Ken Peterson with his Leaping Loon rail truck, now on display at the vacant lot at 11th and Greene streets.
By Mark Esper
That funny-looking contraption in the Fourth of July parade — and on display now on Tommy Wipf’s lot at the corner of 11th and Greene streets — got a lot of double takes over the weekend.
It’s an 8-wheel drive custom built rail truck owned by Ken Peterson, a longtime part-time resident of Silverton.
To describe the assemblage is like taking a tour through a junkyard, which is pretty much how the thing was built.
Peterson said he first found the truck, built by a junkyard crew, south of Albuquerque about 20 years ago. He had it fitted to a 2-foot gauge railroad and it operated for 10 years at Northfield, Minn.
It apparently has a 1926 Ajax chassis. Its radiator is from a 1914 Atterbury, the gas tank from an old Rio truck. The seats are from an old Ford Bronco. The cow catcher is from an old zoo railroad. You get the idea.
“Everything people gave me for free I stuck on there,” Peterson said.
“It has air brakes, but they haven’t been tested for a few years,” he cautioned. He said he needed the 8-wheel drive for the steep grades in Colorado.
He recently refitted it for narrow-gauge line use, and has actually leased it to the San Juan County Historical Society.
“So it’s going to stay in town,” Peterson said.
And he has dubbed the custom rig the Leaping Loon, in honor of the Minnesota state bird.
“The Galloping Goose name has already been used,” Peterson explained.
The Leaping Loon was entered in the Fourth of July Parade this year as a float for the Silverton Northern Railroad project, but in this case it was on a trailer, pulled by a Jeep.
What powers the mighty locomotive? A Ford Pinto engine.
It’s top speed?
“I would say it would probably go as fast as a Pinto could,” Peterson said. “But I’m never in much of a hurry.”