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.
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