In the early morning hours of Sept. 8, 1919, engineer Ralph Peake was guiding his Rio Grande Southern locomotive No. 217 down the tracks heading home to Durango after a night of helping pull heavy trains up grades near Mancos. About 4 miles west of Durango, he stopped his train to inspect two bridges that passed over Lightner Creek. He was concerned for their stability after four days of heavy rains turned the creek into a raging torrent. Thinking them both safe, he proceeded across the first bridge without problem. On crossing the second bridge, however, two pilings gave away and the engine was turned onto its side into the creek. Peake was unable to free himself from the cab and drowned. His fireman, John Adams was able to extricate himself without injury.
Ed Horvat for Animas Museum, [email protected]