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Auraria Railyards History - Denver, Colorado

Driving out of downtown Denver in a beautiful spring dusk, I glanced back at the skyline from Water Street — probably what is now the Aquarium area — and caught a glimpse of a sprawling flat land, scarce of buildings and adorned only with gently waving natural grass.  What a scene, this "small area of plains", with skyscrapers beginning to punctuate the landscape!  Well, this needed to be checked out. 
The rail yards, an area roughly defined from Colfax Avenue on the south, the Platte River on the west, Cherry Creek Viaduct to the north, and Auraria Parkway to the west, were strewn mostly with unused old railroad tracks.

The tracks lay like a ghostly reminder of days when their existence was vital. 

Top of tower , looking North onto Auraria Rail yards, Lower Downtown and part of Downtown to the right.  
This is now Elitch Gardens on the left and Pepsi Center  on the right in foreground below.     1985

The only other remnants of bygone days included a smattering of small cinder block or metal warehouses, a rail freight crane and part of the Roundhouse and entire Turntable, and a couple of incredibly tall towers for lights and observation in the middle of the yards.

Most of the small structures were closer to Auraria Parkway with the Turntable located in the southwest corner.

The observation tower I climbed was more in the south end of the yard.  It stood over 100 feet tall and approximately 6 feet square at the top. 

It was a trip; if I moved too quickly, I could actually feel the structure sway slightly.  It was tremendously exciting and tremendously stupid.

Old friend, Greg Coleman, about to climb to top of observation tower with me.  1985


The Roundhouse — what remained of a huge wood circular barn-like structure — was nearby.  From the inside I looked out a large door, opening to the east, and thought I was in Kansas, not a major city.   The Turntable was a powerful structure, not unlike nearby similar bridges over Cherry Creek. Today, some larger warehouses remain near Auraria Parkway, but the tracks and freight crane are gone.

- Kim Allen




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