Friday, March 11, 2011

Steve Lee, Jim Burrill Presentation On UP Steam On Sunday In Hugo

Recently retired UP Steam program head, Steve Lee and Jim Burrill, self-admitted Steam Geek for Union Pacific, plan to give a presentation on the Union Pacific this Sunday in Hugo, Colorado. It is part of an annual meeting of the Roundhouse Preservation group, but the meeting is open to the public and "any interested person is welcome."

Worth noting, the roundhouse in Hugo is one of four remaining roundhouses in Colorado, and the only brick constructed roundhouse in the state. The preservation group began work in 2003 and appear to have made steady progress.
Here is the text of the announcement, taken from the newsletter of Hugo's Roundhouse Preservation Inc.

As the Roundhouse Preservation Inc. effort enters its 10th year, the 2011 Annual Meeting of Members will be at the former Hugo railroad depot in Hines Park Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 2 p.m.

At the meeting, members will transact any necessary business, including renewing memberships and electing three members to the R P I Board of Directors. The seat now held by Roxie Devers will be filled for a three-year term, and the seat held by Lian Emmerling will be filled for a one-year term. Both incumbents are candidates for reelection. A third director will be elected for a two-year term to replace Kate Piskorski, who resigned February 7. The only known candidate for the post as of this writing is Dee Ann Blevins, who previously served on the Board for seven years, before resigning in December 2009.

Refreshments will be served after the annual meeting.

The meeting is open to the public and any interested person is welcome.

Interesting program scheduled
A highlight of the meeting will be the program on “U. P. Steam,” presented by Steve Lee and Jim Burrill. Steve Lee is a career railroader who recently retired after 39 years service, 22 years as manager of the U. P. Steam Program. He's still involved in historic preservation of railroad stuff, including helping the Portola Railroad Museum with a steam locomotive restoration. Jim Burrill works in a high tech job since discovering the graveyard shift in a rail yard can be a sleepy place with potential safety issues. He keeps his interest alive, however, with photography and historic preservation activities of all kinds.

Hines Park is not listed on the map, nor can I find any listing of it, which isn't too surprising given the size of the town. Nevertheless, it stands to reason that if you keep the Union Pacific main line in sight as you come into Hugo, stop at the first park you see and look around.

On a side note, here is a video of Steve Lee from 1990. It says a lot about why Steve did what he loved so much.

Given the popularity of Steve Lee, his years of work keeping the Union Pacific Steam program one of, if not the best main line steam operations of the late 20th century, and Jim's family history on the high iron of Colorado, you can bet this is going to be a first rate presentation!


  1. Isn't the roundhouse in Durango brick?

  2. Thanks for the comment, Charlie! You know, I should do more fact checking. I just popped that claim in at the last minute without verifying it. I should know better.

    You're right in that the roundhouse in Durango incorporates brick and for all intents and purposes is brick. Still, construction notes that I can pull together from here are interesting enough to raise a few points.

    The original roundhouse was brick, but according to at least one source, the brick framing for the arches leading to the pits were removed and replaced with wood framing. This is visible in at least one pre-fire photo that I could turn up quickly. This was interesting, but irrelevant owing to the fact that the Durango roundhouse burnt to the ground in 1989 (with all serviceable engines still inside). How the railroad recovered in time for next summer was a minor miracle. After the fire, the roundhouse was rebuilt using the original bricks, but layered as a fascade, and not truly bearing the weight of the structure as before. It's a technical detail, but modern construction methods are biased against using brick as anything other than a window dressing.

    I guess that was the intention with which the Hugo group made the assertion,

    It's also the only surviving brick roundhouse in the state and one of the most significant historical sites on Colorado's Central Plains.

    It might be slicing the truth thinner than usual, at least to the casual observer. On the other hand, I've been around non-profits most of my life, and when you are competing for every charitable donation and grant, you have to make these kinds of assertions regularly to garner interest and convince boards and groups that yours is a worthy cause.

    I welcome any additional comments or questions from Charlie or anyone else. Thanks for the question!


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