The Goose and the Juice

Galloping Goose #5 has introduced us to many interesting people. Right now I can’t decide if I am more fascinated by the Goose or the people that make it run. My interest in the Geese started in 1971 when my wife and I saw #4 and #5 while on vacation. A few history books later, the interest ignited and the library had started.

Years later I was listening to past GGHS President and chief motorman, Larry Spencer. When Larry trained us to take care of and operate the Goose with our priority on Safety, he illustrated many of his points with stories that often ended with the quote: “God loves the Goose”.

Here’s a new story: Location: Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, Chama, NM

July 27, 2017 just outside Chama, NM on the way to Antonito, CO, the motorman noticed that the generator wasn’t charging the battery normally. It was working but a little erratically. All worked well, but the crew wanted to check the battery voltage at Perry’s Pond. It was found to be less than expected. While checking it again at Cumbres Pass, the generator had restored most of the battery voltage, so the immediate crisis was averted. If the generator had failed, the Goose could run for quite a while on battery voltage alone, but the operator would not want to shut if off for fear of not having enough voltage to restart the engine.

At the mid trip lunch stop at Osier, the generator looked acceptable, and no further action was deemed necessary. At Sublette, the prognosis was not as promising. After arrival at Antonito and many conversations later, it was decided to order new brushes from the auto parts store in Alamosa, CO. 30 miles north of Antonito.

The following day was filled with pictures and fun, but the weakening generator was never far from the crew’s mind. Upon returning to Antonito the brushes were installed in the generator, but the generator output had not improved sufficiently. After several phone calls, Motorman John Randall tracked down the only person in the area that might be able to help us rebuild the generator at 5 pm on a Friday! Directions to his house were exchanged and John and I sped off with our generator, regulator and spare parts box to see if our new acquaintance could save the day.

45 minutes later we met Mike Rasmussen. Mike is a very impressive figure towering over me and impressing John, who is no miniature guy either. Mike is gracious and welcomed us into one of his outbuildings on his 160 acre spread. A bank of test equipment caught my eye as I adjust to the light - a work bench that had seen it’s share of broken generators and starters. Many of the victim’s “remains” were still there. Some bleak thoughts crossed my mind as I again realized that everything on his work bench was of recent vintage, but the generator in my arms was as old or older than I am!

He quizzed us about the lineage of our generator and eyed it suspiciously and began to test it. It failed each test but just barely… I could see why the symptoms were confusing. One minute the generator might pass, then fail, it was never a healthy specimen.

The doctor finally stoped his analysis and declared the patient ill and near death. He looked around his shop for a replacement, found one, only to find that our double pulleys would not fit. Looking around for another similar transplant, none is found… the atmosphere in the shop is getting stuffy.

Mike is not a quitter. He stares off into space for a minute, shifting from one foot to anther. He finally comes back to us to say, he thinks he has a suitable replacement generator if only he can think of where he put it. It seems he warehoused a generator that would fit one of his older trucks, but where… Another few foot shifts and his eyes brighten and he instructs us to follow him.
Now it is dark and I have a feeble flashlight and I’m barely keeping up with him as he weaves around a few cars and trucks and flings open the rollup door of a semi trailer that is being used for a warehouse. 3 minutes later he has the item in hand as he examines the details. “Yes, this will work.”

After exchanging the bearings and brushes for new parts, testing and passing, comparing the mounting brackets, the generator is declared suitable! “Now, where is your regulator?” Having anticipated his question we hand over the part we had taken off the Goose, and it’s backup replacement.

Mike mounts them on the test stand and grouses about how the first one is shot and the replacement is no better. “Do you have a replacement regulator?” asks John. Mike answers “yes” as he disappears into an adjacent room. When he returns he deposits an ancient cardboard box with a brand new shiny 1950’s era regulator on the workbench and begins the testing procedure. All tests are passed and we are thrilled!

“I want my generator back after your run in September and I’ll have yours rebuilt by then”, Mike reassures us. With no more that a handshake and our names and phone numbers, we thank Mike and invite him to ride the Goose on Sunday afternoon. I can still see him waving at us, reminding us of the proper procedure to install the generator and regulator as I am turning the car around in his driveway and heading off into the dark, hoping I can find my way back to Alamosa and then its a breeze to Antonito and the Goose.

When the Goose revved up, the lights came on and the voltage soared to 12.6 volts so we could finally go to bed ready for the next day, our biggest ticket day of the excursion. John and I were relieved to think no one would be disappointed tomorrow because the Goose had no voltage. The Goose had JUICE!

Two days later, as we were preparing for the last run to Cumbres Pass, who walks up but our generator hero, Mike Rassmussen. What a great sight to see him, ready to go for a ride on the Goose! John had purchased a ticket for Mike with his name on it and he jumped on. I was acting as Conductor in the back so I regret that I couldn’t visit with or see his reaction as he rode in the front seat but word has it that he was in heaven.

You meet the nicest people working with the Goose, and if you need an alternator, generator or starter worked on while you are in the Southern Colorado in the Antonito area, I recommend:

Mike Rasmussen
phone (719)-589-6824
cell (719) 937-1878
14478 County Rd. 4 South
Alamosa, CO 81101 ——a little shameless advertisement here.

Come ride with us next time, we would love to meet you, and I'll bet we will have a new story to tell,

Arizona Joe

Joe Beringer
Tempe, AZ
jber@cox.net