COMO RAILROAD ROUNDHOUSE
COMO RAILROAD ROUNDHOUSE
Como, Colorado, located north of Fairplay, was an important railroad town for the narrow gauge Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad. The railroad reached Como from Denver in 1879 and built a switch and maintenance site for the Boreas Pass line into Breckenridge, Colorado. What was called the "High Line" left the original route at Como, and proceeded across Boreas Pass to Breckenridge, and then across Fremont Pass to Leadville. This route was known for crossing the Continental Divide twice (from the Atlantic side to the Pacific side at Boreas Pass, and back to the Atlantic side at Fremont Pass), and was very difficult to operate in winter. At its peak, the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad had 335 miles of narrow gauge line, making it the largest narrow gauge railroad in the state of Colorado. The last train to run on the DSP&P tracks was between Como and Denver, Colorado, in April of 1937.
The Como Roundhouse was built by Italian stonemasons in 1881, along with a depot, which was built in 1879, and the Gilman Hotel, completed in 1880. So, what exactly is a railroad roundhouse? A roundhouse is a building with a circular or semicircular shape used by railroads for servicing and storing locomotives, and usually surrounds, or is next to, a turntable. Early steam locomotives normally only traveled forward, and later locomotives often could not operate as well in reverse. Turntables allowed locomotives or other railroad rolling stock, such as freight and passenger cars to be turned around for the return journey, and roundhouses, designed to radiate around the turntables, were built to service and store these locomotives.
The Como Roundhouse included 6 bays. Two wooden additions brought the total to 19 stalls by 1900. After the railway left town in 1937, the original stone structure was used for various purposes, including a sawmill in the 1950s, and by the 1970s, the building's future was not bright. In 1984, the roundhouse was bought by Bill Kazel. Bill and his son, Greg, began restoring the building, and by 1995, the roof on the roundhouse was replaced, windows were installed, and the engine bay doors were repaired or replaced. In 2001, Dr. Chuck and Kathy Brantigan became the new owners of the roundhouse. Dr. Brantigan is also a member of the Western History and Genealogy Department’s Western Acquisitions committee. Since the Brantigans have owned the roundhouse, it has been repainted and additional masonry work has been completed. Today, the roundhouse is leased to the South Park Rail Society. The Denver South Park & Pacific Historical Society sponsors the Annual Boreas Pass Railroad Day, which features a live steam locomotive and other festivities. The roundhouse has come a long way, and with help from generous volunteers and others, seems assured of a successful future.
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