Silent film displays Colorado history

There’s a lot the world of cinema can teach us, if we’re willing to pay attention. In the case of one film, all you have to do is listen to the sound of silence.

The Museum of Northwest Colorado, Preserving the Last Frontier Organization and the city of Craig proudly present the silent movie “The White Desert,” a feature that displays historical railroad footage within the state of Colorado. The film will be screened at 7 p.m. today at The Journey at First Baptist.

“The White Desert,” produced by MGM in 1925, was conceived as a B-movie starring Claire Windsor and Pat O’Malley about the dangers of a railroad work camp during the winter months. The dramatic rescue and romance of the film aren’t the highlights for Colorado viewers, however — the real focus is the shooting location of Rollins Pass.

Also known as Corona Pass, the site is known to regional train lovers as part of the Moffat Road, originally a section of the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railway conceived by David Moffat in the early 1900s.

Moffat, whom Moffat County was named for shortly before his death in 1911, intended to connect a Denver line to Salt Lake City, only to be overwhelmed financially by the demands of getting trains through the mountains, particularly the hazards of Rollins Pass. The last of the tracks from his original plans were laid in Craig in 1913.

The idea lived on with the rechristened Denver and Salt Lake Railroad, later the Denver and Salt Lake Railway.

Museum Director Dan Davidson said the film, though centered on a fictitious story, lets viewers take a good look at history.

“It’s the best example of seeing the Moffat Road working, by far the best footage,” he said. “The railroad made all the difference for our economy.”

In addition to the screening of the rare print brought in by the city, there are multiple reminders of Craig’s history with the railroad industry. The museum offers a thorough railroad exhibit on its second floor, which Davidson said will continue to expand in the coming weeks.

“We’re going to have two more dioramas in the next month that will show the Craig Railroad Depot and some other artifacts having to do with that,” he said. “Pretty much everything up there now is related to trains.”

Additionally, in November Craig will celebrate the centennial of the first train pulling into town.

“It seems to be the year of the railroad around here,” Davidson said.

Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

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