Old-time sawmill now humming in Breckenridge

Breckenridge Heritage Alliance volunteer Robin Theobald operates a historic steam-powered sawmill Tuesday at the Breckenridge Sawmill Museum as the heritage alliance unveiled the restored machine to Breckenridge Town Council on Tuesday.
Eli Pace /

The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance unveiled a relic of the industrial revolution this week by firing up an old-timey steam-powered sawmill.

Steam engines work by converting heat into mechanical energy. The steam engine at Breckenridge Sawmill Museum on Boreas Pass is a Tangye model produced by the Buckeye Engine Company of Salem, Ohio.

The model was manufactured from 1883 to 1900 and powered the sawmill at Smith Lumber Company in Leadville from the 1890s to approximately 1920, according to the heritage alliance.

Even though the sawmill had not seen action in nearly 100 years, it was kept prominently inside as a reminder of the past. When the Smith Lumber Company closed, the engine was relocated to the Breckenridge Sawmill Museum.

“Sawmills were integral to the development of these mining towns,” said Rich Skovlin, a volunteer with the alliance.

The boiler that provides steam power has since been replaced with an air compressor, but mechanically, the sawmill functions like it would when it was in full use. On Tuesday, during a site visit by Breckenridge Town Council, a couple volunteers with the heritage alliance showed everyone just how well it works.

“We just got it tuned up,” Skovlin said Tuesday with the machine humming in the background.

People can take self-guided tours at the Breckenridge Sawmill Museum. Pamphlets to guide way are available on-site.

Firing up the sawmill will be reserved for special occasions, said Cindy Hintgen of the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, referencing events like last Tuesday’s unveiling and this Saturday’s the Boreas Pass Railroad Day, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Put on by the heritage alliance and the Boreas Pass Forest Service Living History, Railroad Day will give people an inside look at narrow-gauge railroads, including seeing Engine No. 9 on original track at the High Lane Railroad Park, along with a rotary snowplow, a replica C&S caboose and flatcar, and a train-themed playground.

For more about the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, go to

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