Mountain train depot a century old
Someone strolling down to the intersection of Cooper Avenue and 7th Street in Glenwood Springs 100 years ago today would have seen workers from the William Limpson Construction Co. putting the finishing touches on the brand new, state-of-the-art railroad depot.
In 2004, not a whole lot has changed at the station. But a big party is in the works. Train buffs and historians are putting the finishing touches on plans for the station’s 100th birthday celebration.
The station was officially opened on June 18, 1904, which was Strawberry Day. Since then, hundreds of thousands of passengers have boarded or departed trains headed either east or west – and Strawberry Day is now spread over three days.
The original company to run trains through Glenwood Springs, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, called the line the “Scenic Line of the World,” partly because of the spectacular beauty of Glenwood Canyon.
The line, which opened in 1887, also brought comfortable and fast transportation to what was a remote resort community.
In a 1998 report nominating the depot for state and national historic designation, historian Ron Sladek wrote, “Local residents could travel to Denver and other points, requiring a few hours of comfortable riding rather than days of discomfort on a wagon or stagecoach or horseback.
“As a resort location, Glenwood was soon inundated with rail tourists from the eastern plains and miners from the Aspen and Leadville camps, many of whom came to visit the hot springs and the town’s famous red light district.”
100 years of tourism
Then as now, tourists traveling by rail were key to the city’s thriving resort-oriented businesses. But they needed a well-appointed depot once they arrived and the wood frame structure at the north end of Pitkin Avenue was no longer doing the job.
On Sept. 5, 1902, the Glenwood Springs City Council voted to grant a parcel of land for a new train station.
It was built in 1903-04, in the Romanesque Revival style, meant to tie in with the architectural styles of the Hotel Colorado and the Hot Springs Pool bathhouse across the Colorado River, at that time called the Grand River.
According to articles written about the new depot in the early 1900s, it was the biggest depot owned by the Denver Rio Grande Railroad.
“The building is being built of red sandstone, with corner moldings and cornice of gray sandstone, with flagging from the Arkins Quarry near Denver,” according to an article from the Nov. 26, 1903, Avalanche Echo, a Glenwood Springs newspaper.
Greenlee Stone & Building Co. subcontracted with the Denver-based Limpson to do the stone work.
Over the years, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad merged with a succession of railroad companies, and the depot is now owned by Union Pacific Railroad of Omaha. Amtrak, the nation’s passenger rail service, leases much of the depot for its passenger service.
Amtrak gave the station a facelift in 1990 that included new eaves, and gutters, new roof tiles, and electric and heating system overhauls. Eastbound and a westbound Amtrak passenger trains stop each day at the old depot.
Seeking to preserve the rich history of railroading in the Roaring Fork Valley, a group of volunteers opened the Glenwood Railroad Museum in September 2003. It’s located in what was the ladies waiting room.
“Back then, it was typical that the women didn’t smoke, but the men did, and the genteel ladies didn’t want to be mixed in with those loud, smoking, tobacco-chewing louts,” said Jan Girardot, manager of the Glenwood Railroad Museum and president of the Western Colorado Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.
That waiting room, which comprises the east end of the station, originally had an arched doorway with stained glass in the arch above the doors as an entrance. That doorway is being reconstructed and should be ready soon.
Several events, including a street dance, are in the works for the station’s June 18 centennial, which will fall on Strawberry Days weekend, the theme of which is the railroad.