When the trains pulled back into the renovated Union Station last year, one stop was conspicuous by its absence: the model train layouts that had graced the basement of the building for decades, and were featured at regular open houses for the public. The oldest was the 6,500 square food Colorado Midland Railway layout that the Denver Society of Model Railroaders had run there for close to eighty years; in 1983 it was joined by the Platte Valley & Western Model Railroad Club's HO scale-model railroad, which was set up in a 2,000 square-foot space formerly used as Union Station's jail. The group's goal was to create a model railroad display depicting "Railroading in the Rocky Mountains during the 1950s," complete with a scale model of Union Station itself.
"Visitors from around the world made the PV&W's display one of their 'must see' items on their visits to Denver," PV&W spokesman Chris Rand writes. "The group operating the display made an effort to be available to the public and be a family friendly attraction. Those efforts resulted in thousands of visitors who enjoyed the splendors of the craftsmanship of the display as well as the friendly interactions with the members of the club that operated the display. On many nights, selected visitors even had the opportunity to run a train or take a visit 'behind the scenes' to see how the display worked."
During initial bidding for the Union Station renovation job, both competitors had promised that the train sets could stay through the work and then reopen to the public when Union Station itself reopened. The PV&W held its final open house at Union Station in the spring of 2012. "See you in 2014" was the reminder given to visitors that day, Rand remembers.
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But instead, the clubs were booted out two years ago, when the Union Station Alliance, which was chosen by the RTD board for the redevelopment job, said that construction realities made it impossible for the layouts to stay. The PV&W had less than a month to pack up what it could of its layout, and it's been looking for a new home ever since.
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While PV&W members hope to soon see the light at the end of the train tunnel, they took a major hit in the hasty move, and will need to raise funds to get the volunteer project back on track in another location. Interested in helping? Go to their gofundme fundraiser here.
The revived Union Station is a definite hit — and just won our Best Free Entertainment award in the Best of Denver 2015 — but the loss of the model-train layouts was a sad miss.