Lost Locomotive of Kiowa Creek

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.

8 Responses to Lost Locomotive of Kiowa Creek

  1. Remo says:

    always a compelling reread, I pass up all other tales in the book , and keep the book on hand for the locomotive story alone. My indulgence with the travail of the incident, it is a place that I can go see, touch and think about. There must be more tales of lost items on solid american soil to be told about so as I can go have lunch at the spot of last known where about s. Thanks for all of the good reads.

  2. Derek Browell says:

    Not so dramatic as this is the story of the Steam Roller on “Cut throat Lane” between Tynemouth and North Shields.. (North east England )..The old road went under the Blyth Tyne Railway. The road went down the bank and up the other side and under the bridge. Men were employed to fill in the road so that there was no rise up and the road ran at the same height as the top of the bridge. . When they were doing this the steam roller was left on the bank. Left unattended it rolled into the ditch and since they could not pull it out , they filled it in and built the road over it. It is still there. Cheers Derek
    P.S. Any more lost stories….?

  3. Dan F says:

    Speaking of ‘lost’ stories.. before the bridge was built between the two halves of Michigan, ferries would carry passengers, cars, etc across the lake. One of the first (SS Algomah) began service around 1888, and eventually was retired. It then served as a barge in Cheboygan, MI, sinking at the pier in 1942. It was raised, towed to Mackinaw City, and filled with stone to serve as a base for the Shepler’s ferry company dock.
    (“Shipwrecks of the Straits of Mackinac”, Feltner)

  4. Jim Sawhill says:

    That locomotive story is amazing!! As a railfan, I wonder how many locomotives are ‘lost’ in waterways. I know that the first time a telephone was used to call a doctor was when the Central New England’s bridge in Spoonville, CT fell.

    NUMA stories — and Clive’s writings — are wonderful.

  5. John Abatie says:

    Another buried artifact is one of Hitlers “pocket battleships”. I dont recall if it was the Lutzow (ex-Deutchland) or Admiral Hipper, but late in the war she was in port, and some British bomb near misses sank her at the dock. No salvage was mad e, and after removing a bit of the superstructure, she was covered to enlarge the port facilities. So she got a true burial…

  6. Corey S says:

    Check out this song from 2004 that Brian Burns wrote about this train wreck:


  7. John Davies says:

    Loved the true story, although ‘Night Passage’ made me groan with the railroading inaccuracies! However there are many other ‘lost engine’ stories, all equally true. One was buried during the building of the Manchester Ship Canal, for example. However the classic story involves an engine on the old Furness Railway which fell down a collapsed mine shaft that opened beneath the track – she’s still there over a century later. In America you have the engine (and crew) buried in the Tunnel Hill, Richmond disaster, which I understand is also still there. And what about all the locomotives genuinely found lying on the sea bed, lost in shipwrecks? (There’s one in York Museum, England, and those two Baldwins off the American East Coast, plus a batch in the Mediteranean, WW2 casualties ) Now there’s an almost endless, irresistible source of investigation for NUMA to get its teeth into! (Loved the stories about hunting civil war gunboats in the same book.)

  8. T J Hill says:

    @John Abatic

    It is Admiral Scheer that had her hull buried as part of a wharf in Kiel. Scheer capsized after being struck by Tallboy bombs from Lancasters.

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