OURAY COUNTY – The Ridgway Railroad Museum presents the 9th annual Ouray County Railroad Days this weekend, Sept. 10-13. Rail fans, history buffs and the general public will have the opportunity to experience the railroad heritage of the San Juans, with a variety of educational and general interest events.
The weekend kicks off on Thursday and Friday with guided hikes along the route of Otto Mears’ Silverton Railroad, from Red Mountain Pass to the Albany mill site below Ironton. Trip leader Don Paulson advises that these downhill hikes require some bushwhacking, so participants should wear long pants, bring weather gear, and be in good shape. Meet at the Corkscrew 4WD trailhead, 7.8 miles south of Ouray on US 550, at 9 a.m. each day. There is a $10 fee for nonmembers of the Ridgway Railroad Museum or Ouray County Historical Society. Call Paulson at 325-0931 for information.
Saturday the Ridgway Railroad Museum (located in the Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center at the corner of highways 550 and 62) hosts an open house from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., featuring rides on the recreated RGS Motor No. 1, the prototype for the famous Galloping Geese. At the Ridgway Town Hall Community Center on Railroad Avenue, the annual Narrow Gauge Railroad Symposium takes place, providing a series of interesting, free talks on Southwestern Colorado’s world-famous narrow gauge history. The symposium will be held from 1:30 to 4 p.m.
Rounding up Saturday’s schedule, Paulson will speak on Rails Over Red Mountain: Otto Mears’ Silverton Railroad at 7 p.m. at Ridgway Town Hall, including an extensive slideshow showing the problems that were encountered during operations of local railroads.
A special feature this year will be a booksigning by authors of the museum’s newly published book of area railroad history. The signing will be held in conjunction with the symposium and Paulson’s evening talk.
The weekend will conclude with Sunday’s guided car tours of the area’s historic rail routes. These will include the Rio Grande Southern route from Ridgway to Lizard Head Pass and the Ouray Branch of the Denver and Rio Grande. The car caravans will involve short talks by museum staff at a number of significant locations along the way. The RGS trip will leave from the Ridgway Railroad Museum at 9:30 a.m. (bring a lunch) with participants returning to Ridgway by 4 p.m. The Ouray Branch trip will leave from the Railroad Museum at 10:30 a.m. and end about noon in Ridgway. The fee for the guided trips is a donation to the museum, with a maximum of eight cars per trip, so reservations are encouraged.
For more information about Ouray County Railroad Days, call 626-4239 or 626-4373.