Celebrating our 60th anniversary this summer has not only prompted us to look back at the wonderful achievements of our past, but to look to the future. The Colorado Railroad Museum has an exciting future ahead, and I hope you’ll join me and the Museum’s entire leadership team as we take on new projects and initiatives to
help propel us forward!
This past year saw the return to Colorado of Rio Grande Southern steam locomotive No. 20. Restoration to active service of the RGS 20 has been one of our most ambitious and anticipated projects. With the major repairs completed in Pennsylvania, final reassembly, plumbing, and painting are under way here at the Museum. Work on the tender is complete, and the cab has been reinstalled along with numerous other components and appliances. With thanks to all who have donated in support of this lengthy and complex project, we are looking forward to a triumphant return to service in summer 2020 for this Colorado railroading icon.
Our shops team has been especially busy this past year. Denver and Rio Grande Western narrow-gauge caboose No. 0578 was rehabilitated and returned to service, and the cab of D&RGW locomotive No. 318 was rebuilt and the locomotive placed back on display. Another half-dozen railway vehicles were repainted during the year, including Denver & Intermountain caboose No. 902, Union Pacific streamlined coach No. 5442, Rio Grande Southern business car “Rico”, and our operating narow- gauge diesel locomotive. In addition to all of this activity, D&RGW K-37 steam locomotive No. 491 was maintained and operated a number of weekends, along with our everyday mainstay, Rio Grande Southern “Galloping Goose” No. 7. D&RGW 2-8-0 No. 346 even made an operating appearance for the Museum’s 60th Anniversary. We’ve accomplished so much in the past decade, yet the demands of ongoing preservation are many and never-ending.
As this year concludes and we head for the start of 2020, our restoration schedule is no less challenging. The first of two of our White Pass & Yukon passenger cars will be remodeled to provide year-round wheelchair access aboard our moving trains and increase our capacity for a luxurious experience aboard The Polar Express. The UTLX “GRAMPS” tank car (a regional favorite) will be repaired, repainted, and returned to operational status. Lastly, the Rio Grande Southern caboose No. 0404 will undergo a rehabilitation that will include interior and exterior woodwork, window repairs, mechanical inspection and repairs, and a complete repainting and lettering. Once complete, the caboose will be paired with the RGS 20 and available for special excursions at the Museum – truly a reunion not to be missed!
Also over the next year, we are planning for a host of improvements around the Museum. We will be focusing on improved accessibility for our guests, with installation of a paved walkway leading to a new entrance for our accessible restrooms in the Library building. We are currently preparing specifications and seeking estimates on the cost to re-roof our Roundhouse, something that is coming due since the structure dates from 2000. We’re also preparing plans for a paved walkway leading to the Roundhouse and Turntable, a longoverdue project which will require significant funding.
Based on demand, we plan to increase exhibits and interactive programming in 2020. To follow 2019’s successful Images from the Tracks: Photographs of William Henry Jackson exhibit, we will install a travelling exhibit from the Center for Railroad Photography & Art – Railroads and the American Industrial Landscape: Ted Rose Paintings and Photographs. The fall will bring a new exhibit Westward in the Age of Rail and, to parallel our Polar Express Train Ride in winter, we will present The Polar Express in Miniature. Exhibits that highlight the difference in rail gauges and that re-create specific locomotives from the Colorado Railroad Museum in LEGO form will round out a full year of changing exhibits.
As we’ve progressed through 2019, our guests have been telling us that they love all of the improvements around the Museum’s property. They’re also telling us that they’d like to be able to ask questions and have more interactions during their visit. We currently have volunteers scheduled to staff specific cars and provide turntable demonstrations during special events, but our goal is to exceed expectations year-round! To supplement our expanded programming, we plan to broaden our volunteer recruiting efforts and strengthen our training programs. For 2020, we have set a goal of scheduling volunteer hosts or “docents” every summer weekend, to help explain why railroads have played such an important role in our state. We’ll expand this program as recruitment efforts bear fruit.
The process of developing an Interpretive Master Plan for the Museum, launched this year thanks to a generous grant from the State Historical Fund, will be completed in 2020. The plan is a starting point to improve the museum experience and connect us to a new generation of Coloradans who may not be familiar with railroads and their incredible contributions to Colorado’s development and history. The completed plan will help us to prioritize a number of necessary improvements for our future. We’re already taking steps to improve accessibility for all patrons, and reevaluate our signage and audio tours to enable our visitors to have a more memorable experience. In future years, we anticipate improving visitor flow through the museum (especially related to the entrance/exit experience), expanding exhibit galleries and program spaces, and much more.
Through the support of our donors the Colorado Railroad Museum has grown from its modest beginnings as a privately held collection, to a significant non-profit institution dedicated to the preservation, restoration, and interpretation of Colorado railroad history. The Colorado Railroad Museum continues to be an unforgettable historic experience that engages more people – more profoundly – each and every day. As we prepare to take the necessary steps to create an even brighter future, we are asking you to help us again. Won’t you please consider making a generous year-end gift to help make the Museum’s bold plans possible? With your gift you can help preserve railroad history, and tell the compelling stories of the many and varied people whose lives the railroad has transformed.
P.S. Don’t forget: Gifts to the Colorado Railroad Museum are fully tax deductible to the extent permitted by law!