Hunt for the lost locomotive of Kiowa Creek, Colorado. January, 1989.
This search came about as the result of reading an article about a train wreck and the mystery of the missing locomotive in 1978. The event inspired the basic concept of a book I wrote several years later entitled, “Night Probe”.
As told by the following pages and articles, a Kansas Pacific freight train traveling east on the night of May 21, 1878, fell off a shattered bridge into a stream swollen by flash floods and was wrecked with the loss of three lives. Most of the freight cars and coal tender were salvaged in the weeks to come, but the engine was supposedly never found.
Though my son, Dirk, and I had conducted a few cursory searches in 1981 and 1982, we found little in the way of magnetic anomalies to inspire a more in-depth effort. Not until 1989, when Craig Dirgo joined NUMA as a director, did we began to get earnest about finding the engine.
After promoting a search, we were swamped with over three hundred people on a cold wintry day in January. Using nearly thirty metal detectors, magnetometers, radar ground penetrating units and a backhoe, we turned up only a few bits and pieces of the wreck. No hint of the locomotive was indicated. Even a satellite search by the government failed to detect a heavy mass of iron.
Finally, a hunt through railroad archives by Loyd Glasier of Denver turned up a record of the locomotive being dug up in the dead of night and towed to Kansas City, where it was rebuilt and renumbered.
I personally think it was a nineteenth century scam to collect on the insurance. The railroad, of course, denies this. Why, I can’t imagine? The Kansas Pacific and its insurance company are long gone.
This project was unusual in that the target as such did not exist, but the mystery behind its disappearance was solved.