Disappointing Depots of Golden

Originally posted February 10, 2021

Locations of Golden’s 3 passenger depots – excerpt from the 1878 Willits Map of Golden – redrawn by Dan Abbott – enlarge

The train station should be a source of civic pride to any 19th century American city. As the first and last thing that visitors see, it should be a thing of beauty, symbolizing the solidity, affluence, and modernity of the city it represents. As the headquarters of the Colorado Central Railroad and the gateway to mining towns, Golden fully expected to have a depot equal to its status. Somehow, it just never worked out that way.

The Colorado Central was completed from Denver to Golden in September of 1870. A fine brick freight depot was ready, and the City anticipated the passenger depot that must soon follow. In the meantime, passengers made do by sharing the space in the freight depot. The Colorado Transcript was irked by this compromise, and posted a long series of comments over the years, ranging from hopeful to nagging to disgruntled.

Work upon the car-shops and machine shops will commence shortly, employing a large number of men, and a handsome union passenger depot will be the next necessity….

In 1878, the railroad relocated a small building from a point east of North Table Mountain to approximately 7th and Ford. The Transcript was underwhelmed, but at least the new depot was a bit closer to downtown than the freight depot.

…it will be utilized for the general passenger depot at this place until a more commodious and substantial building can be erected.

The town continued its wait for the railroad to build a depot more suitable to our stature.

It seems to us that we have waited about long enough to see a disposition on the part of the Union Pacific and Colorado Central Railroad companies to give us a good passenger depot in place of the wooden abortion that silly economy erected a few years since.

On January 8, 1883, a runaway train derailed and smashed through the modest depot.

The baggage room, the waiting room and the east half of the lunch room were complete wrecks, while not enough of the platform or cars was left to make a respectable tooth-pick.

To complete the ignominy, the splintered remains of the station burned on August 13, 1889.

The Colorado Central Freight Depot – Golden History Museum Collection – enlarge

The Transcript hadn’t given up its hopes for a decent depot. An 1887 article detailed “What Golden Wants.” The wants included better aldermen, a democratic postmaster, a higher bridge on Washington Avenue, a creamery, a nice hotel, and a hydro-electric power plant. More than anything else, though, Golden…

Colorado Transcript – 3/23/1887
wants a new passenger depot badly, located near Washington Avenue. This being compelled to hoof it half a mile to the old freight depot to take the trains is an imposition, and ought to be remedied.

The Union Pacific had assumed control of the Colorado Central by this time, so the newspaper appealed to the new owners, first with hope…

Colorado Transcript -4/6/1887
Will the U.P. company heed the demands of its patrons and give us a passenger depot somewhere near the business portion of the town? It is a great bore for their patrons to be compelled to perambulate through the dust, over tracks and any amount of roughness to the old freight depot.

then with despair….

Colorado Transcript -10/5/1887
The U. P. management don’t seem to care a cent for our oft-repeated suggestions about affording our people better depot privileges. If they cannot give us a depot somewhere within easy reach they might at least give us a plank walk from ford street to their present apology for a passenger depot.

A surge of joy and optimism arrived in 1893, when the railroad bought property for a depot at Washington and 8th Street. Plans for a fine new depot were enumerated in the Transcript.

Excerpt from the 1882 Birdseye View Map of Golden with the three depots (freight, passenger1, and passenger2) highlighted – enlarge

Colorado Transcript -2/1/1893
With everybody in Golden we rejoice with exceeding great joy that the Union Pacific people have come to the conclusion to give us a passenger depot that will be a credit to the road and the city as well.

The article went on to detail the dimensions (29’x65′ with a 140 foot platform), the material (brick), the style (an observatory tower on the roof and an 8′ overhang to keep passengers out of the weather), “ladies’ and gentlemen’s waiting rooms, telegraph office, ticket office, baggage and toilet rooms.” There would be grass, trees, fountains, and flowers on the grounds. “It will be an ornament to the city and can be pointed to with pride by railroad officials.”

By the time construction began in 1896, those glorious plans had been whittled down and we were left with a small wooden structure. It’s hard not to detect some sarcasm in the Transcript’s article:

Colorado Transcript -1/8/1896
We are happy to note that the much-talked of Gulf passenger depot on Washington avenue is nearing completion. Work was commenced on it last Friday, and would have been completed the same day but for the wind. Its formal opening should be the occasion of at least three days carnival festivities, with flags waving, addresses by the governor and officials of the road, music, banquets, etc. Who’ll be the first to subscribe to the fund for celebrating the “Golden Gulf Palace.”

Golden made do with this depot until passenger service into the mountains was discontinued. According to railroad aficionado Bill Robie, the depot building was removed in 1938.

Because the Golden passenger depot was never a point of pride or a thing of beauty, we don’t have fine, postcard-quality photographs of it, but Dan Abbott, the Wizard of All Things Colorado Central, provided this rare photo from his collection:

Golden Railroad Depot (right) and Express & Telegraphic building (left) – Dan Abbott collection – enlarge

A Message from Dan Abbott (one of the Authors of the book, Colorado Central):
In this view from the 1919 ICC Inventory we see Golden’s C.&S. Railroad Depot on the right which had been removed by February 16, 1946. One source indicated that this original building was a part of the Moffat Railroad and was first located at the freight house in the local rail yards, and moved to this location in 1894. The Sanborn Insurance Map of October 1900 is the only reference to the platform between these two buildings, however, this photograph shows the platform. The building on the left – approximately 17′ x 20′ – was listed on all the Sanborn Maps as “Express & Telegraph”. It was built in January 1896 by the Union Pacific, Denver & Gulf as a “temporary” structure,and here we see the rear and back side of this building which had been removed by September of 1947. — Dan Abbott

Thanks to both Bill Robie and Dan Abbott for their help with this article, and as always, thanks to the Golden History Museum for providing the online cache of historic Transcripts and to the Golden Transcript for documenting our history since 1866.