Moffat Railroad Museum continues expansion and welcomes visitors

The Moffat Road Railroad Museum houses an O scale model train. The exhibit serves as a Christmas train display during the winter and has many features, including two ski lifts and several hidden dinosaurs.
Kyle McCabe/Sky-Hi News

Dave Naples may have the fancy title of executive director, but he still wears overalls to work. The Moffat Road Railroad Museum, Naples’ passion project for over a decade, first found its home near Kaibab Park off County Road 574 in 2009 and has grown ever since.

The museum has a visitor center, a permanent O-scale model railroad layout that doubles as a Christmas train and a 1923 Union Pacific caboose. The museum is working on building an S-scale model replica of the Moffat Road railroad and is renovating several pieces of railroad equipment, engines and train cars.

“We have probably three major restorations that we’re working on at one time,” Naples said. “They get spread out and they get done when they get done, but (visitors) can certainly come see the progress.”

This summer, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Visitors can explore the restored 1923 Union Pacific caboose, the model railroad, visitor center and all the ongoing projects. 

A family train ride, which will go around the museum’s property, could be ready by the end of the summer. Naples said supply chain issues have delayed its shipment from California, but once it arrives, the 15-inch gauge train will give kids and adults rides past the Western town facade on one of the buildings.

“It has fake steam, it has fake sounds, it does a whole thing,” Naples said. “Then there’s three cars and a caboose, there’s a crossing gate. It’s a pretty neat experience for the kids.”

An anonymous donor has greatly helped the museum since 2019. Naples said nearly $2 million in donations have funded the purchases of pieces like the museum’s 1922 Shay No. 8 locomotive as well as the day-to-day operations. Naples described the anonymous donor’s generosity as a blessing.

“I worked on this for about 12 years by myself, with not a whole lot of money,” Naples said. “Some money, some grants, some donations, but not enough to make a ton of progress. It was really slow and arduous. It was doubtful whether I could do this.”

Naples said that finishing the Moffat Road replica model train, along with the family train ride, will be a “game changer.” The replica will help the museum tell the history of Moffat Road, which has seen a major route change and several changes in ownership in its history.

The original route, built by David Moffat, was called the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railway and went over Rollins Pass. After Moffat’s death in 1911, the DN&P became the Denver & Salt Lake Railroad, which kept going over Rollins Pass until the completion of the Moffat Tunnel in 1927. The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad bought the road in 1949 then sold it to Union Pacific in 1983.

The replica will account for both routes, running trains through the Moffat Tunnel and over Rollins Pass. Naples said it will take him 1.5-2 years to build the model with help, and even longer without.

“It’s a complicated model,” Naples said. “It’s a lot of scenery — big, big scenery — all the bridges, all the tunnels, all the water. All that’s going to be modeled, it’s going to be exact. It’s a prototype, so when you see the Fraser Canyon on my model, that’s what you’re looking at when you go through the Fraser Canyon.”

Once complete, the Moffat Road replica will take up almost the entire room where Naples is building it. It will be bigger than the museum’s other model railroad, even though its S scale is smaller than the O scale of the Christmas train. 

People can visit the museum July 2 from noon to 2 p.m. for the museum’s third annual Fourth of July cookout. Naples said adult meals will cost $24 and kids meals will cost $12, and both will include admission to the museum.

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