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Turntable Restaurant in Minturn gets a reprieve

Brief by Central Staff

Transportation – December 2004 – Colorado Central Magazine

Even though the rails remain in place, the trains don’t run through here any more, and many railroad structures were demolished after the Union Pacific took over the Denver & Rio Grande Western’s route in 1996.

But one railroad structure, slated for disposition and demolition, got a reprieve.

That’s the Turntable Restaurant in Minturn on the west side of Tennessee Pass. Until through operations halted on the line, it was a crew-change point, and it was also where helper locomotives were attached to assist long trains up the 3% grade to the tunnel at the top of the pass.

Railroaders keep odd hours, and so railroad companies often operate restaurants at crew-change points so their crews have a place to eat. After the trains quit running, Union Pacific leased the building to a company called Contract Services, which continued to operate the restaurant.

The land under the eatery, as well as the structure and nearby buildings, was owned by the railroad, which announced last fall that it planned to tear down the buildings.

That alarmed Minturn residents who saw their town losing an institution, and when word got out, they sent petitions. Not only would Turntable employees lose their jobs, but some would lose their homes as well, since they lived in mobile homes that sat on nearby railroad property.

The petitions worked; UP spokesman John Bromley said that “Because of the political pressure and interest in preserving the restaurant,” the company decided “to go ahead and lease it” to Darla Goodell, who had been managing the restaurant for the railroad. The Turntable offers plenty of railroad atmosphere, as well as a display of Minturn memorabilia.