Experience Scenic Colorado Aboard the Galloping Goose Train


These legendary motorized vehicles have shuttled passengers along the breathtaking narrow gauge tracks of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad for nearly a century, capturing the imagination of travelers from around the world.


  • Galloping Goose railcars offer a window into Colorado's railroad history through scenic journeys, interactive exhibits, and railroad memorabilia.
  • Visitors can ride the historic Galloping Goose railcars past mountain vistas, explore railroad museums, and engage in family-friendly railroading activities.
  • With careful trip planning, travelers can fully immerse themselves in the cultural heritage of Colorado railroads centered around the iconic Galloping Geese.

Overview of Galloping Goose Colorado

The Galloping Goose railcars refer to a fleet of unique gasoline-powered passenger vehicles that traversed the legendary Rio Grande Southern Railroad (RGS) in the rugged San Juan Mountains of Colorado from the 1930s to the 1950s. Nicknamed for their distinctive waddling motion and raucous honking, the Galloping Geese ferried mail, freight, and passengers over breathtaking narrow gauge tracks to remote mountain towns at a time when roads were scarce.

While the RGS ceased operations in the 1950s, several of its Galloping Goose railcars have been meticulously restored for scenic excursions along surviving stretches of RGS track. These vintage vehicles now transport modern-day travelers through the soaring San Juan peaks, offering unparalleled access to Colorado’s railroad history and mountain grandeur.

From the funky confines of the Galloping Geese to the exhibits at Durango’s Railroad Museum, visitors can immerse themselves in the sights, sounds, and stories of Colorado’s railroading past. These unique experiences, the area’s vibrant cultural traditions, and dazzling mountain vistas make Galloping Goose country an unforgettable destination.

Local Experiences and Culture

A journey through Galloping Goose country promises intimate encounters with authentic local culture rooted in Colorado’s rugged frontier spirit. The historic mountain hamlet of Telluride offers a vibrant arts scene, with live music, theater, film festivals, and galleries celebrating the works of renowned artists. Visitors can browse the original Victorian-era buildings downtown or ride the free gondola for breathtaking views of the dramatic landscape.

The mountain town of Durango provides additional cultural attractions like seasonal festivals, historical walking tours illuminating the area’s mining legacy, and diverse culinary options ranging from farm-to-table fare to Navajo tacos.

Railroad History

These pieces of railroad history serve as examples of early motorized railcars specially designed to transport mail and passengers over treacherous mountain routes. The Rio Grande Southern Railroad engineered these distinct vehicles in the 1930s to replace costly steam engines while maintaining vital mail services to remote areas in accordance with government contracts.

The RGS faced growing competition from automobile travel in the 1940s-50s, eventually shutting down operations. Preservation groups later restored the Galloping Geese and sections of the RGS track, ensuring future generations could experience Colorado’s railroad heritage. Today, the Geese stand as symbols of American ingenuity and the indomitable frontier spirit. Their scenic journeys through the San Juans offer living history lessons on railroads’ vital role in developing the American West.

Engineering and Design

The Galloping Geese showcase clever innovation and engineering under pressing economic constraints. Built on automobile chassis and powered by repurposed bus or truck engines, they could traverse RGS’s steep mountain grades while using far less fuel than traditional steam locomotives. The RGS shop crew implemented an ingenious drivetrain design enabling the vehicles to both propel themselves and pull trailing freight cars.

The Geese featured passenger compartments customized for the rugged mountain terrain, with features like swiveling recliner seats to handle sharp turns. Restoration efforts have carefully preserved these unique engineering details. Riding the Geese allows travelers to appreciate the mechanical intricacies that allowed these plucky vehicles to transport mail and travelers through daunting alpine environments in an era before roads.

Their ability to handle narrow mountain shelves and tight turns was unmatched by any other vehicle of the time – a true testament to American railroad ingenuity.

Scenic Journeys and Photography

Winding through the craggy San Juan peaks, the Galloping Goose rail journey offers a front-row seat to some of Colorado’s most spectacular mountain scenery. The vintage railcars slowly rattle along ledges with sheer cliff walls looming above and dramatic valleys unfolding below, presenting the type of vistas that leave rail enthusiasts and photographers alike starry-eyed.

Passengers can capture postcard-worthy shots of the Geese hugging the mountainsides with soaring peaks in the distance or photograph the trains crossing historic trestles and passing by abandoned mines and homesteads. The leisurely pace allows avid photographers to thoroughly document the terrain, perhaps even spotting moose or bighorn sheep along the route. As the Geese roll through the remnants of past frontier settlements, creative photographers can juxtapose vestiges of the Old West against the timeless backdrop of the San Juan wilderness.

Collectibles and Memorabilia

The Galloping Geese have cultivated an avid following among railroad memorabilia collectors, with rare photos, vintage brochures, and other artifacts fetching premium prices at auction. Aficionados particularly prize relics tied to specific Geese or their legendary engineers. The Geese have also become popular subjects for model railroaders seeking to recreate their unique design aspects.

Those wishing to view prized Galloping Goose collections can visit the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, which displays rare artifacts like conductor hats, ticket punches, and dining car china from the Rio Grande Southern Railroad. The Ridgway Railroad Museum also houses photography exhibits and information on the RGS’s history. Of course, the best place to soak up the ambiance is aboard the Geese themselves, as they shuttle passengers along the historic San Juan rail corridors their brethren traversed over a century ago.

Educational and Family Activities

The Galloping Goose railcars provide families, students, and young railroad buffs with an engaging portal into Colorado’s railroad history. Visitors can view informational exhibits on topics like narrow gauge engineering, the vital role of railroads in developing mountain settlements, and the challenges of high-altitude railroad construction. Young children will enjoy story time sessions on the history of the Galloping Geese and other kid-friendly educational activities.

Travelers can also experience history first-hand aboard the Goose for an excursion overlooking mountain vistas little changed from the railroad’s frontier heyday. Costumed interpreters add tales of mail carriers, pioneering engineers, and travelers who rode the rails generations ago. Back at the station, kids can get hands-on with activities like operating a miniature train set, learning telegraphy, or pumping a classic railroad handcar. Through interactive glimpses into the past, families can gain an appreciation for the railroads that opened up Colorado’s breathtaking landscapes.

Planning Your Visit

Visiting the Galloping Goose requires some advance logistical planning to make the most of the experience. Travelers can choose from excursion options ranging from short journeys departing from Dolores or Ridgway to longer itineraries linking up with the Durango and Silverton trains. Booking tickets early ensures availability for preferred dates, especially during the peak visitation months of June through September.

Many opt to make Durango their home base, which provides access to multiple scenic railroads along with cultural attractions, dining, and lodging options. The town of Telluride also offers a picturesque base with vibrant arts offerings and stunning scenery. Late spring and early autumn provide optimal conditions for comfortable travel and stunning fall colors in the region’s aspen groves.

For an unforgettable itinerary, a Galloping Goose adventure can be combined with whitewater rafting, hiking among wildflowers in the San Juan Mountains, or soaking in the rejuvenating hot springs around Telluride and Ouray. By mixing and matching railroad experiences with natural sightseeing and cultural offerings, visitors can craft a Colorado vacation as unique as the Galloping Goose railcars themselves.


How were the Galloping Geese railcars designed and built?

The RGS shop crew built the Galloping Geese railcars by creatively modifying old automobile or bus bodies and fitting them onto custom-built frames attached to used truck or bus engines and wheels. This innovative approach created self-propelled passenger vehicles ideal for the railroad’s steep mountain routes.

What was it like to ride the Galloping Geese as a passenger?

Passenger accounts describe colorful engineers who thrilled riders with daring feats like reversing direction on perilous ledges, speeding downhill while blaring the horn, and rounding cliffside curves at breakneck speeds, causing passengers to slide from one side of the railcar to the other.

Why were some Galloping Geese railcars named after animals?

The RGS gave Geese whimsical animal names associated with speed, like “Fox” and “Bobcat.” These distinctive monikers set the unique railcars apart from traditional locomotive numbering schemes. Riders can still see these names adorning restored Geese running scenic trips through the San Juans today.

Where else in the U.S. can you find railcars like the Galloping Geese?

The Galloping Geese stand out as uniquely Colorado creations. Their ingenious engineering and customized nature set them apart from other early railcars across the country. The Geese epitomized the frontier ingenuity and rugged individualism that allowed railroads to conquer the formidable Rocky Mountain landscape.

What model railroad components are available for fans wanting to recreate the Galloping Geese?

Model railroad manufacturers like Bachmann and Hartford Products offer highly detailed HO-scale models of Galloping Goose railcars #5 and #7 for enthusiasts seeking to incorporate these unique vehicles into Colorado narrow gauge layouts. Custom decals and detailing parts are also available to capture the Geese’s distinctive look.

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About the author

Simone Weisman

My deep appreciation for nature and active living strongly aligns with the vibrant outdoor culture of Colorado. My enjoyment of yoga, hiking, and exploring scenic trails provides me with a unique perspective that I bring to ReadyColorado.com. This personal passion enriches my ability to connect with and inspire our audience, whether they’re local residents or visitors seeking to explore all that Colorado has to offer.