What Could Be Better than a Powder Day
November 1, 2012
Imagine something so monumental that residents of an entire town would drop everything to celebrate. An entire population would leave work, skip school, drop what they were doing, and party like there was no tomorrow. Picture a parade, fireworks blasting from all directions, banquets, grand balls, open bars at local establishments, and bands playing throughout the night in town… What kind of event is cause for merriment of this scale?
125 years ago today the first passenger train rolled into Aspen. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Company had been making steady progress through the mountains, and on November 1, 1887, their arrival in Aspen caused the entire town to drop everything in boisterous revelry. Len Shoemaker, a longtime forest ranger in the Aspen area, describes this historic day in Aspen’s history in his book Roaring Fork Valley. Len recalls the momentous occasion from the point of view of his mother and sister, who were passengers on the inaugural trip from Carbondale to Aspen. The pair also participated in the grand jubilee, along with the entirety of the Aspen community. Shoemaker writes, “ to them it was a spectacle beyond words, or for words, for they seldom if ever quit talking about it…”
Len also points out the Roaring Fork Valley’s appreciation for the railroad company “whose action had fulfilled their dreams and their hopes.” “Many expressions of appreciation were made to the visiting [D. &R. G] officials,” says Shoemaker, “but the real sentiment of Aspen’s citizenry was expressed by Judge Downing at the banquet, when in response to a toast, he raised his champagne glass and said:
“There, here’s to our Aspen, her youth and her age;
We welcome the railroad, say farewell to the stage;
And whatever her lot and wherever we be,
Here’s God bless, forever, the D. & R. G.”
What could cause this kind of celebration of hope and gratitude now?