OURAY COUNTY – The owner of a mining claim in the Red Mountain District on which the Guston Depot was once located has apologized for destroying the remains of the historic railroading structure, and wants to deed part of his property to the Ouray County Historical Society.
Ouray resident Tommy Campbell owns the Little Annie Lode where the Guston Depot once stood. In its prime, the depot structure consisted of a passenger shelter and 20-foot long loading platform. Part of the platform was all that remained of the original time-worn structure when Campbell inadvertently bulldozed it into a pile of rubble while attempting to improve access to his property.
Prior to its destruction, the depot platform had been a pilgrimage destination for historic railroad buffs. So it was with outrage and sorrow that OCHS museum curator and railroad historian Don Paulson came upon its wreckage while leading a guided hike along the historic Silverton Railroad grade in mid-June, and sounded the alarm with local authorities that the destruction was a case of “vandalism.”
After reading of the allegation in a newspaper article, Campbell contacted Paulson and Ouray County Commissioner Mike Fedel to apologize, and indicated that he “had no idea it was an historical site when he bulldozed in an access road,” Paulson said. “He further said that he had contacted his lawyer and at least one prominent Ouray citizen and was told that there would be no problem with putting in the access road. Unfortunately, he did not contact the Ouray County Historical Society.”
Fedel agreed that Campbell’s intent was not malicious. “He came up and said, ‘The last thing I want to do is destroy history.’ He was very cooperative and eager to help out any way he could.”
In an attempt to make amends with local preservationists, Campbell has proposed breaking off historically significant pieces of his mining claims in the Guston vicinity and deeding them to Ouray County or the Ouray County Historical Society.
The execution of the proposed land transfer, which includes pieces of three claims near County Road 31, has been placed in the hands Ouray County Land Use Planner Mark Castrodale.
“This is a very nice thing for (Campbell) to do,” Fedel observed. “It would be a good outcome for everybody. Hopefully we can get this done.”
Banking on the success of the proposed land transfer, the Ouray County Historical Society and the Ridgway Railroad Museum are formulating plans to rebuild the Guston depot loading platform, using original cut nails still scattered around the site, and some of the original wood.
The plan also calls for laying down 20 feet of 25 pound rail (25 pounds to the yard)
alongside the platform and putting up informational signs about the site, Paulson said.
The Guston Depot was built in 1889 as part of Otto Mears’ famous Silverton Railroad, connecting Silverton to Ironton Park. The railroad served the Red Mountain Mining District where some of the richest silver mines in the state were once located, including the Yankee Girl, National Belle and Guston Mines.
Much of the Red Mountain Mining District was preserved a decade ago by the Red Mountain Project, which has placed more than 9,000 acres of land into perpetual conservation easements. The Guston Mine complex, however, is still mostly privately owned.