I know there are more fans of beer than of old trains, but if you happen to be in Golden Colorado, you can take a tour of the Coors Brewery, and just down the street, visit the Colorado Railroad Museum. You can even take a short train ride around the yard in a vintage diesel locomotive.
We stopped there in July and took that train ride as well as enjoyed their indoor museum. Covering the history of Colorado Railroads, and viewing the large-scale hand-built model rail cars and engines is cool enough, but take the trip downstairs to visit the model train exhibit as well.
The best part of the museum, in my opinion, however, is the outdoor exhibits. The image above features engine 5771, built in the 1950s. The museum also features engine 5762, her “sister” engine. On the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, they served until the 1980s. We didn’t get to physically board the engine or train cars, but there is a YouTube video that tells the story of the California Zephyr that traveled from Chicago to California and the General Electric engines that powered them.
For those interested in the museum and its exhibits, each month the Executive Director of the museum features a virtual tour.
We stopped there again in September, and on both days we saw volunteers working hard maintaining engines and tracks. In the image above, the crew is adjusting the track to better align this section with the turntable that is behind the person in the red shirt on the right.
This large turntable can easily handle 100-ton engines and is so well balanced, four people can easily reposition a heavy engine from the railyard to the maintenance roundhouse.
In September, though, we really lucked out to see one of the oldest operating steam engines in Colorado as workers took it out on the museum’s tracks for a workout. The image above features Engine 346 leaving the roundhouse.
But why look at the engine just getting warmed up to head out when you can watch the 100-ton engine head to the turntable, her bell ringing loudly. Click on the video I stored on my Flickr site to watch and listen.
Once loaded on the turntable, four workers rotate the turntable with minimal effort considering the 100-tons of engine balanced on top.
Finally, 346 is lined up with the tracks that head out and up the hill and she headed out for her short trip. We were indeed fortunate to have timed our visit to see this magnificent engine at work.
Take a look at the engine’s nameplate. The engine, manufactured in Philidelphia in 1881, is indeed 140 years old this year. Learn more about Engine 346 in the YouTube video from the railroad museum. Engine Number 346 is the oldest operating engine in Colorado, however, there is one engine, Number 191 that is older, delivered in 1880. That engine is no longer operational but it is still on display at the museum.
For those interested in the museum’s virtual tours, search for the Colorado Railroad Museum on YouTube. There is a wealth of history on Colorado Railroads posted there.
All of the images above and the videos that I posted are hosted on my Flickr site where you can pixel peep in 2K HD. I also have some extra images in that album that I did not post here, including a video of a small railyard engine in operation. You can visit the album here.
So lucky to see Engine 346. It looks like a fabulous old engine 😉
We were lucky to see it in operation, for sure!
I live in Denver and I’ve never heard of this place. Thanks for sharing! It sounds well worth a visit.
It is, indeed. If you are lucky, you might even get to see one of those old engines in operation.
These massive machines certainly paved the way for the world we live in today. Thank you for taking me along on such an amazing trip 🙂
You are welcome. These beautiful machines so much reflect the optimism of the industrial revolution.
Old trains are great to see and photograph. We have a few at the Sacramento Train Museum. I need to go back there because they have redone it. Every weekend families can ride on the old trains down out of Sacramento and back. It’s a fun ride.
I never pass up a chance to ride an old train!
Seeing old trains is interesting, seeing them move is even better. The sound of the bell reminds of the past when bells were ringing everywhere, in schools, hotels to announce the meal … and trains or level crossings.
That bell sound brings back my early memories of trains and stations.
I vote for beer AND trains, John. I grew up in Omaha and we took the San Francisco Zephyr to California to visit my grandparents more than once. My favorite memory is of the dome car with its fantastic views.
A few years ago, we rode the Empire Builder from Portland to Fargo and they had a dome car on that trip for us to use. I really wouldn’t mind a multi-day trip again sometime.
Who could fail to be impressed by these magnificent machines!?
Especially given the years in which they were built. Truly icons of the industrial revolution.