If Jimmy's operating scenario between Buena Vista and Leadville is correct, then we are taken right back to John's original post that began this thread:
There doesn't appear to be a functional wye at the Buena Vista interchange track between the D&RG and C&S. Just a north facing, long, connecting interchange track.
If the northbound SG freight stops at Buena Vista, and backs its train into the trailing point switch, to pick up the idler gon and C&S cars consigned to Leadville, then at least the northern most part of the connecting track had to be three rail, to allow the SG caboose in to pick up the cut of cars, using the 3-way coupler gondola.
Southbound NG cars from Leadville, delivered to the C&S at Buena Vista, would have their own issues. The SG freight would have to stop with the SG caboose just north of the facing switch. The 3-way idler gon and cars for the C&S would be cut off and held on the main with handbrakes. The SG freight would move south a bit, to clear the caboose of the switch, which would then be thrown. As it was downgrade (toward Salida), the handbrake(s) on the narrow gauge cars would be released and the set-out of cars would roll by gravity into the connecting track.
The C&S Romely branch locomotive would back into the connecting track from the south and tie on to the cut of cars, coupling to the 3-way gon, to move them to the depot area for switching and making up the branch train. That may be what Sam Speas is doing in Ken Martin's photo above.
For the cycle to repeat itself, the C&S crew would have to wye the 3-way coupler gon at Macune and then shove it first into the interchange track (3-way coupler to the north), with northbound NG cars behind it. They may have turned the gon first and re-spotted it on the D&RG end of the connecting track, or left it at Macune, picking it up on the return of the branch job. The D&RG 3-way gon would always be empty, as it was needed for the cycle to continue, and couldn't be tied up for unloading lading for several days.
It would have been a lot simpler, if there had been a wye at Buena Vista!!
John's first photo (at the beginning of the thread) of the interchange connection to the D&RG, shows a single coal car spotted on the connecting track, near the connecting switch. Is it waiting to be picked up to go north to Leadville? No C&S cars to go north today?
Chris posted a photo of a D&RG gon and three C&S boxcars at the interchange track, near the D&RG main:
Is this a recent set out by a southbound D&RG SG freight, with the 3-way coupler gon to the left?
With this operating scenario, I see the need for only one 3-way coupler gon, making round trips, perhaps every other day. Was the second car a spare? Or was one of the 3-way gons located at both Buena Vista and Leadville on any given day, ready to handle both northbound and southbound movements on a daily basis?
And how do we account for all the narrow gauge cars being hauled over Marshall Pass to Salida, consigned to Leadville and C&S stations north and east (Climax, Dillon, Keystone, Breckenridge, Fairplay and Alma) that Pat's research has discovered. How did those D&RG gons, loaded with coal in the Mary Murphey photo of 1918, get to Buena Vista to make the run up to Romley? How were they transported from Salida to Leadville? The same way, using the second 3-way coupler gon?
And, Chris, the CRA 12 cites correspondence in August, 1901, between President Trumbull of the C&S and D&RG General Manager Metcalf. Trout Creek had washed out the C&S between Newett and Schwanders. Trumbull wanted to detour C&S trains from Buena Vista to Leadville via the D&RG's 3-rail main. Metcalf declined, writing "it is not our custom to permit our own narrow gauge engines to run (with trains) between Buena Vista and Leadville." So as early as 1901, the D&RG handled narrow gauge freight cars in standard gauge trains on the 3-rail main. A need for 3-way coupler cars, of some sort, was apparent long before the two gons were converted in 1919.
Boy, operations at Buena Vista were a lot more interesting than I thought!
Oh...and the third rail ended just beyond the D&RGW Ibex crossing, which is just beyond the north end of the wye towards Climax. I have no idea why the C&S bothered extending the third rail that far along the main. They must have had plans.
Actually, the third rail extended further west, to the Leadville Mineral Belt junction with the C&S main (MP 149.9), beyond Little Evans Gulch. The LMB was all 3-rail, switched by the C&S using narrow gauge locomotives (like numbers 39, 60 and 62). This allowed both narrow and standard gauged freight cars to be spotted at the various mines along the route, up Fryer and Carbonate Hills. The Leadville switcher assignments always had a 3-way coupler on both pilot and tender (not sure if antlers on headlight was a requirement):
C&S 39 (left) and 60 (right). Quite the switch crew. c1901. Note number 60 has a new large sand dome after her turn over at Washington Spur.
C&S 62 c1901-1903. Both photos in Colorado Rail Annual 12, from the State Historical Society of Colorado collection.
Sure it's not too late to add some 3 rail track to your Leadville, Keith? Would make operations more interesting!!
The photo of C&S 57 with a D&RG gondola immediately behind it, The gondola is not D&RG 1541 or 1866 as it does not have the extra 6" X 12" X 7' sill that these cars have. Following is the drawing of their modification, end view.
I respectfully disagree with Jimmy Blouch that the purpose of these cars was to move C&S cars in haulage between Buena Vista and Leadville. For that operation I would have expected C&S to provide the necessary cars with 3-way couplers. The purpose of these cars was to move narrow gage cars from Salida to Leadville and points in between in standard gage trains.
Second Division (Salida - Grand Junction) Time Table 110, effective July 11, 1920 does not have tonage ratings for any narrow gage engines implying that narrow gage engines are not used west of Salida. The grade is 1.3 - 1.45% between Salida and Malta and 3%, Malta to Leadville, which based on grades as low a 0.5% between Montrose and Salida have tonnage ratings in the time table.. The only Special Instruction relating to narrow gage states "A-18 Narrow Gauge trains cannot use passing track Arena, Midway, Americas, Pine Creek and Waco."
Besides the 779 cars mentioned above, an additional 333 cars were destined to Buena Vista and Eiler, with no indication that the BV cars were for C&S of R&RG customers. This averages over 3 cars a day from hill jobs alone and there may be more cars from those kept in a in train, including any moved doubling the hill.
Not surprised that the end sill of the D&RGW 1032 looks different. It was intended for switching service in Santa Fe and would not see the buff / draft forces that the 1541 and 1866 would see in mainline grade service. Behind their sub end sill are 4 subsides below the center sills and intermediate tied into the bolster. This drawing is dated 8/18/19 and used in November of that year. A similar drawing from 1913 exists, obviously management was considering this modification earlier.
I suspect the NG cars were handled as the SG cars south of Alamosa. The caboose just about has to be at the end of the train for markers, flagging and handling switches. Sense both Salida and Leadville were 3 railed terminals it is possible that the cabooses could be of either gage. I would lean toward a SG caboose which means 2 coupler cars were required. My $0.02! JP
Alamosa north to Monte Vista was 3-railed on 1900. Alamosa to Antonio was 3-railed in 1901. Most of the pictures I've seen show standard gage cars in narrow gauge trains. Idlers were from cut down narrow gage tenders. 1032 was created for local switching in Santa Fe for standard gage cars received from ATSF in Santa Fe. Antonito to Santa Fe was 3'.
The 3-way coupler gon is part of a rake being switched at the Salida Smelter: at the Depot those C&S boxcars have to be SG and appear as large as the coaches behind...fwiw Jim, I had the same impression as well on first glance.