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The Ghost Town Club of Colorado is an active and energetic group of people with diverse backgrounds who share an interest in the history of the west, especially Colorado. 

The club enjoys visiting historic sites and is committed to the preservation of these sites for future generations.

The club holds monthly meetings with programs on historical subjects. In addition, the club conducts field trips to sites throughout Colorado, and occasionally beyond to locales in the western United States and Canada.

Historic preservation is a focus of our work and preservation work is done in conjunction with field trips. Also once a year the club distributes its preservation funds to nonprofit historical sites in need of financial help.

Exploration, enjoyment and preservation of historical sites.

About GTC

The Ghost Town Club of Colorado was founded in 1958 by two Denver teachers, Jack Morison and Bob Brown. Together with several other people who shared an interest in Colorado history and historic preservation, they created a group focused specifically on ghost towns – their history and preservation.

What do we do?

Ghost Town Club of Colorado (GTC) holds monthly meetings featuring guest speakers on a variety of topics related to western history, ghost towns, Colorado history and relevant historic subjects. Past presentation topics include: the adventure, danger and romance of Colorado’s railroads, Denver’s great mansions and the people who inhabited them, and the unusual opportunities and challenges of living in a fire observation tower. There is something for everyone in this group of enthusiastic lovers of Colorado history!

Members also plan, organize, and lead many field trips to ghost towns and/or historic sites. These include day-trips to local sites such as old Fort Lupton to learn about and observe reconstruction of the fort, as well as to the ghost town of Dearfield to explore a hundred-year-old African American agricultural community on the arid high plains. Our excursions may include leisure driving, four-wheel driving, and/or hiking to our destinations.

Our field trips also include weekend excursions such as a motorcoach tour to Nebraska and the Lincoln County Historical Museum depicting a WWII canteen serving more than six million soldiers traveling by train through North Platte.

We also organize longer tours traveling to several states and parts of Canada, visiting significant historical sites and monuments, national parks, and local historians along the way.

And lets not forget about historic preservation. The club collects money throughout the year in a preservation fund to distribute at the end of the year to nonprofit historic sites in need of finacial support. Also, we will often help by doing actual preservation work with hands-on labor.

Who are we?

We are a diverse and active group of people with a shared sense of and reverence for history. We honor the significant contributions of many people through our strong desire to study, learn from, and preserve ghost towns and the memory of the people who built and lived in them. Perhaps most importantly, we are a group of friendly people who enjoy getting out, socializing, learning, and having a lot of fun.

How do we operate?

We are a volunteer-run organization. Our board of directors consists of six members who are elected to two-year terms. The president and other officers are elected for a yearly term. Subcommittees plan and execute special projects such as the yearly banquet, preservation fund awards, volunteer coordination, or outreach activities, to name a few.

Snapshot of GTC History

During the first three meetings of the Club back in 1958 when organizers were trying to decide on a name for the club, one lone stranger kept insisting that “toll roads” be added to the name. Finally Ghost Town Club of Colorado was “railroaded” through. In December 1963, the Club was legally incorporated with the Secretary of State.

First dues for the Club were $1 a year. In 1979, dues were $5 a year. Slowly postage, printing, insurance and rent have caused minimal increases. It’s been many a year since we had to raise the dues, and as Dick Ramsey says, “It’s still the best bargain in town.”

Introductory note from the President – May 2019

I would like to thank all the members who took time to participate in the recent contest marking the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad’s completion (May 10, 1869, in case you were wondering). Below is Ron Ruhoff’s winning entry about a visit to the famed Alpine Tunnel, which once allowed the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad to provide service from Denver to Gunnison. It was the first tunnel bored under Colorado’s Continental Divide and remains the highest railroad tunnel in North America. The line was abandoned just eighteen years later in 1910, reportedly due to declining revenues and the increasing costs of operations and maintenance.

– Ethan Knightchilde

Alpine Tunnel Adventure
By Ron Ruhoff

In 1966 a good friend of mine, Dow Helmers, had recently published his book, Historic Alpine Tunnel, which told of the route of the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad through the Continental Divide on its way to Gunnison. That fall, Pam and I, along with Charlie Webb and Don and Marlene Smith, joined him at the west portal of the famous tunnel for a tour. We drove our Jeeps up from Pitkin and met at the old Alpine Tunnel Station, which had been undergoing restoration work by Francis Trudgeon. The west portal had been a busy place during the operation of the railroad. Ruins of the large stone engine house still remain along with traces of other buildings.

The tunnel slopes up for six hundred feet from the west portal toward the Continental Divide (track elevation 11,523 feet), then down for eleven hundred feet to the east portal. Both portals had been caved in and blocked for many years, but a small opening was accessible at the west end just below the cut stone archway. Wearing hip boots and warm jackets, we carried our flashlights and camera equipment up to the entry and made our way through the gap.

Once inside we carefully slid down the rock debris to where we could see water. The grade was flooded, but our lights showed that the tracks emerged from the pool about twenty feet ahead. The sight before us was amazing. Huge California redwood timbers lined the tunnel, and rusty rails stretched into darkness, still intact on the grade. It was like entering an ancient cathedral. We descended into water about 18 inches deep (thus the need for hip boots), then walked to the apex and a little ways beyond. The timbers were all intact, but some caving of the natural rock had occurred where the builders had thought timbering unnecessary.

Charlie had planned to take a new picture of the interior, much like the one he had taken a few years earlier that appears in Dow’s book. I had my 4×5 view camera loaded with black and white film. We set our cameras for a time exposure and opened the shutters. Charlie walked down the tunnel, positioning himself behind redwood columns so as not to appear hidden in the photo, and flashed a strobe light into the dark. He alternated sides, and I believe he made about 20 flashes on each. The result was that he painted the tunnel with light for the cameras, and the results were phenomenal.

It was a spooky feeling being inside that old railroad tunnel, and a visit I will never forget. But it felt good to get back out into the sunshine.

From Alpine Tunnel Station, we took the four-wheel-drive road over Hancock Pass and down to the ghost town of Hancock, where one stately building still stood over 50 years ago. From there, the Jeep road follows the railroad’s grade down to Romley, the Mary Murphy Mine, and St. Elmo.

19-05-RON RUHOFF-Alpine Tunnel Visit photo copy

From Colorado Public Radio, Colorado Matters by Shanna Lewis with CPR’s Ryan Warner

October 31, 2018 – There Are 700 Ghost Towns In Colorado, And Ron Ruhoff Has Visited Many Of Them

Listen now

Join us!

We invite you to attend a monthly meeting to learn more about us. Our membership dues are $25 per year. Join GTC today! Costs for field trips vary based on distance and length.

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Programs & Monthly Meetings

May 9, 2019 at 7:30p.m.

Lee Whitely will present a program titled, “Entering Colorado.” Explore the ghost towns, signs, historical markers, and forgotten trails and roads that sit on or cross Colorado’s state borders.

June 13, 2019 at 7:30p.m.

Jim Bell will present a program on his recent trip, titled “East African Safari-Tanzania & Kenya.”

July 11, 2019 at 7:30p.m.

Darrell Arndt will present a program titled “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad — The 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad.”

Monthly Meeting Schedule

We hold ten regular meetings per year on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 7:30p.m. We meet at the Grace United Methodist Church located at 4905 East Yale Avenue, Denver, Colorado (just west of I-25 and Yale). Additional parking is available in the church parking lot on the north side of the building.

Upcoming Field Trips

It’s a Lulu!
(City, that is!)

Saturday, July 13, 2019 at 8am

Join us for a classic Ghost Town Club hike to the site of the boom-and-bust town of Lulu (also known as Lulu City, take your pick) near Rocky Mountain National Park. The town existed for only five years, from 1879-1884, but at its peak it had a population of more than 500.

This is considered an easy/intermediate hike on a 7.1 mile loop trail. The average grade is 4 percent and the altitude varies from approximately 9,000 to 9,500 feet.

Dr. Jeremy Sueltenfuss will be co-leading the trip. Dr. Sueltenfuss is an ecologist at Colorado State University, studying restoration ecology in wetland and floodplain ecosystems. He is interested in the ecological impacts we have on the natural world.

We will meet at 8 a.m. at the Colorado River Trailhead, about 9.6 miles north of the Rocky Mountain National Park Grand Lake entrance station. Good parking is available. Bring lunch, water, rain gear.

More information and a signup sheet will be available at the May meeting. For more information please email us or call us at 303.659.4858..

Western Slope Field Trip: Grand Junction, Then And Now

Sept. 30 – Oct. 3, 2019 (optional hike on Oct. 4th)

  • Potluck dinner – Berries and model trains: HO scale indoors and 2,100 feet large scale outdoors.
  • Tour of Orchard Mesa Irrigation District pump and power houses led by head of OMID. See early 20th century irrigation equipment and learn about the history of turning the Grand Valley into a farming area.
  • Visit an alpaca farm and see how the fleece is made into yarn and apparel
  • Cross Orchards Museum: Visit restored Uintah Railroad rolling stock, ancient farm equipment, guided tour of living history museum; learn of future plans for the museum.
  • Museum of the West” After hours tour by Curator and Director who will explain the complex investigation of Alferd Packer including his pistol and other items found near Lake City
  • Real ghost town – Raber Cow Camp and Cabins. Tour Grand Mesa and visit the only remaining cow camp and cabins; lunch at Alexander Lake Lodge
  • Quick stop at Red Mountain Ranch for apples and other seasonal delights.
  • Pioneer Town in Cedaredge consisting of 23 buildings that were brought from their original locations
  • Fort Uncompahgre on the Gunnison River and the Old Spanish Trail. This was Anton Rubidoux’ fur trading post from 1820’s to 1844. Re-enactors will give tour. Dutch oven meatloaf dinner.
  • OPTIONAL HIKE on last day. 7 mile round trip hike in Dominguez Canyon to see Indian Rock Art. Route is along the original Rio Grande Narrow Gauge and Gunnison River.
  • Eagle Rock Shelter – Oldest ghost town in Colorado.Watch for further details.

For additional details about any of the field trips listed please email us or call us at 303.659.4858.

Do you enjoy our field trips? Have you ever thought about leading one?

It’s easy! Find a friend, team up, and plan a trip for the club. Field trips can be for a few hours, a morning or afternoon, a full day, a weekend, or a week long excursion.

Want more information? Check out our printed guide on planning field trips for a step-by-step how to guide. Remember it’s always easier and more fun to work together. Some of our greatest field trips were been led by people who had never planned a trip before. Let’s go exploring together!