Glenwood rail museum nearly sidetracked
The Glenwood Railroad Museum is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday through Monday to overlap with busy Amtrak departures. Arrangements can also be made for group tours with advance notice.
Address: 413 Seventh St, Glenwood Springs
For the Glenwood Railroad Museum to thrive, it’s in real need of more money and volunteers.
“We’d like to be able to do more, but right now we’re struggling,” said museum docent Pat Thrasher.
The museum, nestled in the east side of Glenwood Springs’ historic train station, opened in 2003 after extensive repairs to the mostly abandoned space. Thanks to extremely reasonable rent from Union Pacific, the nonprofit has mostly been able to keep up with other expenses — insurance, utilities and a handful of part-time positions. But even with the occasional grant, a $1 entry fee and gift shop proceeds, the budget lacks room for maintenance or expansion, and with age and declining health, the volunteer base has dwindled.
“Some of our exhibits need some help, and we have a number of donations we need to appropriately archive or display,” Thrasher said.
Thrasher himself is a volunteer — a retired Forest Service information officer who has had a passion for trains since he first boarded one as a tween in 1963. His father worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and when they moved to Alaska they did the first stretch by rail.
“That planted the seed for this passion — my wife would say sometimes obsession,” Thrasher recalled. “Rail travel was really on the downturn, in part because of our love affair with the open road and with getting someplace in a hurry in the air. … Trains are a chance to slow down and unwind. You see some places you’re not going to see easily from a car, much less an airplane.”
Even if you’re not a model train enthusiast or a frequent Amtrak passenger, the museum has something to offer.
“By learning about the history of railroads, you get a better awareness of how Western culture evolved,” he added. “This building itself is a museum piece. … We feel that this is a great place to tell that story.”
The main display occupies the station’s former ladies’ waiting room and focuses on the experience of train travel over the years. A lot of visitors, local and otherwise, never realize there’s another room through the old railroad express office.
“I think people miss the extra few steps into the back room,” Thrasher said. “It’s an important part of the collection and the story.”
In the old shop, you can dig deeper into the backstage aspects of the railroad and examine a miniature working steam locomotive. There are also other relics of the area’s history, like a scale model of the Glenwood Canyon and stretchers from the Hotel Colorado’s naval hospital days.
“If you live here, this is a place you can come to get connected with a significant part of Glenwood’s history,” Thrasher said.
It can be hard to navigate, however, without someone to explain the artifacts’ significance.
“For folks to really get full benefit of what they’re seeing, it takes someone to learn the background and talk about it,” Thrasher said.
That doesn’t mean you have to be an expert to begin with.
“None of us ever worked for a railroad. It’s not a prerequisite,” he added. “All you need is in an interest and a willingness to learn.”
There’s also plenty of behind the scenes work. Someone with grant writing experience would be particularly appreciated.
With more money and volunteers, the museum could also potentially do more events, bring in more speakers, and even run tours of historical railroad sites around the valley.
If you don’t have time to volunteer or deep enough pockets for a big donation, you can become a member for $15 a year or just stop by and visit.
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Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon may be closed intermittently Wednesday through the weekend, as highway crews break down and remove boulders and patch potholes caused by Tuesday’s rock slide.