Railroad museum to open in Granby
April 20, 2017
Grand County is steeped in history.
From the native tribes that once called the Grand Lake area their summer home to the frontier era ranches and mining camps that spurred the development of modern civilization in Middle Park, our little corner of the Rockies has deep roots to the past. For about a decade now a group of dedicated Grand County locals have spent their time and money working to establish a railroad museum in the Granby area. Their tireless efforts are coming close to fruition now and the future museum's developers anticipate an opening date sometime next summer.
One of the most significant events in Grand County's history was the development of the Moffat Road Railroad. Originally developed by one of Colorado's most important frontier era figures, David Moffat, the Moffat Road Railroad was originally called the Denver Northwestern and Pacific Railroad.
Construction on the railroad began in 1904 and the railroad's route initially ran up and over Rollins Pass; at 11,660 feet it was the highest standard gauge railroad ever built in the U.S. The Denver Northwestern line began in Denver and ran up to Grand County, eventually terminating in Craig.
After Moffat's death in 1911 the railroad became the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad. In 1928, while the line was still called the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad the famed Moffat Tunnel, running underneath the Continental Divide, was completed. In the late 1940s the rail line was purchased by new entities and was renamed the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. In the late 1970s the railroad's current owners, the Union Pacific, purchased the line.
Since 2007 the members of the Grand County Model Railroad Club have been working to establish the Moffat Road Railroad Museum in Granby near the Granby Train Station. After a series of hiccups in the late aughts the Model Railroad Club was able to lease a section of land slightly southeast of the train station from the town of Granby.
Earlier this year the Model Railroad Club took the next step in its efforts to get the museum up and running when they purchased the Granby modular building that rested next to the Granby Indoor Soccer Dome for many years. Local residents will be familiar with the building, which was used for various community activities and housed the Model Railroad Club's Christmas Trains Display for several years during the holiday season.
"It (the modular building) will be the permanent home of the model railroad and Christmas display," said club member Dave Naples who has helped lead the charge in establishing the museum. "Once it is ready the display will be open year-round. We will turn it into the Christmas display at Christmas time."
Naples said the model railroad design that will be a part of the future museum would be a replica of the Moffat Road Railroad. While the rail line has changed names multiple times over the past century, the pathway the railroad follows today is the same as that taken by the original Denver Northwestern and Pacific.
The labor of love for the Model Railroad Club is closing in on a firm opening date, which club members estimated as happening sometime in summer 2018. Naples explained the museum would technically open once the model train setup is completed and the club will continue working to develop the other elements of the museum.
Once fully up and running the Moffat Museum will feature a restored train caboose, a visitor's center, the model train display building, a small gauge miniature train and track system designed to carry small children on a tour around the grounds, and possibly some pieces of historic rolling stock that were once a part of the Denver Salt Lake line.
"We are pretty pumped about all the progress we have made recently," said Naples. "For all intents and purposes we are a museum; but we are a fledgling museum trying to build enough projects to be open to the public. We can always use more assets and display stuff, but as far as buildings and property, we are pretty much where we can finish up and make this a great museum. This is the first time I can say that."
According to Naples the train caboose is half restored and the club plans to place the visitors center structure on its foundation in August.
Naples said the club plans to begin building the permanent model display this May. Anyone interested in participating can simply show up at the modular building to begin helping with the enormous task. Naples said the club will be working on the display from 7-10 p.m. every second and fourth Wednesday of each month beginning May 24.
Work on the display will continue through the fall when the club will switch gears and begin converting the display over to its Christmas décor. The club plans to open the Christmas display to the public Nov. 26 this year. After Christmas is over the club will remove the holiday-themed materials and will go back to work completing the permanent display.
Naples was deeply thankful of all the people who donated time, materials or funds to last year's Christmas trains display.
"We had a lot of public support for last year's model train layout," Naples said. "We really appreciated that."
Naples encouraged anyone who has previously helped with the display to participate in creating the permanent display and the broader Moffat Road Railroad Museum.
"I am very confident the museum will be open and working within the next two years. We are gonna get this done," Naples said. "We will have a tourist destination museum that will benefit the entire county. We would like anybody's input and help. We are here to stay."