Frisco family’s train set inspired by local history needs a home
Find the train set a home
Sharon Randolph said that rather than pack up the sections of the “Silverado” train set and take them with her to Centennial, she would like to find the display a new home where it could be enjoyed by the public. If you know of an appropriate location for the model, contact Randolph through Butch Elich or Paula Parker at RE/MAX in Frisco, (970) 668-5300, and they will work with you on logistics. Time is short; the train set must find a new home by Sunday afternoon, Nov. 2.
Tucked away in the basement of a wood-paneled house on County Road 1040 in Frisco is a miniature wonderland, a quaint village of tiny houses and pocket-sized townspeople going about their day-to-day tasks of work and play. A fisherman casts his line into a stream flowing past a bathhouse — the sign reads hot baths for 5 cents — and under a road leading to the rail yard, where model trains once ran the tracks.
Adjacent to the minute hamlet towers the mining district, with flumes and shafts spitting tailings down the hillside and miners hard at work or lounging in the shade near their twig log cabins.
The two-piece model appears to be in a state of suspended animation, the trains no longer on the tracks and the two large pieces disassembled and sitting on the floor, awaiting their unknown future.
LABOR OF LOVE
Tom and Sharon Randolph were part of the fabric of Frisco for 43 years, and together with their son, Scott, they painstakingly built each structure, rock, bush and tree of the model they call “Silverado,” which now sits idle in the family’s home.
“My husband’s always been interested in trains, and his brother is a real train collector, and that’s how it actually got started,” Sharon said. “One year for Christmas, I bought Tom a small train set, and the rest is history.”
The Randolphs wanted to build a layout, something they could add to, Sharon said, and they decided to include copies of structures and relics from in around Summit County and Colorado, things that appealed to them and pieces that were prominent in their respective communities.
“The old Pitkin County Courthouse in Aspen is still there. It’s been remodeled, but we did that, and certainly the Baker’s Tank up in Breckenridge is a scenic type of thing,” Sharon said. “My husband worked for Climax Mine, so we did a whole mining section. And it was just different things around the state that are historic. Some of them still exist, some of them don’t.”
Tom, who was a structural engineer by trade, along with Scott and Sharon, traveled around and took pictures of structures and did research to find photos of historic sites that had crumbled or disappeared completely. Each piece of the model was built by hand, Sharon said.
“The three of us started from scratch by drawing plans and building them from wood,” she said. “The rocks that are in the layout and the cliffs and that type of thing, we went around and collected interesting rocks, made rubber molds and cast them in a plastic type of stuff, resin. They are all hand-painted and trimmed just like all of the structures.”
Sharon said her favorite part of the effort was watching the sections come together, and seeing each piece finished was very satisfying, down to each bit of dirt.
“Most of the dirt and the mining tails are genuine,” she said. “We went and collected the honest-to-goodness tailings and dirt and this type of thing right from here, so they are genuine. And a lot of the things you probably see, it’s local stuff. Just pick up dirt, sticks, save everything. It’s a very, very local thing.”
LEAVING A LEGACY
The fully assembled model is about 10 feet by 12 feet, Sharon said, and the family started work on it in 2003, with a few disruptions along the way.
“We spent two or three years working on one section,” she said. “Friends of ours were part-timers up here from Texas. They saw it and approached us to do the town of Frisco for the museum. We couldn’t resist it.”
The Randolphs’ friends had a fund set up for projects like the train model. They paid for all of the materials and the Randolphs donated their time to complete the second panorama, which now resides in the Frisco Historic Park & Museum on Main Street.
“The one that we have down here, with being approached to do the one for the town, we stopped work on this one and spent two years doing the one for the museum,” Sharon said. “And then we came back and did some work on this one, the one we have here, and my husband became ill and passed away from cancer on March 20, so that kind of stopped everything for us as far as our own layout.”
There were originally going to be three sections to the model; two were completed and a third was started when Tom died. Sharon said she bought a home and will be moving to Centennial to be closer to Scott, and she has a room big enough to reassemble the two large sections of the train set, the third having been discarded.
“It really never got finished,” she said. “We’re taking two sections with us, and I offered to donate it to any organization, museum or whatever in Summit County, where it would be on display for the public, with no results. It’s going to have to be out of here by Sunday, packers are coming Monday and Tuesday and moving me out.”
Rather than sell the elaborate model or give it to an individual, Sharon said she would like to see it displayed somewhere for the public to enjoy. The set requires some assembly and some small repairs to a few of the pieces, and the whole thing would need to be wired to get the trains running again.
“It would make a great panorama; it does not have to run,” Sharon said. “Putting trains on the track would be beautiful. It’s not wired to run; it’s taken apart.”
Whether the train set finds a new home in Summit County or makes the journey to Centennial packed in boxes with the Randolphs’ other memories, the family will have left its mark on the community.
“The thing is, we’ve talked about it quite a bit and we felt, even before my husband passed away, that we’re leaving a legacy with the train over there in Frisco,” Sharon said. “It’s a reproduction of the old Main Street in Frisco, and we feel that we’re leaving something that can be enjoyed for a long time.”
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