One of the many unwritten obligations of a parent is to suss out all the weird, unusual, and interesting places in your area to take your children. Duck ponds, bike paths, exotic candy stores, and restaurants where you get to eat with your fingers. At least, I always tried to expand my children’s horizons by going to a variety of places in Colorado.
One of our favorite day jaunts was when Gareth and I visited the Colorado Railroad Museum, way back when he was only nine years old. A 15-acre mishmash of trains, engines, boxcars, and even trolley cars, it’s an outdoor venue located adjacent to the huge Coors brewing facility in Golden, Colorado, about 20 minutes due west from Denver and 30 minutes due south from Boulder. I still have a photo from our 2009 visit:
Golden is also well known as a small cowboy town that retains an Old West charm even while it has great restaurants, coffee shops, and a scenic river running through downtown. One of the most well-known lodging options in Golden is the Table Mountain Inn, where I have met friends and colleagues for many great meals over the years. The Colorado Railroad Museum is one of Golden’s prime tourist attractions, so it was natural for the two businesses to partner up and create an outdoor catering and party venue on the Museum property that goes by the name of Table Mountain Station.
When they invited me to attend the grand opening party, I immediately invited Gareth to join me and we had a great time eating, walking around, and reminiscing about the last time we’d both been there and all the many things that had happened in the ensuing 13 years. Heck, this time he got a beer: He’s 22 years old, after all! The venue is essentially a covered spot in the front of the railroad museum’s main yard area:
There were almost 100 of us at this event and we had plenty of space to move around while socializing. There were also food stations on three corners and a bar on the far corner, along with a fantastic taco truck from Table Mountain Tacos which supplied us both with a delicious dinner:
The fun of the venue is being able to wander around the Colorado Railroad Museum, however, which we did, drinks in hand, after enjoying some of the wonderful food. First stop was to recreate the original photo of Gareth and old number 5629. It’s still enormous, but he’s quite a bit taller too!
We switched roles and he took a photo of me in front of the train too:
A Google search reveals that the 5629 locomotive was part of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad. Founded in 1848, the CB&Q has remained a viable railroad business: In 1970, it merged with the Northern Pacific Railway and the Great Northern Railway to form the enormous Burlington Northern Railroad.
That locomotive is in decent condition, but the Museum grounds definitely have some stock that’s seen better days, like this caboose:
Oh, the stories these could tell if only they could talk! As you can see, however, much of the rail stock is locked up, unsafe for climbing and hands-on exploration. There are a few locomotives and a caboose you can peek into to see what railroad life was like in the heyday of the rail era, but mostly it’s a look-from-the-outside experience.
There’s also a big outdoor model train setup, which offered great photo opportunities like this one:
The museum does have some Rio Grande stock on the grounds too, but nothing this clean and pristine! Lots of fun exploring the incredibly detailed model and chatting with the old geezers who manage the area and, of course, control the trains themselves. It’s not quite Walt Disney backyard level (where you could famously sit on the train and ride around Walt’s yard) but definitely quite interesting, particularly for little people.
Then again, the Colorado Railroad Museum does have a small train you can jump on for a ride around the park if you’re inclined (though check the Web site for the schedule before you head over mid-week):
The last time we went to the Colorado Railroad Museum, I remember wishing they had historical plaques to tell you the story of each train and locomotive, and while there are now a few, mostly it’s 15-acres full of old train stuff, muchly without any explanation at all. Some of the trains are pretty run down, while others are almost pristine – including a trolley car from Pike’s Peak Railway – making for a surprise around every corner.
The event was about the partnership between the Museum and the Table Mountain Inn, and I have to say that based on our experience, the new Table Mountain Station would be a very unique and interesting venue for a company party, a wedding, or any other event where you want to have a venue that allows people to wander off and explore, while your party remains front and center. Check it out, the new Table Mountain Station.
Disclosure Table Mountain Station invited Gareth and I to join them for the grand opening, covering our food and beverages. Which was great!