Friday, June 7, 2013

Colorado Rails & Cocktails

Back in February when we visited the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, I learned about their adult lecture series, Colorado Rails & Cocktails.  I headed over for my first one tonight, Ghost Towns of the Rockies.

I really like what they’re doing at this museum.  The Rocky Flats Museum is of course on a much smaller scale given its youth (and is now closed pending a move to a different Olde Town Arvada location), but they should look to the Colorado Railroad Museum for programming ideas.  There was a sold out crowd tonight, maybe 75 people, 3/4 of whom were over age 60.  $15 for entry and two drinks.

The speaker tonight was Preethi Burkholder, author of Ghost Towns of the Rockies.  Of course, autographed copies of the book were available for purchase.  I hate to be critical, but seeing on the pamphlet that she also authored “Start Your Own Day Spa” and “Start Your Own Grant Writing Business,” it just disappointed me a little, made me question her historical expertise I guess.  The 45 minute speech was fine, a bit more general than I would’ve liked, jumping around for a quick 5 minute bit about this ghost town, 5 minutes about that one, 5 minutes about another, etc. 


Anyways, the next one is August 16, Stone and Steel at the Top of the World.

Join us as professors Pete Seel and Jason LaBelle screen their documentary on the human story of Rollins Pass, located high on the Continental Divide in Colorado.  Thousands of years ago, Native American hunters stalked big game along the alpine divide.  Euro-American settlement followed and construction of the Moffat railroad across the summit in the early 20th century.  This engineering marvel took passengers to the Top of the World in sometimes brutal weather conditions.  Today, the Moffat Tunnel safely guides rail traffic under the Continental Divide and Rollins Pass is now a place of quiet reflection.

I looked, couldn’t find a trailer, or even a webpage.  I’m planning to go though.

Later in the year, the rest of the line-up reads:

October 18 – Railroad Stories: Hiram Wheeler

December 6 – The American Hobo

I’m of course really looking forward to the hobo lecture.  I’m really fascinated by hobo culture, and curious if it still exists today and to what extent.  A few months back Adventure Journal posted something about someone who rode the rails in the 90s, beginning at age 19.  He was a self-taught photographer and turned his collection into a coffee table book (and I of course can’t find the link to that article).  So that culture existed as recently as the 90s, but what about now?  And here’s my idea for adventure – I won’t do it, but wish that I would.  I want to drive downtown, park at the office, walk over to the rail yards, hop the first train going east (can’t go west for fear of the Moffat Tunnel), ride the train for 6-8 hours or so, jump off somewhere in Kansas, Nebraska, or maybe even Wyoming, and then hitchhike back, hopefully with a good story and maybe a little bit of knowledge of present-day hobo culture. 


Footfeathers said...

As with most similar lifestyles, the hobo one seems romanticized but just under the surface becomes pretty starkly harsh. I always envision RR bulls beating the hell out of me with steel pipes for even thinking about swinging a leg up into an open car.

Not specifically hobo related (but very close) is Jacob Holdt and his photograph-mostly book "American Pictures". He spoke at my college in '91 and I purchased the big book and had him autograph it. That night changed my life and outlook on America forcing me to study the reality of American History instead of through the mainstream lens of whitey.

Anton said...

My freshman year at CC I had a buddy--Rob B--who on a Friday night hopped the fence (the railroad tracks go right next to campus in Colorado Springs) with nothing but a bottle of wine and the clothes on his back, rode the rail car to Denver where some bums beat him up for his bottle of wine. He got back on a south-bound train and was back at CC by the next morning. I just saw him last week for the first time in a few years--he's been teaching science to high school kids at the High Mountain Institute in Leadville the last couple years (summers in Jackson, hence why our paths haven't crossed sooner). Great guy and extremely competent back-country skier.

Justin Mock said...

Good stuff, as always.

Footfeathers, you'll take the beating while I get the open car?!?

Looks like used copies of Holdt's book are reasonably priced on Amazon, going to pick one up.

You might be interested in "Rolling Nowhere." First-hand account of hobo'ing. The author spent a few years of his early 20s on the rails. Been a few years, but think it was in the 90s that rode.

Also, by chance read "A People's History of the United States"? I have not, but hear it is an alternative perspective on all things U.S. history, kinda like what you're talking about.

Nothing romanticized about an addict's life on the streets, but you might be interested in checking out The Denver Post's photos on their three-part heroin series last year. Pretty powerful images.

Footfeathers said...

Zinn's book has been my bible of perspective of our culture and history.

mike_hinterberg said...

"You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train", to tie things together a little bit. Started watching it once and wasn't in the right mood, but "PHotUS" is much better and easy to jump around disparate chapters as you have time.

The fantasy is cool but I share Tim's concern and Tony's cautionary anecdote: I especially wonder 'bout a clean-cut, skinny runner boy being noted for havin' a purty mouth." By definition, countercultures don't really open up to outsiders; and writing isn't fully authentic when protected by a safety net of privilege. But it could be a cool story.

Justin Mock said...

Just got my copy of Holdt's book today. Ironically, it too is signed by the author, albeit with an inscription to Martha.