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The Artrain
A Special AT&SF Event in Rocky Ford, Colorado
March 1973

By D. K. Spencer

An article in the third quarter 2000 Warbonnet about AT&SF President John S. Reed brought to mind a time when he and his wife, and the Colorado State Governor John A. Love and his wife, and the wife of the New Mexico governor Bruce King, came to our little city of 4000 people in his private business car "Santa Fe" for a special event.

Left to right: Mrs. Bruce King, New Mexico first lady; Gov. John A. Love, Colorado; Mrs. John S. Reed, ATSF Ry first lady; Mrs. John A. Love, Colorado first lady, John S. Reed, Pres. ATSF Ry.

The local art community had been working for several months to bring this $2 million dollar, three rail car exhibit to southern Colorado, as part of it's national tour. Prior to Rocky Ford, the train traveled in Arizona and New Mexico, and went on from Rocky Ford to Greeley, Craig, and Fruita Colorado, and continuing to Utah, Montana, and Wyoming before returning to Michigan.

The wives of governors were designated chairpersons for each state, so Mrs. King of New Mexico officially turned the train over to the Colorado chairperson, Mrs. Love, during the day's activities. A mid-day welcoming banquet was held at the El Capitan Hotel, with local dignitaries attending and entertainment by area talent. Later, a special train picked up the business car and it's notables for the trip to Denver.

The free admission train was placed by a railside park across from the depot during it's five day visit, and school children and families from several nearby counties came to visit. Local art was hung both inside and outside of the depot, and school kids made pinata's that were hung from the suspended ceiling of the depot, and ribbons were awarded in various categories.

Four artists accompanied the train and worked in the studio car, doing jewelry making, painting, and pottery. Local artists were invited to physically join in, presenting the various art forms during each days activity.

The traveling artists were Margaret Breitkurtz, Robert Beckmann, Craig Carver, and Susan Harmon. Technicians included Jim McCoy, Charles Davis, and Robert D'Aoust who kept the closed circuit television (watches every inch of the train's exhibits) in operation, as well as the six tape decks, and nine slide projectors.

Exhibits ranged from an Egyptian mummy to medieval armor to various American Indian and Chinese art, as well as paintings by well known western artists, all loaned by various museums Effective use of mirrors added dimension to the narrowness of the rail cars.

My part in the process was keeping the depot open and clean (one man agency) and had little to do with the actual operation of the event. All too quickly it was over, but how many other small stations can boast of being host to the president of the railroad and his private car, even if only for a day!

My only boo-boo? When all of the officials were gathered in the depot, and I was introducing myself, I knew each of the men on sight, but was not sure which woman belonged to which man, and managed to pair them up wrong in my introductions, much to my dismay, but the ladies were gracious in responding, and the day ended well!

FOOTNOTE: Readers of my previous articles will remember an old axiom among station agents....if they come to paint your depot, BEWARE! you are about to lose part of your staff, or the depot is scheduled for closing!

One February morning, six years before the permanent closing of the depot, the paint gang arrived to spruce up the depot for the arrival of the Artrain. It was a superfluous paint job, mainly to make the depot look good for just a few weeks, and it was the last paint job for the old depot.

She was not to regain her splendor until it was taken over by the City of Rocky Ford, and restored by a committee of dedicated persons. It now houses the Chamber of Commerce, and with a recent addition is part of a large community building, heavily used in the community!

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