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Granby: Building along tracks site of future railroad museum

by Cyndi Palmer
Sky-Hi Daily News
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

“If you build it, they will come.”

Dave Naples believes that.

And, like a true railroad conductor, he is shouting out “all aboard” to fuel interest for a local model railroad club and its new museum project.

Naples has been into model railroads since he was about 10, when his father built their first Lionel line.

“Every year, we worked on it,” he said. “I had that for a long time.”

As an adult, Naples found a job to feed the child inside. His company built model train displays, several of which were featured in railroad magazines.

After a brief hiatus, and modestly enjoying a growing musical career with band, Claddagh, Naples helped form a non-profit model railroad club in 2004.

The club’s purposes were to provide a modeling opportunity for people who want to be a part of a club-size layout and to promote the hobby of model railroading through classes.

“And to that end,” Naples said, “the first (meeting of the model railroad club) will be a kids night to show them how model railroads are built.”

The club also will provide a year-round activity, “with fellowship for the guys. It’s a great winter hobby,” Naples said. “This is the big boys’ toy.”

It will also provide a tourist attraction, a destination-type facility, he said. “It really is a pretty unique thing.”

When Naples first shared his idea for a model railroad club, he received a good response but the would-be club didn’t have a building. He kept looking.

Recently, Naples purchased a building that may end up housing one of the largest model railroad displays in the nation.

The building sits directly across the train tracks from the Granby depot.

“It was big, open … and it looked cheap,” Naples said. “It doesn’t look like much, but it will be some day.

“It’s kind of cool to have the railroad (tracks) this close,” he added.

The building led a notorious past life and has been given a second chance. The walls once stored commercial fertilizer and served as a hideout for mischievous teens.

“We’re taking a negative and turning it into something positive,” Naples said.

He researched the property for months before going to the county commissioners about it, and his bid of $100 was enough to seal the deal during the tax lien sale of the property.

“Nobody wanted it because it was so dilapidated.”

Since then, Naples put new doors put on, had new windows installed, put on a fresh coat of paint, and spent many hours gutting the place of its miscellaneous debris.

The club leases the land from Union Pacific.

“The local Union Pacific crew has been very supportive,” Naples said. The club also maintains insurance on the property, but Naples said they’re still looking for an underwriter.

What Naples envisions inside is a display with some of the area’s famous landmarks and historical buildings, like the Tabernash and Denver yards. He pictures the Denver Northwest Pacific Railroad, complete with the Utah Junction, the Denver train yards, and the Rollins Pass line, the highest standard-gauge railroad built in the United States at 11,660 feet. Once complete, the club’s miniature trains will go to Tolland, and through the Moffat Tunnel, which eventually bypassed the Rollins Pass route, through Granby, Hot Sulphur Springs, the Troublesome and Gore areas, and terminate in Craig. It will not be prototypical, Naples explains, but representative.

He estimates the line will encompass about 2,400 square feet of the 3,000-square-foot museum. With the help of technology, the final railroad line display will be computer-generated, built at “HO” gauge or 1-87th scale. Two of the club’s members would run the multi-train layout, complete with locomotives and rolling stock, “as close as we can get it to represent the railroad in Grand County,” Naples said. “That’s a pretty good statement to make.”

But Naples said the club needs help, and about 60 total members to help make this new museum happen.

“Let ’em know we exist,” he said. “We now have a building and we would love for you to join us.

Projects in the works before the line can be constructed include some minor carpentry and a lot of hunting and gathering. Tables and benches are needed once the perimeter is complete, which requires 31 sheets of 4×8 plywood and insulation, and an eight-foot safety fence has to be erected as well.

“Our intention here is to keep it looking rustic with the original trusses,” Naples said. “It’s just kind of a cool-looking industrial building. I’d hate to lose that.”

Naples also encourages anyone with any old trains they have laying around, “we don’t care what scale; we’d love to have them.” Those interested may call Naples at (970) 887-9478 or Jack Bakken at (970) 887-9521.

Naples is also offering opportunities for individuals and businesses to sponsor a scene for the final display down the line. Interested parties can have the trains chug right past their logo or name on a building, mine shaft, car, billboard, or other spots along the route.

He knows the dream is several years in the making, but if things come together as they already have been, he hopes to open for Christmas 2009.

The club meets at 6 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month for a build night with work sessions on other days. For more information on the club and its opportunities, visit http://www.grandcountymodelrailroad.org.


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