This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, December 24, 1997

December 24, 1997 - Excursion Train Program

My son Perry is crazy about trains. He always has been. So for us, Christmas will be (again) a snarl of tracks and steam engines and train books and videos.

But it turns out that you don’t have to be three-and-a-half years old to be a train buff.

Johanna Harden, Archivist of our Local History Collection, recently presented me with an information folder on the Royal Gorge/Tennessee Pass Steam Excursion. You might have seen the historic train come puffing through Douglas County this past June. It left Denver and passed through the Royal Gorge and Tennessee Pass on its way to the National Railway Historical Society’s annual meeting in Salt Lake City. The excursion train slowed traffic on I-25 for miles, as people pulled over and waved at the proud Union Pacific #844 steam engine.

Or maybe you missed it. That’s too bad, especially since the Royal Gorge/Tennessee pass route was officially closed on August 23, 1997. No trains are now running on the former D&RGW tracks.

But do not despair. You can step back into time and relive the whole trip -- through video, slides, and human memory -- simply by attending a program on January 11, 1998, at 2 p.m., at the Commissioner’s Hearing Room in the Philip S. Miller Administration Building at 100 Third Street, Castle Rock.

Entitled “Riding the Cushions,” the multi-media presentation is part of our Local History Collection program series 1997-98 (see below for the list of remaining programs). So far, all of our programs have been blessed with extraordinary speakers. “Riding the Cushions” boasts three such speakers, each with a very different view of the excursion. Steve Patterson BNSF locomotive engineer on the Joint Line (which runs just west of the Philip S. Miller Library), was a passenger on the excursion train.

Our second speaker is Stephen A. Lee, Union Pacific Railroad, Manager of Train Operating Practices, is one of two steam locomotive experts in the United States. I’ve read his article “So, you want to run a steam locomotive” (in “Trains,” July 1989) in which he shows the fifty-six (yes,56) valves, gears and switches that make up the nerve center of a steam locomotive. He’ll be discussing the technical side of the trip.

Our third speaker is Eric Sondeen, a lieutenant of the Littleton Fire Department, who worked as a car attendant on the excursion. Lt. Sondeen, like our other two speakers, is also a member of Operation Lifesaver, which seeks to prevent train collisions. The Douglas Public Library District is thus far the only public library in Colorado to invite Operation Lifesaver to give public presentations.

You can bet Perry and I will be there.

Here’s a list of the 3 other Local History Collection programs (also held at 2 p.m. in the same location):

February 8 - “History by Mail:” Douglas County & Colorado Postal History, featuring James Ozment, and Erwin Engert.

March 8 - “Letters Home:” Love Letters to Baby Doe, a soldier’s words to his parents, Lizzie Smith’s first Christmas on West Plum Creek 1872, and more.

May 17 - National Historic Preservation Week 1998 Celebration, A Concert of Civil War Era Music, featuring the Fourth Artillery Regimental Band, For D.A. Russell, Wyoming Territory.

All the programs, sponsored by the Douglas Public Library District’s Local History Collection, are free and open to the public.

For more information, called Johanna Harden at 303-814-0795.

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