Breck to add windmill to historical assets |

Breck to add windmill to historical assets

BRECKENRIDGE – Rebecca Waugh has only ever seen double-tailed Eclipse railroad windmills in pictures, so when the Breckenridge’s town historian had the chance to buy one, she jumped at it.

Railroad engineers used the windmills to pump water from streams into nearby water tanks such as the one on Boreas Pass Road, about three miles from the summit. The water became the steam that powered locomotives.

Workers removed the Boreas Pass rails in 1936, although various artifacts remain.

Breckenridge has been acquiring railroad artifacts, and the collection includes a rotary snowplow similar to the one that cleared the rails in front of the trains that chugged into the Blue River Valley in the early half of the last century. But the town has never had the opportunity to procure a railroad windmill.

The wooden apparatus is from the estate of Fay Auslaender, who lived in Lakewood until her recent death. Her son, Bennett, originally offered it to the Colorado Historical Society.

“They came to get it, and they couldn’t move it,” Waugh said. “So they just threw up their hands and left.”

Bennett then called Waugh.

“It’s spectacular,” Waugh said. “It’s very fragile. It’s all wooden except for the pump and bolts. Right now, it’s painted pink. This lady went out every year and painted it; that’s what saved it.”

The only other windmill Waugh knows of is a metal one in the small town of Strasburg, east of Denver, that dates to the turn of the century. Auslaender probably obtained her windmill when local railroad lines were abandoned, Waugh said. It dates from 1888 to 1890.

Currently, the windmill stands about 19 feet tall, and its rotor measures 10 feet in diameter. Whoever restores it will have to replace the

ladder-like trellis on which it originally stood, along with a few missing slats. Waugh isn’t sure how tall the windmill is supposed to be or if high winds would damage it once it’s restored.

Waugh said she wanted the windmill the minute she saw it. Bennett said she could have it for $200 if the town would erect a plaque in his mother’s honor.

“I said, “Sold,'” Waugh said. “And he said, “And don’t even worry about the $200.'”

Waugh plans to work with an ironworker who specializes in the restoration of historic metal artifacts to remove the bolts that hold the apparatus together. Then, town council members likely will store it until they can determine how to get it to Summit County. Waugh hopes to erect it at the Rotary Snowplow Park at the bottom of Boreas Pass Road.

Town council members said they were thrilled.

“That’s great,” Mayor Sam Mamula said. “I think it’s fantastic. This is a continuation of our commitment to our past.”

Councilmember Larry Crispell agreed.

“Anything that reinforces the true history of Breckenridge is a great gain,” he said. “This is one more step toward what we want to do, which is build up more artifacts to help people interpret history.”

Cosmetic restoration is under way on a steam locomotive the town purchased last year along with 5 miles of rail. Town officials hope to place the locomotive at the Rotary Snowplow Park this fall or next summer, Crispell said.

Town officials also are putting away a little money each year to pay to make the locomotive functional. Someday, Crispell said, it might be possible to run a rail line between Breckenridge and Frisco.

“When I think of all the things about Breckenridge that people love, it’s their connection with history,” Crispell said. “Railroads have a romantic connotation of the days when the West was wide open. When you think of steam locomotives, you think about Indians, you think about mining and you think about ranching. This is a great acquisition.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User