The Colorado Railroad Museum

When my husband and I recently visited Golden, Colorado, we made tracks for the Colorado Railroad Museum -- and we're glad we did! As longtime railroad fans, the quality of the museum and its collections thrilled us to no end.

Established in 1959 to preserve Colorado's flamboyant railroad era -- particularly its pioneering narrow-gauge railroads--the museum sprawls over 15 acres and includes three main buildings, a half-mile loop of narrow-gauge demonstration track, a shady picnic area and dozens of rail cars. Kids will love the outdoor garden railroad.

The main building looks like a typical 1880s depot. Its main exhibits include a telegrapher's office and a gallery full of displays that include railroad china and lanterns, photos, maps, historic documents and artifacts from every railroad that ever operated in the state.

At the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, you'll find an amazing array of railroad cars and memorabilia. Its collection of rolling stock ranges from small maintenance rail cars (above) to a vintage 1880 steam locomotive (below). Next to the locomotive is one of the museum's three rare automobile-rail car hybrids, known as the "Galloping Geese".

We were told that this is the most extensive collection of Colorado railroad material anywhere! We particularly enjoyed exhibits about the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, which was based in our hometown.

The main building also features an art gallery, an extensive HO-scale model layout built and operated by the Denver HO Model Railroad Club, a great gift shop and a wonderful bookstore with more than a thousand titles in stock.

Next we crossed the grounds to the Cornelius W. Hauck Roundhouse, where workers restore and maintain the museum's rolling stock. Along the way, we passed the museum's 70 cars and locomotives, which include almost everything imaginable: small-track maintenance cars, steam and diesel locomotives, cabooses, freight cars, work cars, gondolas--even a rolling post office. We also admired three "Galloping Geese", which are rare auto-railcar hybrid vehicles built in the 1930s by the Rio Grande Southern in Ridgway.

NEXT STOP... COLORADO HISTORY. The Colorado Railroad Museum is housed in a building that looks like--what else?--an old railroad depot (below). A li'l conductor (above) is fascinated by the outdoor G-scale railroad behind the museum, where you'll often find members of the Denver Garden Railway Society at work (inset).

The five-bay roundhouse is equipped to do every kind of fabrication imaginable. We saw volunteers working on one of the "Galloping Geese" and a Denver & Rio Grande Railroad steam locomotive. Outside the roundhouse is a manual Armstrong-type turntable that's so well balanced that one man can turn a locomotive around!

We were fortunate to visit the museum on a monthly "steam up" weekend, when one of the locomotives pulls an open observation car and a restored historic coach around a demonstration track. Visitors can ride as much as they want--for free.

After riding the train, we explored each car on display. This was Kathy's favorite part; she climbed into the cupola of a Rio Grande Southern caboose, looked through a restored work car and inspected the cab of a steam locomotive. We learned that the inside of the mail car is just like a regular post office.

In all, we spent more than 6 hours at the museum and just scratched the surface. You can bet that we'll be back the next time we're in the area. All aboard!

Before You Visit

Golden is about 15 miles west of Denver on U.S. Highway 6.

The Colorado Railroad Museum (17155 W. 44th Ave.) is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; it's open an hour later from June through August and closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Days. Admission is $7 for adults and $4 for children ages 2-16. A family rate of $16 includes parents plus all children under age 16.

Only the outdoor exhibits are wheelchair accessible. For more information, call 1-800-365-6263 or visit coloradorailroadmuseum.org.

More to See

The Mt. Evans Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in North America, runs 28 miles to the summit of 14,264-foot Mt. Evans. It starts about 20 miles west of Golden at Idaho Springs; for details about the "road to the stars" and other area attractions, visit www.clearcreekcounty.org or call the Clear Creek County Tourism Bureau at 1-800-882-5278.

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