Glenwood’s Railroad Museum takes visitors on a trip back in time
Post Independent Intern
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Men smoked their cigars in one waiting room, while the women waited in another for a train to pull into the Glenwood Springs Depot in the late 1800s. Today, there is just one waiting area for everybody with the former room for the ladies transformed into something else.
The Western Colorado Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society has changed that room into a railroad museum.
The popular museum welcomes more than 8,000 visitors annually.
In 2003, the members of the society decided that a dedicated railroad museum commemorating the colorful history right here in Glenwood Springs would be a great attraction. Two connecting rooms now make up the Glenwood Railroad Museum.
Viewers gain a rich experience with an operating model railroad, photo essays following routes of the trains, and a room that holds a track maintenance car and 80-year-old signal lights.
Tour Guide Dick Helmke takes viewers on a high energy walk through the museum. He points out the model and explains some of the photos, he takes visitors back in time, what used to be the Railway Express Agency, which is the equivalent to today’s UPS service.
The trip ends with an informational show-and-tell about the track car and the tools used to fix and work on tracks. Helmke loves showing kids how heavy the tools are and how much effort is needed to use the hand tools for removing spikes and drilling holes into the track. Each piece of equipment is solid iron and extremely heavy.
The museum is located in the train depot, which was in built in 1904. The town’s first depot was at Seventh Street and Pitkin Avenue, but it was destroyed after the new one was built.
“It wasn’t as nice as people wanted it to be,” Frontier Museum Director Cindy Hines said.
The townspeople felt that since Glenwood was named a tourist destination, visitors needed to be welcomed by a good-looking building.
Along with the separated waiting rooms, the depot had baggage handlers and a telegraph messenger. Messages could be sent by passengers to outside people along with the communication to the train operators. Today passengers handle their own luggage, wait in the same area, and send mail via cell phones, computers or other technology.
The trains have switched to diesel and are no longer run by steam. Helmke explained that steam engines could blow up easily because of the constant fire under the holding tank full of boiling water.
Another aspect of train life in the late 1800s and early 1900s was “The Hoop.” It’s essentially exactly how it sounds. Train orders were clipped to it and a worker would hand it over to the operator as the train came by. The operator would drop the hoop down the tracks and the worker would run to get the hoop and use it again later.
Preserving the history of Glenwood’s trains and railroads is a why visitors to the museum appreciate the value of old towns and today’s way of life.
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