14 March 2014

A Little R&R

Colorado Railroad Museum.
Image: Jen Baldwin, 2014
Once in a great while, I actually get to just do something for fun.

However, with my family and our mutual interests, this often leads me to a historical or genealogical discovery anyway. Camping trips often include exploring nearby cemeteries (hubby doesn't have to ask anymore, he just pulls in), weekends include museums and historic towns, you get the idea. This past weekend, we decided to enjoy some warmer temperatures and mad a jaunt to Golden, Colorado, home of Coors Brewing, the Colorado School of Mines and enough historic buildings to keep just about anybody happy. They also happen to have the Colorado Railroad Museum. All three of us were anxious to spend the day in t-shirts, so off we went.

It started out innocently enough. Lunch, a walk around the historic core of the downtown of Golden. Then back to the Colorado Railroad Museum. We had passed it once, and it looked amazing, so there was no stopping us! I've been wanting to explore this site for a while, as they house the Robert W. Richardson Railroad Library, "one of the most comprehensive railroad research and reference collections in the United States."(1)  Who doesn't love trains? I sure do, I grew up with them, and still own some of my tracks and engines from the display in the basement.

Historic restoration in progress; watching #50 take a turn
around the yard was a great experience.
Image: Jen Baldwin, 2014
The Depot Museum was great, but the real action was outside in the Railyard. Their collection is quite massive, and includes several steam engines, a rotary snowplow, and some unusual work horses made out of pickup trucks. The Cornelius W. Hauck Restoration Roundhouse Facility was quite interesting for the adults in the group, and we watched for several minutes as a crew of men worked on a smaller engine, I think diesel. We were happily surprised later in the day to watch as they moved the engine out of the roundhouse for the first time and took a little tour of the yard. The energy was palatable, and it was quite obvious it had been a while since the last time it ran under its own power.

So what does all of this have to do with genealogy? As great as it was, I could go on and on about this museum, and I have multiple photos I could share. One of the real highlights for me occurred when I was waiting for admission to be paid, and was wondering through the stacks of rail history books they sell in the gift shop. On a nearby table, there was a basket marked "free," so I took a chance. Inside, I found one copy of the April 1899 "The Colorado Road, Colorado and Southern Ry" schedule, map and time table. It's a reproduction, of course, printed in 1978, but the information is invaluable to someone like me. Since so much of my research is focused on Summit County, finding the timetable for the Denver to Breckenridge and Leadville route was incredibly exciting. And then I realized there was maps inside!

Are you still trying to figure out what the big deal is? Let me provide an example. I find little bits and pieces in the local newspaper all the time, "Mr. Westerman traveled to Denver today to discuss his mining operations and other business." "Mrs. Hamilton ventured with a party of three other ladies for a day of shopping in Leadville this week." You see these mentions all the time in the society and "local happenings" columns in the newspapers. Now I can tell you, in 1899, it would have taken Mr. Westerman seven hours to get from Breckenridge to Denver on the railroad. SEVEN. It would have taken Mrs. Hamilton just over three to get to Leadville, with 12 stops in between the two towns and two significant mountain passes. (These are real life examples, by the way.)

Learning that Mr. Westerman traveled to Denver for business is one thing, realizing that he would have been gone at least three days - two days for travel and one for actual business doings - is quite another. The detail of a personal timeline for these individuals just upped to the level of minute.

This past week, I've been toying with making Breckenridge a true One Place Study for me; and if I can gain the support of the local historical organization, it may happen sooner than I originally planned. An in-depth study of the community, its people and this particular time frame would benefit greatly from a timetable such as this, and the information you can find in it. Far beyond just a schedule, this is an incredible piece to have in my arsenal.

And to think, all I had to do was peek in a basket on the free table.

"The Colorado Road" map from the Colorado & Southern Ry.
Image: Jen Baldwin, 2014

Timetable for the Denver to Breckenridge and Leadville Route, and return.
Colorado & Southern Railway, reproduction 1978.
Image: Jen Baldwin, 2014

(1) Colorado Railroad Museum brochure

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