Historic Ridgway Railway Depot To House Two Museums

Historic Ridgway Railway Depot To House Two Museums

To make the new Museum Campus in Ridgway a reality, the two museums involved in the project will need a lot of help. If you want to lend your support through volunteerism or with financial contributions or expertise, please call 970-316-1085 (OCRHM) or 970-318-0322 (RRM).

Ridgway, Colorado, called the “Gateway to the San Juans,” got its start as a railroad town.

In the late-19th century the town was founded where the northern terminus of The Rio Grande Southern narrow gauge railway met the Denver & Rio Grande Western tracks between Montrose and Ouray, Colorado.

Motor 17B

The Ridgway Railroad Museum has had a small building for displays alongside the road near the Fairgrounds. There is also a short section of track on which to show some of the Rio Grande Southern rolling stock, including a replica of one of the iconic Galloping Geese that plied the line after the steam locomotives became too expensive to operate for the diminished traffic.

Now the railroad museum and the Ouray County Ranch History Museum, formerly housed in the Colona schoolhouse, will both occupy the historic Ridgway depot – and there is a 1/2 mile loop of track on which to run the equipment.

Half Mile Loop Track

According to a press release issued by interested parties, the owners of two parcels of property that include the historic Ridgway Railroad Depot and the adjacent pasture to the north have supported the establishment of a Museum Campus to house the Ouray County Ranch History Museum (OCRHM) and Ridgway Railroad Museum (RRM) under leases entered into with both museums.

Donors, who wish to remain anonymous, believe this will be a significant facility to preserve Ridgway’s heritage.

The museums will display and demonstrate various aspects of life in Ridgway starting in 1891.

Both museums share a mission to provide educational information and preserve local history.

The new Museum Campus will serve that mission – and hopefully attract more visitors to the center of Town.

The Museum Campus project will happen in several phases.

In phase one, the OCRHM has facilitated the purchase of the historic Depot from the Mitchell family, who called it home for over 50 years after purchasing it from the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad in the 1960s.

OCRHM has already completed moving their displays and artifacts from their prior location in the Colona schoolhouse to the Depot building. In fact, the Ranch History Museum opened to the public in June 2017 will remain open on a seasonal basis and by appointment for off-season and group tours in the winter.

In phase two, the RRM is building a ½ mile loop of track for operation of its steam train and Motor 1 (the prototype of what came to be called the Galloping Geese).

When complete, the RRM vision is to operate and give scheduled rides on the steam train and Motor 1. Motor 1 will also operate for school groups and elder hostel tours by appointment. As usual, RRM plans to give rides and provide other services free to the public. The RRM will also move its train shed and outdoor displays from the current location near the Fairgrounds to the pasture just north of the Depot. That work will take place over the coming year.

OCRHM is in the early stages of planning and fund raising to design and build a new Ranch Museum complex in the north end of the same pasture, to the north of Charles St. That project could take several years.

In phase three, the OCRHM will move into their new facilities; the RRM will move its indoor displays from the current location in to the Depot.


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