29 March 2024

7th Street Shops - Rails Flanges & Gears Post 8

Monday, April 10, 2023

7th Street Shops; Pre-History Part 5

"The townsite of Romley is located at roughly 10,500' ASL near the base of the north shoulder of the ridge running more or less southward to the peak of Pomeroy Mt. El. 13,161' ASL. Just to it's east runs the small creek of Pomeroy Gulch which empties into Chalk Creek north east of the town site..."

Romley (formerly Murphy's Switch) about 1900

In the summer of 1910 the Colorado & Southern mainline still came west down Trout Creek Canyon, crossed the Arkansas River and continued up Chalk Creek to the top of Altman Pass. This was the location of the Alpine Tunnel which passed thru the Continental Divide at that point.

In those days Buena Vista was a short branch from the Wye at Schwanders located at the bottom of Trout Creek Canyon before the line crossed the River.

Romley depot & boarding - ? artist (1950s?)



In late summer Trout Creek washed out the line and in the fall of 1910 a small cave-in at the Tunnel cut off the entire Gunnison Division. This isolated the Chalk Creek line completely and suddenly there was a microcosm of the narrow gauge from Buena Vista to Hancock. It was a sad moment in the Railroad's history but fortuitous for a modeler with limited space and budget. I had planned one day to model most of the branch but at the moment Romley was all I had room for.

In December 1983 my first wife and I rented a home in Parker, Colorado and once again I had a place where I could build a layout. As I recall it was about 10 feet long and 18 or so inches wide. I allowed this was enough room to make a fair representation of the Romley station in 1/4" scale.

Traffic on the line was light and rarely was there more than one locomotive for 3 trains a week. It wasn't long before traffic to Hancock and Romley became the west terminal. Buena Vista had the most activity but it was a pair of very long tracks where cars were collected for exchange to and from Leadville. The Denver & Rio Grande line up the Arkansas River to Leadville was the only connection the road had to the rest of the system. Buena Vista would have been as interesting as Romley but the latter with it precipitous location seemed more interesting to model and was a better choice for the room I had.

Since the track above Romley was no longer maintained, the wye at Hancock was out of reach. A turntable was put it just above the depot in 1915. The large depot that was moved from Hancock in 1890 burned down in 1908 and a new smaller depot was built at Romley. I found a watercolor at an antique show that I instantly recognized and purchased very cheap (the artist is unknown). This was some years after the layout had been dismantled but it still contributed to my understanding of the location. The painting shows, left to right, the 2 story boarding house and the stable behind it. Across the road was the depot and the Post Office below it. The road on the left goes up to the Mary Murphy Mine. If you study the first photo you will see how the structures related the same.

The tram house just above the grade


The layout included Pomeroy Gulch and iron truss bridge. I laid my track as much as I could discern up to the depot - which was never ready for this layout. I advanced the scenery fairly well and eventually had a few representative buildings but there were a lot of compromises. My knowledge of the location was still very limited in 1983; very little detail was available in what few books I could obtain or what I could find on location. We had visited the site a few years earlier and camped on the town site below the grade. By then most of the structures were collapsed or gone.


The photo below was very helpful in building the bridge. The cars on my bridge were scratch built using Grandt Line parts and trucks. This was before San Juan Car Co. offered O scale kits of the cars in the early1990s. In fact, they used my drawings of the cars to develop the kits.


The Pomroy iron truss bridge - 1981 (correction 1983)

 Some time in the 1890s the railroad built a trestle behind the truss bridge in order to extend the passing track down line from the gulch. You can see this extension in the top photo. I was not aware of the trestle when I built this layout as there was no evidence of it when we camped there in the summer of 1981 (correction 1983). This trestle was apparently abandoned by 1918, the date of the layout, and I incorrectly double tracked the truss bridge.

Several scratch built box cars over the bridge

So far as I know there was never a coaling platform - or any locomotive facilities except for the turntable - at Romley. The platform seen here was a kit of the coaling platform at Alpine Station at the Pacific end of the Tunnel. I don't remember who made the kit but I built one and plopped it down here.

No. 62 approaches St. Elmo

As the layout grade extended a few feet beyond the bridge I optimistically planted a station sign for St. Elmo which was a few miles from Romley. Golf was a station between where the railroad serviced a huge 100 stamp mill. The mile marker and elevation on the post are correct for the location indicated. 

No. 62 approaches St. Elmo

 My locomotive was the 1/4" scale no. 62, that I had previously converted from the no. 60 kit. I created the illusion of smoke from the stack with ink dyed cotton on a wire that was attached to the cinder catcher and wiggled during a slow shutter exposure. Today we would. Photoshop the smoke into the photo.

The engine was accompanied by several freight cars, Many of them were pre C&S cars letters for the current company. By 1918 the railroad had gotten rid of most of these cars partly because of Interstate Commerce Commission laws. Most of the cars were scratch built but the combine was a modified kit who's maker I do not remember. It represented C&S no. 22. At this point I did not have a caboose. It wasn't necessary because the combine doubled as the caboose. I built the Don Winters caboose after we moved to Colorado Springs later in 1984. However, I probably purchased the kit at the 4th National Narrow Gauge Convention in Denver of that year.
The one freight car that was built from a kit was the Model Masterpiece composite frame coal car in the last color photo.

The yard at Romley

I believe I scrapped this layout when we moved from Parker; though it seems part of it was in a spare bedroom in the house we rented in Colorado Springs. As I grew to understand the station more I became dissatisfied with the layout. I felt I could do better when a larger space became available, But by the time that happened I had moved on to another part of the railroad and adopted another scale. In the meantime there would be another, smaller shelf layout of this location in O scale.

I have visited Romley many times and each time a little more of it has disappeared. The last time I went thru Romley was in 2006 on our way to the 26th National Narrow Gauge Convention in Durango. We crossed over Hancock Pass (12,140' ASL), a fairly mild 4-wheel road and followed the railroad grade down to U.S. Hwy 50. Then from Montrose we headed south over Red Mountain Pass to Durango.

My incorrect depiction at the Watercolor location

We did it all in my infamous 1998 Jeep Wrangle. That was a long day and the long way from Denver. As I recall we rode the Georgetown Loop and the Leadville Railroad to Climax while we were at it. Wow! We did all that in one day? 

No 62 in comparison to my stock No. 60


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