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Westcliffe’s railroading heritage

Brief by Central Staff

Local History – August 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

Railroad buffs who visit Salida often leave disappointed, since so little remains of what was once a major center with engine and car shops, two roundhouses, a transfer station, freight and passenger depots, coal chutes, etc.

There’s a reason for that — the Salida facilities remained in active use into the 1970s, and like any operating enterprise, the railroad dismantled things that were in the way and weren’t needed any more.

In places where the railroad was abandoned years ago, some old structures remain, and that’s the case in Westcliffe, where the tracks came out in 1938.

History buffs there have formed All Aboard Westcliffe to preserve a large railroad artifact — the single-stall engine house on the west side of Westcliffe.

An engine house was something like a garage for steam locomotives — a place to park the machine for the night while the train laid over before returning to Texas Creek and either Salida or CaƱon City.

The restored engine house is the focal point of a $308,000 project which will also include an interpretive center whose exterior will be a replica of the old Denver & Rio Grande station at Hillside. Other planned features include restrooms, parking for recreational vehicles, community meeting rooms, and a 40-seat video theater.

For more information, call AAW president Tom Thrun at 719-783-0423, and your donations are welcome at AAW, P.O. Box 1415, Westcliffe CO 81252.