yukon Route in Alaska and the Yukon where they were renumbered USA 250 to USA 256. But they did not fare well in the bitter Yukon winters. In particular, the unusual, extended counterweights on the driving wheel axles made them liable to ride up on trackside ice, lifting the engine off the rails. All seven were withdrawn from service in 1944, and were barged to Seattle in 1946 for scrapping.

The K-28s today[edit]

The three locos which remained with the D&RGW, numbers 473, 476 and 478 were assigned to the Durango – Silverton tourist trains from the 1950s onwards. The Durango & Silverton inherited these when it took over the Silverton Branch in 1981.[2] As of February 13th, 2018, all three locomotives are operational.

Due to their smaller size, these engines are often used by the Durango & Silverton for shorter trains, usually the first or last on the schedule, and also for helper service or sectioned trains. Despite being slightly smaller, a little older and less powerful than the K-36s, the engine crews tend to favor a trip on these engines because the design ALCO used was superior in balance and servicing. Firing can be tricky when the engine is working hard, as the clamshell-style firedoors tend to pull into the backhead of the boiler due to the draft, and if any flues in the boiler are leaking, the loss of draft on the fire is much harder to work around than on the K-36 locomotives. Firing while the engine is working hard is done with a large "heel" pattern, generally with as little coal on the flue sheet as possible, and gradually sloping the fire bed towards the door sheet to the height or higher than the firedoors. This results in the draft being forced through the fire bed in the thinner areas towards the flue sheet, which usually is hindered by the lack of draft between the grates and the arch brick. New firemen sometimes have a hard time learning this because there are fewer training hours available on the K-28 class locomotives compared to the railroad's usual K-36 workhorses which have a larger firebox and are more forgiving of poor technique.

These locomotives are popular subjects for model railroaders, and high quality scale models in HOn3 and On3 scales have been produced by several manufacturers since the 1950s.


The Oahu Railway and Land Company in Hawaii was impressed with the K-28 and ordered four locomotives of the same design which were delivered in 1925 and 1926. These were identical in specification but oil-fired and with minor differences in fittings (slightly shorter tender with an oil tank in place of the coal bunker, smokebox front, air compressor location, headlamp, etc.)[4]




470 250 64981 Entered service at White Pass & Yukon December 8, 1942. Scrapped.
471 251 64982 Entered service at White Pass & Yukon November 28, 1942. Scrapped.
472 252 64983 Entered service at White Pass & Yukon January 14, 1943. Scrapped.
473 N/A 64984 To Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in 1981. Operational
474 253 64985 Entered service at White Pass & Yukon February 28, 1943. Fell off barge into bay at Haines, Alaska, hence delay of service. Was the only K-28 to not be fitted with steam heat and signal lines for passenger service.
475 254 64986 Entered service at White Pass & Yukon December 15, 1942. Scrapped.
476 N/A 64987 To Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in 1981. Operational Rebuilt 2016-2018.
477 255 64988 Entered service at White Pass & Yukon December 19, 1942. Scrapped.
478 N/A 64989 To Durango & Silverton in 1981. Non-operational.

Currently on display in the D&SNG Museum.

Almost swapped with C&TS K-36 #483 in 2015.

479 256 64990 Entered service at White Pass & Yukon January 10, 1943. Scrapped.


  1. ^ a b c Official Roster No. 11 of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad System. Denver: The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad System. April 1, 1923.
  2. ^ a b "Denver & Rio Grande Western Mikados". Steam Locomotive dot com. Archived from the original on 21 September 2010. Retrieved 12 February 2010.
  3. ^ a b c "Denver & Rio Grande Western Roster". Rio Grande Modeling & Historical Society. Archived from the original on November 22, 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2010.
  4. ^