Craig 50 Years Later

I was a 16 year old junior at Boulder High School during Spring Break, 1962.  This is me, Cathy and our dogs:


There were a few other railroad geeks in high school that year; three of us decided to take one of the last trips on the Rio Grande Railroad’s Yampa Valley a three car train that ran from Denver to Craig every day. As you look at the timetable, remember that this was back when railroads welcomed passengers…

The train waiting to depart at Union Station in Denver:

This particular locomotive, which was built in 1947,  was retired and scrapped in 1967.

The Yampa Valley took all day to reach Craig, and stopped every few miles to pick up passengers (a very few) and large metal milk cans left by the tracks by the farmers to transport to the dairy.  It also transported mail, and was known as the Yampa Valley Mail; but lost the mail contract in the early 1960’s.


The train, the conductor, and the three passengers arrived in Craig late in the day

The Craig train station was pretty imposing for a small town; it was the end of the line for David Moffat’s dream of a standard gauge railroad from Denver to Salt Lake City, which went bankrupt when it reached Craig.

We stayed a local motel and enjoyed the sights.  Questions:

  • How many motels would rent a room to three high school kids these days?
  •  How many of today’s overprotective helicopter parents would let their kids take such a trip?
  • How did we handle it without a cell phone?

The West Theater is at the same location in Craig, and the marquee hasn’t changed a bit, but instead of Elvis Presley, they were showing “Mirror Mirror.”  You won’t find Standard Oil or Texaco filling stations, either.


Flash forward 50 years


Friends Stu Mall, Jeff McNulty and I took a motorcycle trip on April 22, just about 50 years to the day after my excursion on the Yampa Valley Mail.   My goal was to deploy Munzees (a hide and seek game using smartphones) in Northwest Colorado.  We managed to cover over 300 miles.

My moto in the front, Jeff and Stu in back, in Meeker.

The old depot was hidden behind a string of coal cars, near an old gas station.  Anybody else remember this oil company, which later became Enco / Esso / Exxon?

Walking along the tracks:

The formerly imposing depot is now a crumbling wreck, one of many forgotten structures  in Union Pacific’s vast property inventory:

That’s me holding up the roof.  I’ve aged a bit too.

… and that’s the end of the ride report.  We had lunch and left heading west for Rangely, then Jeff peeled off at Douglas Pass to head back to his home in Grand Junction, and Stu and I meandered slowly back home via the Piceance Creek road, which us normally filled with industrial traffic for the many oil, gas and other extractive mineral ventures located there, but which was empty and beautiful on a Sunday afternoon.

Thanks, guys.  The trip was a lot of fun.  The memories: priceless.