COBWEB CORNERS: New life for the roundhouse
By Mel McFarland
The redevelopment project at the old Colorado Midland roundhouse is quite spectacular! I have received several frantic phone calls asking if I knew what was going on. Yes, I too have watched as the parking lot was torn up, then the building gutted. I have even been on the ground there several times as things inside were torn out. I have not seen anything get unearthed in the work, but I have taken pictures of places in the building I never saw before.
I remember before the Highway 24 expressway was built, walking through the area. Quite a bit of old railroad iron was to be found. When the state built the highway, several men from the area would go down and watch as the equipment dug through the area. These guys even found bits of interesting iron and brass now and then. Some pieces were just inches under the ground, and probably had been there a hundred years!
Over the years I have heard quite a few stories about the roundhouse, and seeing it stripped to its bones has been interesting. As I watch the work, I think about the time I once spent in the building, studying the old details. I wonder if the ghosts of the old railroad men are watching too!
My favorite spot to watch is where the turntable sat. The old steam engines were parked in the roundhouse pointing out. When they came back from the mountains they usually pointed the wrong way and the circular pit held a turntable (about 90 feet in diameter) for turning them around. After Van Briggle moved to the site, you could see a round crack in the parking lot above where the turntable was located. Even when the lot was repaved, the crack came back. I figured the current project would dig up a bit of the old rock wall, but no. It was only the dirt that was used to fill the old hole fifty years ago, which was softer than the ground around it.
It is sad to see the roundhouse without windows, but from the plans I've seen, when it's done it should look really nice. Back in 1980 when my book on the Colorado Midland came out, we had the first autograph party in the building in Van Briggle's sales room. Over my desk is a drawing I did years ago looking out from the building to a train sitting on the turntable. Those days will not be back, but the life of the building should be quite different come next summer.