Thursday, November 24, 2016

Following The Rails

Gilpin, Colorado
            Following the railroads, reveals lots of old communities that are no more.  Depending on the RR, spacing would 6-20 miles between stops.  The old steamers would need water and servicing and this is what lots of the stops were for.  They also were places to station the section crews that maintained the rails.  Here one could find section houses, a depot of sorts and if enough people were there an enterprising gentlemen would open a store.  Soon it would become a town, well maybe.  With the changes in railroad equipment, section assignments would change and small stops would become vacant as the workers were assigned to other districts.  What had been a place at one time, became a ghost place. Since lots of them did not become towns and have a Post Office, they do not show up on lots of maps.
Partial map showing some of the railroad spots. 

            I collect some railroad memorabilia and one of those treasures is time tables.  The RR tables would list the routes of trains and the control points.  These places would have a siding, maintenance crews and some buildings.  When I go hunting ghost communities I carry a few of these time tables to help me find some of the lost villages.  What’s interesting is if a town grew up, not associated with the RR, it does not show up.  So I carry some old maps and do lots of cross checking with the different places I’m looking for.  Sometimes these places pop up on digital, usually not.  Then other places pop on digital that shows on no other places.  It becomes a challenge to coordinate all the different little bits of info. 
            Gilpin is one of those little burgs that used to be that shows up most places.  There are a few things in the area but nothing to indicate a town had been there.  A rancher has built a corral nearby and across the road is a comm. Tower.  The railroad has some signal lights on the ROW for traffic control, which would be the only indicator that the railroad had anything here. 
There were times when the RR would have stock pens and load livestock on the train.

            The trains make a long climb out of the Arkansas Valley and Gilpin would have been the first stop on the ridge top.  Here the train would have gotten orders on how far to proceed and if there were any MOW crews on the tracks.  There would been a water tank and a depot of some type.  Sometimes the depot was an old boxcar sitting beside the rails.  Very seldom do I find reminders of those days.  Usually it is chunks of concrete marking where the various buildings had been.  As I go from here to there, I block out some time to travel along some of these out of the way routes, looking to see what I can see.  Sometimes I completely miss them and make U-turns, if I have not driven to far past them.  Or I put them in the hopper to chase down on another trip.

            Gilpin is on the edge of the desert and poor soil.  Not much grows on the limestone soil and there is very little rainfall.  Climbing up the ridge, the land changes to varied mesas, canyons and scrub forest.  A few cattle roam the sparse grassland and the occasional pick up rumbles down the road.  Otherwise it is pretty empty land as I muter down the road to the next stop.  

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