Defiance Coal Company

"The first steam-operating railroad museum in the U.S.A."

The mining of coal in Gallup, New Mexico began in 1882 when the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad reached the recently incorporated town. The Defiance Coal Company owned a parcel of land about six miles west of Gallup that contained about 320 acres of coal. Although mining in this Mentmore region began in 1914 the Defiance Coal Company purchased their mine in 1919 and George Kaseman of Albuquerque operated it until March 28, 1952.

To move coal from their two mines to a coal tipple at Mentmore, the company utilized a 40 inch narrow gauge railroad consisting of two locomotives: No. 1, an 18 ton saddle tank locomotive built by Porter in 1921 and No. 2, a saddle tank locomotive built by Davenport in 1930. The railroad had an estimated 20 miles of track in its entire system of underground mines and surface track to move coal to Mentmore. Each locomotive could haul as many as 40 "pit cars."

The Gallup region provided the background and scenery for many Hollywood movies. In 1942 railroad equipment from the Defiance Coal Company was used in the movie the "Desert Song" starring Dennis Morgan, Faye Emerson, Bruce Cabot, Loraine Day, Gene Lockhart, and Jack LaRue.

Website owned and operated by:
Robert J. Groman
130 Smokey Hollow Road
Baldwinsville, NY 13027

Defiance Coal Company Locomotive No. 2 leaving the mine yard with loaded "pit cars" on March 28, 1952. This was the final run of the Defiance Coal Company mining operations. [R. L. Welch Collection]

In late December of 1952, Dr. Groman was driving west with his family when he noticed the Porter locomotive No. 1 for sale one block away from Route 66 in the city of Gallup, NM. He was intrigued by the history of narrow gauge railroads in the west and now contemplated the idea to acquire a narrow gauge locomotive. He continued his trip west to Alamosa, NM where he met Robert Richardson. Richardson had acquired narrow gauge railroad equipment from the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad for his Narrow Gauge Museum and Motel [later to be moved to Golden and renamed the Colorado Railroad Museum]. He alerted Dr. Groman that it was not easy to acquire said equipment at the time. If Dr. Groman wanted a narrow gauge locomotive Richardson recommended that he purchase the one in Gallup.

On January 29, 1953, Dr. Groman flew to Gallup and closed the deal with owners Bert Cresto and Howard Wilson. He also purchased ten ore cars from the Gibson Coal Company. The locomotive and ore cars were moved by rail from Gallup, NM to Lacona, NY approximately 45 miles north of the city of Syracuse, NY on the New York Central's Watertown Division. From there the equipment was transported five miles by truck to a 150 acre piece of farm property Dr. Groman had acquired in Oswego County on the shores of "Sandy Pond" in the township of Sandy Creek, NY.

The Defiance Coal Company made its last run on March 28, 1952. The engineer was Jim Clark and a young Gallup resident, Ronald L. Welch, was the fireman. In 1966, Welch detailed the complete history of the Defiance Coal Company in the New Mexico Railroader for the Railroad Club of New Mexico. The brief description above was taken from Welch's research (with his permission).

In 1991, Bob Groman, son of Dr. Groman, began his research on Rail City Museum and all of the railroad equipment acquired for the museum by his father. It was fate that Groman and Welch would connect in 1993, correspond for eleven years, and finally meet in Gallup, NM on January 7, 2004. Coal mines and railroads were an integral part of the Gallup area history. Porter locomotive No. 1 was operated at the Defiance Coal Company by Ron's Grandfather, engineer James C. Welch. And as mentioned above, Ron himself made the Last Run of the Defiance Coal Company's railroad in 1952. Ironically, a Defiance Coal Company locomotive would be equally important to the legacy of Stanley A. Groman, MD from Syracuse, NY. The purchase of No. 1 in 1953 inspired him to construct Rail City Museum thereby saving a respectable number of railroad locomotives, streetcars, structures and equipment (destined to have been destroyed) for future generations to enjoy.

Michael Pryzianzza poses on the running board of Locomotive No. 1 shortly after it arrived in Lacona, NY from Gallup, NM. The baggage car behind the locomotive contains 10 ore cars from the Gibson Coal Company in Gallup, NM. [RCHM Collection]

Bob and Stan pose with their father Dr. Groman and Bert Cresto on No. 1 in Gallup, N.M. in December, 1952. [RCHM Photo Collection]