Trains ran Minturn 100 years ago |

Trains ran Minturn 100 years ago

Tamara Miller

Tamara Miller 9/3/04 run Minturn centennial logoMINTURN – Minturn’s history has taken twists and turns, and no part of the town’s past has had a bigger impact than the railroad. “More or less, (railroads) were kind of the lifeblood of a town,” said Al Frank, a Colorado Railroad Museum volunteer. “Minturn probably would have never developed into anything. .. because of its isolation.”In fact, Minturn played a vital role in the American West’s economy around the turn of the century. The town became an important link connecting Colorado’s Eastern Slope with Western Slope mining towns like Aspen, Frank said. Frank will kick off the town’s speaker series Tuesday with a presentation on Minturn’s railroading past. The speaker series, presented as part of Minturn’s Centennial Celebration, will focus on topics that are important to the town’s history but aren’t included in the town’s historic walking tour, which begins Oct. 5. “It’s a good opportunity for citizens of Minturn to recount those important things that Minturn can no longer hold onto,” said Nicole Magistro, special events coordinator for the town. Earl Clark of the 10th Mountain Division Foundation is scheduled to speak Oct. 5 on Minturn’s connection to the Camp Hale army training camp during World War II. Community activist Jim Kent, who defended Minturn from ski development in the 1970s, will speak Nov. 9. All lectures will start at 6 p.m. in the Minturn Town Center, 302 Pine St.If you are looking for technical information about the American railroad system, you won’t find it at Frank’s lecture. Focusing more on the historical and cultural impact of the railroad on Minturn seems to generate interest from a wider audience, Frank said. Just bringing the railroad to Minturn was a significant feat.”The fact that it did have all the challenges of getting over the Continental Divide and down the canyon of the Eagle, which was very narrow and precipitous, is what provided a challenge,” he said.Train equipment was based in Minturn, so locomotives would stop here to fuel up, switch crews or receive maintenance before pushing or pulling cars over steep Tennessee Pass. Railroading in those days was difficult, physical work and as a result, had a significant impact on Minturn’s community and economy. Near the Turntable Restaurant of today, was once the Roundhouse – a building used to turn trains around. Trains in those days could only go forward. Frank estimated that close 100 residents worked for the railroad, as maintenance workers and engineers. “These were sought-after jobs,” he said. “In many cases they paid more than other types of craftsman jobs.”But as time went by, and other forms of transportation were invented, the railroad industry ceased to be as profitable. Trains finally stopped running through Minturn in 1998. Now, the only remaining rail line goes through the Moffet Tunnel and through Glenwood Canyon. Union Pacific still owns the stretch of railroad that runs through Minturn and Eagle County. Rumors persist that the company may restart service, but when and if that would occur still is anyone’s guess.”It’s speculation on anyone’s part,” Frank said. “It’s really nothing to hang your hat on as far as any dates.”Even if the railroad were to resume service, it never would have the impact on Minturn that it had nearly 100 years ago. Computers, not humans, run much of a train’s mechanism. And the engines are now powered by diesel, rather than steam, requiring much less human help. “It would never be back in any way the way it was,” Frank said. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION EVENTS• Tuesday: Centennial Speaker Series: Al Frank of the Colorado Railroad Museum, 6 p.m., Minturn Town Center• Oct. 5: Centennial Speaker Series: Earl Clark of the 10th Mountain Division Foundation, 6 p.m.; Minturn Town Center Historic Walking Tour, 10 a.m., begins at the Minturn Saloon• Nov. 9: Centennial Speaker Series: Community activist Jim Kent, 6 p.m., Minturn Town Center; Historic Walking Tour, 10 a.m., begins at the Minturn Saloon• Nov. 12: Minturn Dinner Theater, Minturn Saloon• Nov. 13: Minturn Dinner Theater, Minturn Saloon• Nov. 14: Mayoral Brunch, The Turntable restaurant• Nov. 15: 100th Birthday Party, Minturn Town Center, 6 p.m.===========================================================Vail, Colorado

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