Barrel, CO

Barrel - while an official station name on the Rio Grande - wasn't actually a real town of any sort. Rather, it was the location of a very unique piece of hardware known as the "Barrel Transfer", located approximately halfway between Salida and Cleora.

The barrel transfer was an early rotary dumper designed to speed the transloading of narrow gauge gondolas into standard gauge cars. Built in 1921 to handle coal coming off the Crested Butte Branch and going to CF&I at Pueblo, the dumper would roll a wood-side narrow gauge gon on its side (as if it were rolling inside a barrel, hence the name) and dump the contents into a standard gauge gon below. It sped up the process and replaced a small army of men with shovels, who previously performed the function by hand. By the mid-1920s, limestone and dolomite from the Monarch Branch was being handled in a similar manner through the dumper.

CF&I was initially unhappy with the transfer, claiming it caused too much breakage and resulted in too much coal being reduced to slack (unmarketable fine coal dust). As a result. in 1930 they installed a screening plant as part of the process. Coal would be dumped into a special standard gauge hopper, which had a conveyor that would move the product to a screening plant. The fines would be screened out, and the marketable product was then loaded back into standard gauge gondolas. This whole apparatus was only used for coal, and could be moved out of the way to transload limestone or other bulk products.

Its usefulness came to an end in 1956, when all of the narrow gauge lines out of Salida had either been abandoned (Marshall Pass and the Valley Line) or converted to standard gauge (the Monarch Branch). It was scrapped shortly thereafter.


Denver Public Library: Z-5712, Z-5713, RR-1770

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  Last modified on October 25, 2011, at 02:52 PM
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