Push that train

Visitors to the annual Boreas Pass Railroad Day will have the chance to push a real live, rarin’-to-go steam locomotive. The event spans 22 historical miles from Como to Breckenridge. (Photo courtesy of Bob Schoppe)

Did you know that the town of Como was once a railroad town? Unlike many mountain towns in Colorado, Como was not a mining town, but a railroad town – and narrow gauge  railroad, for sharp mountain turns, at that.

The 24th annual Boreas Pass Railroad Day, which celebrates 22 miles of railroad history, includes live demonstrations, such as the vintage Fairplay Flume printing press, and tours of historic properties. Klondike Kate, the steam locomotive, will be on hand, providing free rides to visitors.

The event is hosted by the towns of Como and Breckenridge, and takes place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 17. Activities include the opportunity to visit historic properties, such as the Como Depot and Eating House, Como Roundhouse and Letterpress Depot, and hear a concert by the Denver Brass with the Colorado Celtic Bagpipes.

Susan Wehr Livingston for the Boreas Pass Railroad Day organization writes, “BPRD celebrates the momentous power of the narrow gauge railroad as it went between Como and Breckenridge over Boreas Pass.

“Volunteers and property owners have worked for months to get ready for Aug. 17. BPRD  is a free, self-directed tour.

“It’s a chance to explore historic private buildings and the beautiful steam engine, Klondike Kate, in Como. The Como Cemetery, schools, painted lady houses, Depot and Rowe Street buildings will be open.

“[Atop] Boreas Pass, the South Park Ranger Service sites will be open and Ranger Service volunteers will have pancakes — first-come, first-served. In Breckenridge, at the foot of Boreas Pass, museums related to the railroad will be open: the Highline Railroad Park that houses Engine #9 and the Rotary Snowplow, and the Sawmill Museum.”

Bob Schoppe, president of the Denver, South Park & Pacific Historical Society said, “Klondike Kate, the steam locomotive, will be in Como and the steam engine will be running all day, giving free rides.

“There is a handcar that the passenger pumps to move the car. The roundhouse will be open to visitors and we restored the turntable. There is much more track inside and outside; there is a couple thousand feet of track.

“Visitors can also see a motorized speeder car. The whole event is free and there will be plenty of parking and food vendors, too.

“One of the highlights of the day will be a free concert by the Denver Brass with the Colorado Celtic Bagpipers, which will be at 2 p.m. inside the roundhouse.

“The concert is an hour of special arrangements that will incorporate the two different sounds. The first time we did this, there was not a dry eye in the place.”

Schoppe added, “The Depot museum has been restored and will be open to the public, and contains photographs and artifacts, many showing Como’s history as a railroad town.”

The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance writes, “The BHA maintains the Highline Railroad Park, home to the impressive #9 engine that pulled the last train over the Boreas in 1937, and the rotary snowplow that kept the tracks clear of snow so deep it could cover buildings.”

The Sawmill Museum will be open. It contains hands-on exhibits that show the importance of lumber to the local mines.

Visitors will also be able to check out Baker’s Tank on the pass, as well as the restored section house and boxcar.

From the Denver, South Park and Pacific Historical Society website: “Railroad Day is a joint effort of the South Park Ranger District, South Park National Heritage Area, Como Civic Association, Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, Denver South Park and Pacific Historical Society, Como Depot and Eating House, Como Roundhouse, Letterpress Depot, South Park Rail Society and private citizens.”

More About BPRD

“BPRD is a cooperation between private historic property owners, non-profits, and government agencies. Many thanks go to the SPNHA, private property owners, South Park Ranger Service, Denver South Park & Pacific Historical Society, South Park Rail Society, Como Civic Association, and Breckenridge Heritage Alliance. And the volunteers — this couldn’t happen without the volunteers,” writes Livingston.

The grantor is SPNHA, and the sponsor is the DSP&PHS.

Want to volunteer?

Per Schoppe, there have been 50 volunteers, helping with a number of items, including laying track.

“The turntable has been restored to operating condition, and one of the highlights of the day is for visitors to be able to put a locomotive on it and push the bar. Kids can push, and they love doing it, even with a steam locomotive on it, it turns,” Schoppe said.

Interested in volunteering? Contact Cynthia Frojen at Frojen11106@aol.com.

More Information

More information can be found on Facebook at Boreas Pass Railroad Day, or BoreasPassRailroadDay@comcast.net, or the Denver, South Park and Pacific Historical Society website.

Questions about the railroad can be directed to Bob Schoppe at rschoppe52@gmailcom.

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