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Glenwood rail museum attracts kids

Dennis Webb
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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Some people just have trains running through their veins.Take, for example, Scott and Celynn McClarrinon, two Eagle County residents who recently took their young nephews to the Glenwood Railroad Museum to view the model trains and watch real ones roar by.Or how about Roger Kocian, who lives near Chicago and stopped into the museum on the same day as the McClarrinons to look around while waiting to catch the Amtrak train to Denver.And then there are people like Jan Girardot, Dick Helmke and Oscar McCollum, train aficionados who all were working at the museum that day and sharing their love of railroading with others.The museum is chock-full of railroad memorabilia, but enthusiasts also love that the museum is in the historic depot adjacent to the tracks where Union Pacific and Amtrak trains run.”We’re hoping to see a real one so we can feel the rumble,” Celynn McClarrinon said.For Scott, the feeling would be a reminder of his childhood. He’s partly deaf, and his dad liked to take him down to the tracks when he was young, to feel the power of machines he couldn’t fully hear.

Soon enough, the McClarrinons were able to share the same feeling with their nephews, cousins Davis and Hayden Krueger, ages 4 1/2 and 2 1/2, as a UP freight train passed, heading west.”That was a bunch of empties heading back to the North Fork to pick up more coal,” Girardot said, his eyes peering from below the bill of his railroad cap.The cars were headed to the North Fork Valley near Paonia, to fill up on newly mined coal. Within the hour, Girardot would point out another train that had come back from there and was headed east.Celynn McClarinnon lived in Glenwood for three years and loved hearing the trains go by. Now she and her husband enjoy chasing them by car and indulging Scott’s twin hobbies of trains and photography.”I put them together, and they become quite addictive,” Scott said.The model trains proved entrancing to his nephews.”Anytime anybody walks in that door I start the trains,” Girardot said.

Watching them run draws in even adults who aren’t interested in trains, he said.”And of course, for kids it’s like a magnet.”There’s so much else in the museum to attract the senses as well. Helmke points to some sections of rail on the floor, shows where so many train wheels wore away at one side of them, has you feel the ridge that has formed below the top of a rail compressed by the weight of the cars.Here there is a telegraph exhibit; there, wall signs with text and photos depicting the history of local railroads such as the Colorado Midland. A gingerbread-house version of the train depot is on display, courtesy of Jeanne Bottroff of New Castle, who built it in 2004.Various model trains built for track gauges ranging from about a fingernail to more than half a foot in width inhabit the museum. A 1935 electric train given to McCollum’s wife, Lois, as a child sits behind glass, along with a windup version that was her brother’s.Under the model railroad tracks, other trains in their original boxes wait to be set up someday. Girardot said the museum could use involvement by more people for such tasks.”We’re kind of in a bind in terms of getting some of these projects done,” he said.



The museum is run by the Western Colorado Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. Girardot, the chapter’s president, said it has about 35 or 40 members but few active volunteers.In a second room, a green miniature train big enough to sit on and ride, and powered by a steam engine, awaits someone with the time to arrange a state boiler inspection so it can be operated. It was built by former Carbondale resident Lester Vallett, who died in retirement in Seattle before ever having the chance to fire it up.In the same room a motorcar sits in the home it has occupied for decades, in grooves that enabled railroad workers to wheel it out and lift it onto the main tracks with the help of attached handles. The car was used for track maintenance, such as clearing rockfall from Glenwood Canyon, and UP later donated it to the museum.The UP leases the depot space to the museum at a discounted rate, with Amtrak also leasing part of the depot. The railroad also has donated items such as a signal that it removed from the canyon last summer after it had been in service since the 1920s.The museum opened in late 2003, just before the 100th birthday of the depot, which was built in 1904.A shop with books, shirts, wooden train whistles and other gifts helps keep the museum going. So, it’s safe to say, does the love of railroads shared by the museum’s staff and visitors. After talking to Girardot, Kocian was able to return home to Chicago with a tip on where to get help rebuilding his old Lionel model train.”I used to play with my train from morning to night when I was a kid down in the basement,” Kocian reminisced.

For people like Kocian, Scott McClarrinon and those involved with the Glenwood Railroad Museum, growing up doesn’t mean having to outgrow their love of trains. Clearly, as with any true love, it’s only deepened over the years.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119 dwebb@postindependent.com


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