Trains captivate us all, whether we have experienced a robust rail travel system ourselves or whether we grew up indulging in Thomas the Tank Engine.
Enter into the real live world of classic trains at the Colorado Railroad Museum, just 12 miles West of downtown Denver in Golden. The museum opened in 1959 and has been a staple in Colorado for train-lovers of every age.
The main Museum building resembles an 1880-era small town railroad depot. Architectural features include wide eaves to protect waiting passengers from weather, and large bay windows so the station agent can observe activity on the boarding platforms. The yellow and brown paint reflects standard building colors for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.
It’s here you’ll find the gift shop and bathrooms, as well as permanent and rotating displays in the museum’s two gallery spaces.
Explore this indoor feature and delve into the colorful stories of the railroads serving Colorado for more than 125 years.
Inside you’ll find the year-round scale model train showcase that pays homage to Herbert W. Voltaw. Volaw built a series of 1-inch scale locomotive and railroad car models using aluminum, steel bar, wood, plastic and glass. He worked on these starting in the 1940s and through the 1960s.
Inside the depot, visitors can also watch introductory videos to the museum and enjoy hands-on activities downstairs in the museum’s lower gallery.
Make sure to check out the detailed displays of Colorado mountain railroading by the Denver HO Model Railroad Club, one of the oldest model railroad clubs in the region.
After that, it’s time to go outside and explore the 15-acre railyard.
As you walk around you’ll find more than 100 narrow- and standard-gauge steam and diesel locomotives, freight and passenger cars, cabooses and more. And many are open for passengers to walk on board and explore the inside.
Kids and adults love the museum’s G-scale garden railway, located near the center of the railyard. This intricate model makes loops around its own fenced-in landscape.
Walk around the display to catch the trains moving around and to see the intricacies of the design. Volunteers operate both on weekly schedules.
Next, take a ride on the Galloping Goose, a unique hybrid railcar that looks kind of like a bus and truck smooshed together. The unique vehicle was used to bring mail into the mountain towns of Colorado.
These railcars were built in the 1930’s by the Rio Grande Southern Railroad and were in operation until the 1950s. Today few remain, but the museum boasts two that the public can ride around the museum (twice!) for a small fee.
Any fan of Thomas the Tank Engine will recognize the museum’s roundhouse, a restoration facility with a working turntable. It’s not accessible to the general public, but see it while taking a ride on the Galloping Goose.
Thomas fans will also want to watch the calendar for Day Out With Thomas, a two-weekend long event that happens each year and features a life-sized Thomas engine to take guests around the track. The festivities also include many themed shows, art projects and activities for little ones to do.
Another popular event is the Polar Express. It runs each December and features not only hot cocoa, but Santa himself as well. Sit back on the train and become one with this story. It’s just part of the magic the Colorado Railroad Museum brings to the state and visitors.
Colorado Railroad Museum, 17155 W. 44th Ave., Golden, 303-279-4591
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Train rides available every Thursday to Sunday (late-May through mid-August) every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. From mid-January to mid-May the train runs at the same times but only on Saturday. Visitors should buy timed train ride tickets online in advance.
Adults (18 & older): $10
Seniors (60+): $8
Children (2 to 17): $5
Children under 2: FREE
Train Ride tickets on Ride the Rails: $4 for adults and $2 for children.
Free days can be found throughout the year. They are sponsored by SCFD and Boulder County. The latter is for Boulder residents only, proof of address is required.