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Two Day Trip to Durango, Colorado 9/29-30/2021

by Chris Guenzler

For this trip we received an e-mail from the Durango and Silverton Railroad about a photo charter on October 1st with Southern Pacific 18 pulling a mixed train north and returning south aboard Galloping Goose 5 from Dolores. Since I always had wanted to do a Fall Colors trip on the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad, it was natural that we would do that the following day. The next day we would ride the Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad then drive to Grand Junction. The following day we would drive to Price, Utah then the next morning, cross Solider Summit to Provo and ride the FrontRunner commuter train to Ogden and return, with us staying in Springville. October 7th we would arrive in East Ely and a visit to Cherry Creek would be on the next day. Then it would be three days of Trains 81 Celebration and onto Pioche for Sunday night. On the way home, we would be Rail Biking at the Nevada Southern Railroad Museum.

Elizabeth and I woke up at our apartment and after a good breakfast, following our Internet routines, we left and put air in the tires and filled the car with petrol. We took CA Highway 55 to CA Highway 91 to Interstate 215 then Interstate 15 to Interstate 40, stopping at the first rest to change drivers. I drove us to Jersey Mikes in Kingman for a late lunch/early dinner then Elizabeth took over with a stop in Seligman for the first train of the trip.

BNSF 7989 West at Seligman. Elizabeth drove us to Ash Fork where we put petrol into the car before I drove us to the Quality Inn in Flagstaff. We got onto out laptops but I received Error Message 1000 when I tried to send an e-mail. I called Spectrum and the helpful representative tried to fix the problem and we both sent test e-mails. Elizabeth also received the same error message and had the brilliant idea of trying her mobile phone hotspot instead of the hotel Internet. That solved our problem; something that neither of us had ever experienced before. I walked to the lobby and complained, but it fell on deaf ears. We called it a night after all that.

9/30/2021 We woke up and while I shaved, Elizabeth set up her hot spot and everything worked fine. We checked out then drove to the Cracker Barrel for a great breakfast, after which I drove us east while Elizabeth made a few phone calls.

BNSF 7431 West east of Meteor City. We drove into Winslow for our last railroad attraction in this city.

Santa Fe steel caboose 999282.

Santa Fe boom car 98400.

Santa Fe derrick crane 189796.

Santa Fe steel caboose 999179.

Santa Fe steel caboose 999146.

Winslow Station in the concrete.

Burma Shave signs "What can be said about 66? Adventure & Travel it has the mix". I drove us to Holbrook for another train.

BNSF 8197 West at Holbrook. Next I drove us to Exit 348 and a re-visit for me as the rain had just started.

Fort Courage

Built in the 1970s to cash in on some of that sweet "F Troop" money, Fort Courage is a replica fort built to resemble the one from the classic show. The trading post also included a gift shop, Armco gas station and coffee house/Taco Bell.

"F Troop" was a television series that ran from 1965-67, set in the fictional Fort Courage, an Army outpost (and neighboring town) out in the wilderness of the 1860s. The bumbling troop got into all manner of pickles and hijinks during its two seasons, before finally going off the air in 1967. However, the show's legacy lived on at the roadside attraction Fort Courageā€¦ sort of.

The replica fort, while not officially affiliated with the show, did not let this potential legal hurdle stop them, selling official merchandise and proudly displaying actual F Troop props. Because there was only so long that F Troop impersonating could be considered even vaguely financially viable, there was also a general store that sold groceries and Native American arts and crafts.

Also on the trading post property were an Armco gas station and a pancake house, both now, like the fort itself, abandoned. The fort and general store are in remarkably good shape, while the now-fenced-off pancake house looks significantly more desolate. The coffee shop may or may not also have acted as a Taco Bell at one point in its life. A faded sign hangs above the door, but there's not much else to go by. Similarly, for an attraction with as many signs still dotting the interstate as Fort Courage does, there does not seem to be much in the way of history available for this possibly once mighty tourist trap. It closed in 2014. I visited here on a family cross-country trip in 1972.

My return visit under an umbrella

The guard tower that always fell down.

One of the old Hekawi tribe buildings.

The gates to Fort Courage.

The bunkhouse.

Captain Parmenter's office.

The building on the other side.

Another view of the guard tower and perimeter fence.

The water tower with the Fort Courage emblem.

The Fort Courage sign out by the highway.

The old Fort Courage Restaurant and Taco Bell. Elizabeth then would drive the rest of the way to Farmington. We stopped in Gallup to put air in the tires before heading up US Highway 421.

Clouds that I have never seen before.

Bennett Peak.

Barber Peak.

The Cathedral.

Unknown peak.

A distant mountain in this view.

Table Mountain 2.

Shiprock. From here Elizabeth drove us to the Quality Inn in Farnmington where we checked in but did not unload the car as we still had one more place to visit.

B-Square Ranch

The B-Square Ranch is a 12,000 acre lifelong commitment of Tom and Tommy Bolack and is a private wildlife refuge, working farm and ranch, and home of two museums.

Some 15,000 year-round and 100,000 wintering waterfowl call it home. Also in abundance are deer, pheasant, quail, hawks, eagles and owls along with cattle, sheep, pigeons and turkeys. Seven man-made lakes covering some 75 acres also contain crappie, bas and catfish.

The Bolack Museum of Fish and Wildlife was built by and dedicated to Tom Bolack by the Bolack family. It is one of the largest private collections of its type in the world today with over 2,500 specimens. The collection from five continents gives visitors a change to view animals in their natural setting and to appreciate the beauty in nature's animal kingdom.

The Bolack Electromechanical Museum is a forty-year collection by Tommy Bolack and was opened in 1990. Antique electrical, radio, communication, industrial and agricultural artifacts are on permanent display.

The wide range of items shown here should have appeal to nearly everyone. I hope you enjoy your visit and will come again.

Our Visit

We drove down the tree-lined path to the offices of the ranch. Here we met, Keva who would lead our railroad tour of the ranch. We followed her in her car and went way back into the ranch, even crossing a former Rio Grande Railroad bridge, to get to the area that we wanted.

Southern Pacific 0-6-0 1297 built 1921 as Texas and New Orleans 146. It was retired in 1957 and donated to the City of Ogden then sold in 2002 to the Bolack Electromechanical Museum in Farmington.

Both sides of the display train.

The rear view of this engine.

Paducah and Louisville crew car 100541.

Norfolk and Western steel caboose 518599 built in 1969 as 555599.

The rear of the display train.

There is even a semaphore signal here. From here we went inside the first building. On this tour we would just be seeing steam-related equipment.

A steam tractor.

A Case steam tractor.

"Rio La Plata Southern" live steam engine 34 which Tommy Bolack had bought at an estate sale.

A very nice Allen organ. We then went over to another part of the Electromechanical Museum.

Another interesting organ.

Another steam engine.

A steam compressor. It had been great and a surprise tour and both very impressed by the collection that the Bolacks had amassed. From here we followed Keva back, with us stopping at the bridge to take a few pictures.

The east side of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Cedar Hill bridge, built in 1899, and relocated here from twelve miles away.

The west side of the bridge that had something else on it.

The Rio Grande emblem.

The location on the Animas River where the bridge once was in Cedar Hill. We thanked Keva for an excellent tour and we returned to our room at the Quality Inn. After checking e-mail, I converted and labelled the pictures before starting the story. Elizabeth and I went across the road in the rain to the Village Inn for dinner then came back to the hotel where I finished the story and Elizabeth did her things on the Internet.