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History in the Making X

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The Model Town & Railroad

Voted Most Popular Exhibit by our visitors for three years running!

Come in and see the newest addition to our 1920s Crested Butte Model Town and Railroad--a train shed used to work on maintenance for the engines.  Another recent addition, Kochevar's Bar, is as old as Crested Butte and home to a legendary story of Butch Cassidy.  The Forest Queen building was also recently installed and took over 250 hours to build from scratch. If you think the town of Crested Butte is quaint and small, you should see our model town. The train will take several trips around “our town” for just a quarter!

The Train Exhibit is continually evolving and is a major draw for visitors of all ages. The backdrop is a realistic mural painted by Susan Anderton depicting the bench on Gibson’s Ridge including the Colorado Fuel and Iron buildings. Dedicated volunteers, including Tom Bielefeld and Dave Watkins, have spent thousands of hours scratch building replicas of Crested Butte’s structures and scenery from the 1920s. The engines and rolling stock (freight and passenger cars) are also scale replicas of the actual Denver & Rio Grande trains used at that time. The diorama is HO scale (1:87 proportions) and the trains are HOn3 gauge. HOn3 Gauge is a narrow gauge railroad, which was better for travel through mountainous terrain.

Come in and see many little scenes showing what life was like in the coal mining era. You'll recognize historic buildings like City Hall on Elk Avenue and Second Street, the Old Rock Schoolhouse and the Crested Butte Hardware/Conoco Gas Station. Pay attention to the fact that Coal Creek has already been diverted from its natural course and now meanders through the town. Residents work in their yards, tending their livestock, planting gardens, and hanging laundry. Notice how the deep snow took a toll on the homeowners' fences around their yards. Check out details like the baseball field, whose fence is lined with advertisements from the 1920's.

Observe the mule path near the tipple. Mules were used to haul mine carts loaded with coal from the mine to the tipple, where it was sorted into lump coal, and slack coal. The slack coal was then hauled to the coke ovens where it was baked into coke for a denser, cleaner-burning fuel. The lump coal was shipped out in gondola cars to the Eastern slope of Colorado, for use in home and commercial furnaces.

The model builders have done extensive research to make sure this exhibit is historically accurate so that it helps tell the story of everyday life in Crested Butte during the mining era.