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Stray cats, hot girls and time-travel

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The Museum of Northwest Colorado's train exhibit highlights a buggy on Yampa Avenue.

Stepping off the train in Craig in November 1915, a visitor might have felt that he was at the edge of civilization. He was — at least as far as western Colorado went. The small frontier town, basking in the noon sunshine of a dry autumn day, was at the end of the line on the Moffat Railroad. The community was fortunate that the rails had come that far, for the railroad’s arrival was a major game-changer for the remote area.

Visitors to the Museum of Northwest Colorado now can experience firsthand that feeling of stepping off that Denver and Salt Lake passenger train onto the dusty streets of the little town. Rand and Karen Hood, of Visual West Designs, just installed their latest diorama, which depicts Craig and its rail yards as they must have appeared Nov. 1, 1915. The accuracy and detail of this artwork is amazing. From the stray cat waiting for a scrap from the warehouse worker’s lunch, to the horse and buggy heading north on Yampa Avenue with its newly laid sidewalks and the cowboy riding by who just has tipped his hat to the attractive Adam’s Company secretary taking a break outside on a bench, this diorama captures that mid-day moment with breathtaking reality.

The air in this scene is infused with that beautiful, golden light of a late fall day in the Yampa Valley.

The viewer can see the water swirling in the water tower by the tracks. The magnificent 402 locomotive, with its track light shining and massive motor huffing in idle mode, takes on water from that tower for its return trip up the rugged mountain rails.

This diorama is as close to time traveling as the visitor will probably ever get, as they are transported back 100 years in time through the Rand Hood’s skillful craftsmanship.

The diorama is the third one to be installed in the museum’s new railroad exhibit, with one more diorama still to come. The exhibit “The Moffat Road — 100 Years of Rails to the Yampa Valley” highlights the role the railroad has had, and continues to have, in the travel and commerce of our region. Dan Davidson, museum director, plans for the exhibit to remain on display through 2014. Don’t let that faraway date lull you into complacency, however. Get on board for this visually exciting exhibit, and look forward to a “reality show” that will truly delight you. The museum is located in downtown Craig and is open Monday through Saturday with free admission. We look forward to seeing you!

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