Old car just the ticket for new rail museum | PostIndependent.com

Old car just the ticket for new rail museum

Lynn BurtonStaff Writer

A Glenwood Springs based train group is on track for opening its museum this year, thanks to a California developer who donated a 100-year-old railcar the organization hopes to sell for upwards of $50,000.”We’ve got a couple of interested parties here, but if we can’t sell it we’ll probably put it on eBay,” said Jan Girardot, president of the Western Colorado Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. “If eBay can sell a town, it can sell a railcar.”The Litchfield is a restored Great Northern dining and parlor car. The car measures 72 feet by 9 feet, and was used as a real estate office in Telluride until the California developer bought the ground underneath it.”He gave it to us as a tax write-off,” Girardot said, as he sat down in the Glenwood Springs train depot waiting room and opened up a folder of information on the railcar. “It’s up to us to move it.”Girardot said the Western Colorado Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society isn’t interested in keeping the car, because it’s not narrow gauge. “The first tracks through Glenwood Canyon and the Roaring Fork Valley were narrow gauge, then later switched to standard gauge,” he said.The railcar is now sitting on a short section of tracks in Telluride, and the developer wants it off the property by March. To move the car, the new owner will have it hoisted onto a low boy trailer and have it driven away.Proceeds from the sale will go a long way toward helping the rail society convert two unused rooms at the historic Glenwood Springs depot into a museum for pictures, displays, memorabilia and large-scale model trains.”We plan to have it open, just to get started, within a month,” Girardot said as he got up and headed toward the train station’s soon-to-be museum area.Both museum rooms are 30 feet by 30 feet, with 15-foot ceilings, and they make up the east wing of the 99-year-old depot.The museum’s primary space will be the former Women’s Waiting Room, which was a mirror image of the waiting room in the west wing, until it was sealed off from the public decades ago.”Men waited in the other room where they could smoke,” Girardot said.Railway society volunteers and tradespeople have worked to renovate and restore the Women’s Waiting Room since leasing it from Union Pacific in 2000.Oak wainscot circles the room and is in good shape. The original maple floor was hidden under asbestos tiles for decades, until the tiles were ripped up. The railway society board’s current decision is whether to carpet the floor just to get the museum up and running, or wait until the black tile adhesive can be removed to expose the original wood. Girardot said he’s voting for the original wood.”It’s a beautiful floor,” Girardot said, just as Aspen resident Adam Walton stuck his head in the room to say hello.”I thought you’d be finished by now,” said Walton, who met Girardot through a mutual friend last year.”We’ve been painting, plastering, getting in electricity,” Girardot replied.As Walton ambled to the waiting room to meet his eastbound train to Denver, Girardot headed outside, then east on the train platform to the heavy door that opens to the Motor Car and Express Room. This is where rail companies parked their “putt-putts” that scooted up and down the tracks for maintenance, and where clerks accepted express packages for shipment.In the Motor Room, the railway society will display heavy equipment, including a 1940s-era Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway “speeder” putt-putt slated for restoration. The society will also display sections of a Glenwood Springs Canyon model the Colorado Department of Transportation built during Interstate 70 construction. Another piece for the Motor Room is an 8-foot-long steam engine and tender car built from a kit by a local craftsman.”It actually runs,” Girardot said.After a chilly tour of the unheated, and unrestored, motor room, Girardot shoved the thick door shut and set off for the depot’s cozy waiting room. Settling in on a wooden bench, he pointed to the plaster arch that separates the waiting room from the ticket area. An identical arch once graced the Women’s Waiting Room, but was long ago covered up. The railway society plans to rebuild the arch as a final touch in the room.”There are few old plasterers around who still know how to do this kind of thing,” Girardot said.Girardot said railway society members are interested in large-scale model cars, which measure 12 to 18 inches long. Those cars chug around tracks, just like their smaller Lionel counterparts. When the museum is open, large-scale tracks and trains will encircle the Womens’ Waiting Room.”It’s going to be a kick,” Girardot said with a smile.Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534lburton@postindependent.com

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