C&TS #463, Gene Autry’s Locomotive!

The Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) operated several classes of Mikado type locomotives throughout the railroad’s history. The most numerous were the K-27 Mikados. While the majority of this class was scrapped, there are two surviving, including C&TS #463, which has found a second career leading excursions in New Mexico and Colorado.

Cumbres and Toltec Scenic #463, seen here as D&RGW #463, steaming on an excursion
#463 steaming on an excursion. (Photo: Chris Light via CC by 4.0)

Brief History of C&TS #463

Manufactured by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1903, C&TS #463 is a narrow gauge steam locomotive features a 2-8-2 wheel arrangement (Mikado type) and burned coal. Initially designated a “Class 125”, the Denver & Rio Grande Western would later rename this class of engine to, what are much more familiar with, the “K-27” class. The locomotives were originally designed using compound expansion; but upkeep costs led the railroad to convert them to simple expansion operation.

Rio Grande #463 spent her revenue years travelling the Rocky Mountains as she ran both passenger and freight trains for the D&RGW. Her size and strength made her capable of pulling heavy loads through the treacherous mountain terrain. After a relatively vanilla revenue career, #463 was retired by the D&RGW in the early 1950s, before being sold to Gene Autry in 1955.

C&TS #463 on a morning run.
C&TS #463 on a morning run. (Photo: Drew Jacksich via CC by 2.0)

Autry, an extremely popular country musician and cowboy actor, purchased the locomotive with the intention of having it be part of a western themed museum. Unfortunately, plans for the museum never moved forward and #463 sat mostly idle for nearly two decades. She did make appearances in a few television programs in the mid 1950’s, including an episode of Gunsmoke. In March 1972, C&TS #463 made her way to Antonito, Colorado, after Autry donated her to the city. The city then partnered with the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic (C&TS) railroad to restore the locomotive.

Following an intensive cosmetic and mechanical restoration, C&TS #463 returned to service in 1994 leading excursion trips for the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic. The locomotive was a mainstay for the railroad until a broken side rod sidelined her in 2002. She would remain static until 2013, when she was finally able to return to the rails following a complete overhaul that took 4 years to complete.

In addition to leading excursions, C&TS #463 has made several cameos in television and movies since returning to service, including “A Million Ways to Die in the West” and “Hostiles”.

C&TS workers prepare #463 for the day.
#463 steaming up for the day. (Photo: Jacob Lyman via CC by 4.0)

Current Status

C&TS #463 has remained an active member of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad since her 2013 restoration was complete. The railroad has preserved several steam locomotives that are used for excursion trips. Visit the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad website to learn more about their roster of locomotives and see when C&TS #463 is running next.

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