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Off the Beaten Trail

Kit Carson Museum
Kit Carson, CO

When the Union Pacific Railroad announced plans for demolition of its old depot building in Kit Carson in 1968, the historic structure actually received a new lease on life…but only at the 11th hour. The old structure was sold to an out-of-state man who intended to haul it away, much to the chagrin of local residents. Luckily, however, it became apparent that the available equipment wouldn’t move the depot that far, and an enterprising local citizen took advantage of the situation, hurriedly made a deal with the new owner that would allow the old building to stay, and saw it moved to the town park, instead.

Kit Carson Museum
202 W Hwy. 40/287, Kit Carson, CO 80825
Open Memorial Day through Labor Day
9a.m.-5 p.m. daily or by appointment
719-962-3306 or 719-688-8565

get a map  |  driving directions

By Memorial Day, 1971, it was open for business as a museum, operated by the Kit Carson Historical Society. The Society’s attitude was reflected in this comment, taken from the book Kit Carson, Colorado:

“We are creatures of memory and hope. If the past is blotted out and memory no longer functions, man is robbed of a source of great pleasure.”

The museum building was built as a railroad depot in 1904, and since has been listed on the Colorado Register of Historic Places for its architectural significance. Known as a “combination” depot, the 64-foot long building at one time housed the UP passenger and freight operations, along with telegraph service and a residence for the agent. This design was somewhat unusual, as most depots with living quarters were two-story buildings, and the main floor was “all business.”

Artifacts in the museum represent the heritage of the Colorado prairie, giving insight into all periods of local history and all walks of life. Exhibits range from aboriginal artifacts to railroad and agricultural collections. Visitors can see the original safe from the long defunct Alfalfa Valley State Bank at Wild Horse, Colorado, or a 1910-vintage broom-making machine. The museum is full of pioneer tools and living utensils, period furniture, and old photographs. Local history books are available for sale, as well.

The museum complex includes a UP signal maintainer’s house and a UP caboose (both also listed on the State Register). Across the street to the east is another building and lot displaying early heavy equipment. A recent addition to this collection is the 20-foot tall “lighthouse without a light,” created of scrap metal by the late Owen “Red” Moreland.

A renowned welder who got his start welding submarines for the U. S. Navy during World War II, Moreland was the last of the long-time residents of Aroya, a railroad ghost town that sits between Wild Horse and the Lincoln County line. Moreland had plenty of old tools and car parts, so he used his skills and these parts to create his “lighthouse” and the gate in front of his home. Red’s lighthouse became Aroya’s landmark, and clearly marked the town’s location for the last half-century. Red Moreland passed away recently, and his “Aroya lighthouse” now graces the grounds of the Kit Carson Museum.

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