Dream realized as Iron Mountain Tramway opens | PostIndependent.com

Dream realized as Iron Mountain Tramway opens

Carrie Click
Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” This New Year’s, Glenwood Springs’ locals and visitors have an exciting new locale to ring in 2004: a ride to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on the Iron Mountain Tramway overlooking the twinkling lights of the city below.

In one short year, a project that started as a seemingly far-fetched dream of owners Chuck and Nancy Peterson and Steve and Jeanne Beckley went from a collection of tram towers and a partially built visitor’s center and restaurant to a thriving attraction that surpassed all initial projections.

By the beginning of 2003, the tramway’s 18 towers were bolted to concrete pads dotting Iron Mountain in a line leading up to the caverns’ partially-built 9,400-square-foot visitor’s center and restaurant.

On Jan. 27, an 85-foot crane lowered the tram’s 65,000-pound motor room and bull wheel into place, and on Feb. 3, cable splicer R.J. Knight of Missouri came to town to connect the thick 4,300-foot-long tramway cable together.

Feb. 10 was when the first of eight gondola cabins were set on the tram cable, giving onlookers an idea of the finished tramway’s impact on Iron Mountain.

Although the initial opening date for the tramway was set for March 28, the Beckleys and Petersons pushed it back to April 26.

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By April 6, ski patrollers and tramway personnel were testing out an evacuation plan that would need state approval before opening the tramway to the public.

With loads of fanfare, the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and Iron Mountain Tramway opened to enthusiastic crowds standing in long lines on April 26. Activities included a ribbon-cutting celebration at the tramway base, cave tours, the opening of Exclamation Point restaurant, a variety of live music, a Ute Indian blessing, and, of course, rides up and down the tramway.

The Caverns were operated as a tourist attraction from 1895 until 1917, then were closed to the general public until the Beckleys reopened them in 1999. For four years, the caverns were open only in the summer and fall months, and visitors were driven up a steep gravel road to get to the entrance.

Now the tramway has far surpassed welcoming its 100,000th passenger on Sept. 30, 2004.

And today, the tram continues to be one of Glenwood’s most popular destinations.

“It’s us and the pool,” said Steve Beckley.

As of New Year’s Eve, Beckley said the tram had carried 120,000 passengers ” and counting.

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

cclick@postindependent.com