The Colorado Midland Railway is one of the oldest if not the oldest two-rail O scale layouts in the United States. While we're waiting to load our railfan train headed up by an A-B-B-A lashup of four bright Armour Yellow Union Pacific E8/9s I'd like to tell you a little about the Denver Society of Model Railroaders and their layout.
Located in Denver's Union Station, the club started on the second-floor balcony in the early 1930s. It moved to the basement to gain more room in 1935 and has remained there ever since. Fifty-nine years in the same location probably makes it the biggest two-rail O scale layout to remain in the same place. If it isn't, I'm sure we'll be hearing from some of our readers.
The club keeps taking down walls and expanding, rebuilding older parts and developing the technical aspects of the layout. They've painted the walls white and added dozens of fluorescent lights to brighten up what originally was a very dark and gloomy basement.
The original central portion of Denver's Union Station was built in 1881 from cut stone. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Denver Tenninal Railroad owns and operates the building and the tracks on the west side of the building. The National Railway Historical Society has offices on the main floor of the building.
When either a westbound or eastbound Amtrak train is due, the station is hopping with activity. It still has an old-fashioned soda fountain and gift shop so waiting passengers can grab a bite to eat and buy a magazine and a Colorado souvenir before catching the Zephyr or the Pioneer.
Well, it's now time to go down to the Springs depot to begin our railfanning. Join us by means of the photos and text as we railfan on the Colorado Midland Railroad.
(Photo I ) - Our 17-car yellow excursion passenger train, owned by Roger Lewis, has just pulled into the Springs station on Track Two. However, we can't board the train until the Super Chief, owned by Hans Nierman, pulls out of Track One. There are a few of the 700+ railfans that are here for the National O Scale Convention out on the platform taking pictures of the Super Chief before it pulls out.
In the distance a UP Big Boy owned by Stafford Clark pounds the rails on the Western Slope witb the Hot Shot Peach Special - a string of refrigerator cars that must be a mile long.
The Denver Society of Model Railroaders has 25 members who maintain about 13 1/2 scale miles of standard-gauge mainline and seven scale miles of narrow gauge, not counting sidings and yards; it keeps the active membership busy. On Tuesday nights they work from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., and on Friday nights they operate trains. The layout is open to the public on the last Friday night of the month from September to May. It's during those open-house evenings that you find hundreds of people watching trains operate on the Colorado Midland. Club membership is open to O scale modelers.
We've been given the order to board our UP Excursion Train numbered 900 (after the number on the lead diesel). We'll have to cross two tracks to get to our train.
The club's president, Starford Clark, an architect, tells us that all of the ties were hand cut and hand laid and that the code 148 rail and switches were also all hand laid. Most of the early switch motors were installed after World War II and were fashioned from B-29 bomber wing-nap machines.
(Photo 2) - Our O Scale conventioneers are all on board and our fan-trip train is now pulling out of Springs heading for Wandel Loop and Yard where we will turn the train around.
The names of most of the towns and sidings have been copied from the true CM prototype in the mountain regions of Colorado. However, we have seen the names of present and former members crop up on a siding sign here and there.
(Photo 3) - This is Wandel Loop and Yard. The CM keeps a leased Rio Grande NW2 switcher here to service this agricultural community. CM gets two to four car loads of grain or farm machinery in here every day. Not much activity, but it adds up. They figure if they get 200 or more carloads a year in here it pays to keep a switcher here to help out.
(Photo 4) - Look out the window. We're at the county-road grade crossing by Keiser's Corner. Most of the buildings on the layout are kits, but as you can see some are scratchbuilt.
The oldest part of the layout was built with 1" and 2" boards, chicken wire, cloth and plaster. Remember, this section was built in the mid '30s, about a decade before plywood started to come into common usage. In the newer narrow gauge section they still use chicken wire according to club secretary, Ron Keiser, but have replaced the plaster with hundreds of pounds of Hydrocal. They cast their rocks out of molding plaster and have used hundreds of plaster rocks on the layout to simulate some of the mountainous territory that the prototype Colorado Midland once covered during its heyday.
(Photo 5) - We have turned around, passed the Springs Station and the CM's seven-stall roundhouse, gone through Hartsel and are now approaching Bath. Local railfans keep an eye out for this little maintenance-of-way section house because it lets them know they are about to cross the spectacular Overland Bridge.
Except for the yards all of the railroad is on grade. The steepest grade. 3.5%. is between Bath and Hartsel.
(Photo 6) - Prior arrangements had been made for a photo run-by at Bath, which gave us a chance to get out and stretch our legs and get some good shots of our train and its engines.
Painter Pete Foster created the 280' of mountains on the four walls that surround the CM and D&RGW layout. Foster has painted murals in other parts of Denver and even painted a mural in Loretta Lynn's home.
(Photo 7) We slid by Buena Vista pretty quietly, but look up there and you can see D&RGW's San Juan narrow-gauge passenger train on a trestle running along that rock wall between Marshall Pass and Pocono. The train is owned by Ron Keiser.
The standard-gauge locomotives (steam and diesel) that are lettered for the Colorado Midland are owned by the club. That includes 20 diesels and six steam engines. Sixteen other diesels and 14 steamers are owned by individuals in the club.
(Photo 8) - As we continue along we spy this interesting old house along the right-of-way. Someone probably uses it as a summer cabin.
Because plastic wheels are more prone to pick up and spread dirt on the rails. they have recently been banned from the club. All of the cars and locomotives are now equipped with metal wheels.
Kadee couplers are used on all rolling stock and motive power. One night club members went in and took all of the cars that did not have the proper coupler height off of the layout they lost 80 cars in one night. However, members are correcting that situation and many of the cars will be back on the layout in time to operate for the O Scale National Convention this summer.
(Photo 9) - The crew was trying to make up time, so we didn't stop for photos at Busk. lnstead they let us all out so we could make a photo line at the Horan high trestle built by Judge John Horan, the club's vice presidenL Horan Trestle is at Hngermnll Pass on the CM Railroad. Here we see our UP Special train. but you can also see a double-headed military train at Hartsel: the train is owned by Gordon Calahan.
- We then flew by the Crawford Saw Mill and past Ivanhoe's cattle pens. A few minutes later we went over Hell Gate bridge and made the reversing loop to return to Springs.
(Photo 10) - The train stopped at Cascade. From here we boarded buses which took us to Neubert, a small town on the D&RGW, where we look this picture looking down the main street.
(Photo 11) - The buses then headed back for Springs, where we started our fan trip. If you look over there you'll see C&S locomotive No. 22, a 2-6-0. crossing over Dry Creek.
The narrow-gauge portion of the layout is relatively new. There are certain people in the club that are rather narrow-minded and only work on the narrow gauge. but they've done an excellent job on the accuracy of equipment and scenery.
- I wish we'd had more time to take pictures of the narrow gauge or go to Gray's, Sargent and Mears Junction. Well. I guess I'll just have to see it next June, when I return to Denver for the 0 Scale Convention.
Hope that you enjoyed your railfan ride with the 0 Scale Colorado Midland and will come to see the real thing at the National 0 Scale Convention, June 22-26, in Denver. Colorado