Review: Colorado Railroad Museum

Relive Colorado’s colorful and fascinating railroading history.

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Galloping Goose

The Colorado Railroad Museum has the Number Two Galloping Goose. It also has Number Six and Number Seven. Amazingly, all of the seven original Galloping Geese survive. The Galloping Geese are automobile engine-powered railroad vehicles that carried a few passengers and small amounts of cargo for the Rio Grande Southern Railroad from the 1930s through the early 1950s. They were named for the way that they “waddled” on narrow gauge track.

Narrow Gauge

What is “narrow gauge” track? A narrow gauge railway has a track width narrower than 4 feet 8 1⁄2 inches. Anything else is known as standard gauge. Narrow gauge railways have widths between 2 feet and 3 and half feet. Most of the narrow gauge track in Colorado is three feet. Dual gauge track has three rails, so that narrow gauge and standard gauge trains can run on the same track.

These are some of the new things you will learn and see at the Colorado Railroad Museum. Established in 1959 and housed on fifteen acres in Golden, Colorado, The Colorado Railroad Museum tells the story of railroading in Colorado. Colorado’s high elevation, steep grades and varied transportation needs (passenger and industrial) required a diverse mixture of locomotive and rail car types.

For example, the Manitou & Pikes Peak No. 1 (S) was designed to climb steep grades as high as 25 percent. Underneath the locomotive, it has a toothed wheel that is connected to a stationary rack rail in the track that works much the same way that rack and pinion steering works in an automobile. The circular gear meshes with the rack rail to assist climbing during steep ascents as well as to assist braking during steep descents.

Main Building

The museum building is fashioned after a late 1800s train terminal. The lower level of the depot museum houses an exhibit that explains the life of the the Railroadmen: Trainmen (the conductors, yardmen, and brakemen who handled the train on a daily basis), the Enginemen (the firemen who shoveled coal in to the steam locomotive boilers), and the Section Men (those men who cared for the track itself). There is also the large HO railroad exhibit where a visitor, for a quarter, can watch the model trains in action. In addition to the HO railroad, there is a G-scale railroad outside the depot museum, and The Denver Garden Railway Society Members operate it on Saturday mornings if the weather cooperates.

Working Exhibits

The museum’s No Aqua water tank is a working water filling station for steam locomotives. The No Aqua water tank has a 10,000 gallon capacity and it is used to refill the museum’s working steam locomotives. There is also a working turntable for turning locomotives around and a working roundhouse where visitors can safely watch volunteers who contribute nearly 1200 hours per month of maintenance and restoration work.

All in all, this is a great way to spend an afternoon. Allow at least two hours for your visit as you will need the time to take it all in. This is more than a railroad museum. This is a museum that presents to the visitor what is part and parcel of our technology, our history, and our culture.

About Bloice Davison

Bloice C. Davison, III blogs, travels occasionally, and takes pictures. He has experience in the telecommunications, banking, retailing and outside sales businesses. He is a former fly-fishing guide and fly-fishing instructor for the Orvis Company. He served as an Aircraft Maintenance Specialist in the United States Air Force. A 1988 graduate of Virginia Tech, he also has a BS in statistics from the Metropolitan State College of Denver.

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