Polley keeping memories of Uintah Railway alive

Towns that sprouted along what used to be the Uintah Railway have long been a thing of the past.
phjeffburkheadBut Rodger Polley of Rangely is keeping the memory of those towns alive.
Polley will lead a drive-your-own-vehicle tour of the old railroad line Saturday, starting out in Rangely and then heading to Bonanza, Utah, and including stops in places like Watson, Rainbow, Dragon, McAndrews Lake, Columbine Springs, Baxter Pass and then down the other side to Atchee, Carbonera and Mack, which is about 70 miles from Rangely.
Mack was once the headquarters of the Uintah Railway, but now it’s known for being the site of the Country Jam outdoor concerts.
“It’s the only town that still has anything standing from back in those times,” Polley said of Mack, which is west of Grand Junction.
Saturday’s tour will start at 8 a.m., when people will meet in the parking lot across from Polley’s True Value store, on Main Street in Rangely.
“I’ve been doing this for about 10 years,” Polley said of the tours. “Ever since my books got published, I’ve got requests to do this once or twice a year.”
Polley’s books, “Uintah Railway Pictorial,” volumes I and II, were published in 1999 and 2000, respectively. Most of the 2,000 copies of volume II have been sold.
“He (the book publisher) overproduced on the first one by a little bit,” Polley said of the 8,000 copies printed of volume I. “I have probably 100 copies (of volume I) and when those are gone, that’ll be it.
“But he published only 2,000 copies of volume II, and it sold out in six months. It’s the more popular one, because it has the old mining towns in it,” Polley added. “Volume II is real tough to get right now. I saw one listed on eBay for as high as $175.”
Polley’s interest in Uintah Railway and the places that are now ghost towns started at an early age.
“When I was a kid, my dad used to go out there and dig for bottles, that sort of thing,” Polley said. “It was always interesting to me. The idea that there were whole towns there at one time, and now there’s nothing.”
The Uintah Railway was built in 1904, and it reached the end of the line in 1939. But at its peak, the railroad boasted 11 engines, two combination baggage/passenger coaches, three old Pullman sleepers, 12 livestock cars, 24 gondolas, 18 boxcars and 71 flat cars, according to Internet sources.
If interested in going on the tour, no reservation is required, Polley said.
“It’s just a show-up thing,” Polley said. “Bring a full tank of gas, a lunch and good walking shoes.”
The tour is a daylong trip.
“But if a person can’t go all day, then they just turn around at any point and go back,” Polley said.
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Meeker’s Valley Motel is under new management.
Larry and Mary Eversman of Paonia are now managing the motel.
“They want to run it for a while, manage it, with the option to buy,” said Jason Charlet of Belle Rose, La., who owns the motel. “That probably won’t take place for another year.
“We were talking about selling it,” said Charlet, who has owned the motel for two years. “But with the way the market is, it just wouldn’t be a good time. That’s why we’ll wait and see what happens.”
Rena Herl formerly managed the motel for Charlet.
“Jason has been an excellent boss,” Herl said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
Herl wishes the new managers well.
“They are great people,” Herl said. “I’ve had the occasion of talking with them several times. I told them I would help them any way I could when they got here.”
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There has been a proposal to name the airfield at Meeker Airport for Gary Coulter, who recently celebrated 50 years as manager of the airport.
“The airport itself would not be renamed,” said County Administrator Pat Hooker. “The proposed name is Coulter Field at Meeker Airport. Similar to Walker Field at Mesa County’s airport. However, the commissioners have not approved this change at this time.”
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Steve Kraft, chief financial officer for the Rangely School District, who is handling some of the administrative duties until new Superintendent Barry Williams arrives, said no replacement has been hired yet to fill the activities director’s role at Rangely High School, a position formerly filled by Mark Jansen, who resigned to take a teaching and coaching job in Parachute.
“There’s an offer that’s been made for an activities director for the high school and middle school,” Kraft said. “The duties have been expanded to include middle school athletics and activities, since the two schools were consolidated.”
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Bill de Vergie, area manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, gave an update on the 19 moose that were transplanted in January from Utah to the White River National Forest.
“They are doing fine,” de Vergie said. “We lost one cow, the oldest one, to unknown causes. The rest are settling in, and cows should be having calves now.
“Darby Finley, our biologist here in the office, can monitor their movements every day. We are planning on trying to locate all the cows in the next two weeks and determine how many calves are born.”
All of the transplanted adult cows were outfitted with radio collars, so their movement could be monitored.
“We are watching them,” de Vergie said.
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Meeker’s Judy Eskelson likes to play Rangely’s Cedar Ridges Golf Course a few times a year.
After hitting a hole in one there on May 28, she may want to go back more often.
“It’s a fun course,” said Eskelson, who hit her hole in one on No. 13.
Asked if she had ever hit a hole in one before, Eskelson said, “Oh, heck, no. It was a fluke; they all are. But it was fun.”
Joining her that day and witnesses to the hole in one were Justin and Anneliese Neumeier.
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The newly formed citizens group is splitting off into two groups, with different focuses.
“One will be economic development,” said Michelle Hale, one of the group’s organizers. “This will be overseen by Ginny Love, and a few others.
“I will be taking on the watchdog group, for lack of a better word at this time. This will be in effort to confront some of the business practices of our county and city, and looking for solutions on making things better. It is important that both of these are addressed, and reflect that we need positive change toward business.”
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Get-well wishes go out to Shayne Armstrong of Rangely, a delivery driver for the Herald Times and other papers. He was injured in a one-vehicle accident early Sunday morning — on his way to pick up papers — when he swerved to avoid hitting an elk on Highway 64, on the Rangely side of the Piceance Basin.
“He said it was the biggest elk he’d ever seen,” said Shayne’s wife, Jolene. “At first, he thought he was going to hit it, but then he thought if he hit it, it would come through the windshield.
“So he swerved to the right, and the tire went off the road,” Jolene said. “The car went down into a ravine and slammed into an embankment.”
Shayne suffered a dislocated hip and a dislocated ankle, plus cracked ribs and multiple cuts and bruises. He’s in a hospital in Denver.
Rangely emergency services personnel responded to the 911 call.
“One of our really good friends (Mike Zadra) was at home listening to his scanner, and he heard it come across,” Jolene said. “The second he heard what kind of car it was, he knew who it was.”
Shayne’s 15-year-old son, Bo, was with him in the vehicle and suffered cuts and bruises, but was not seriously injured. Both of them were wearing seat belts, and both airbags deployed.
“They have cuts all over them from the glass,” Jolene said.
Bo had to walk a ways from the scene of the accident to get cell phone service in order to call 911.
After being transported to Rangely District Hospital, Shayne was flown to a hospital in Denver that is equipped to deal with the hip injury.
“When he dislocated the hip bone, it broke the socket,” Jolene said. “They’ll have to go in and operate on that and repair the socket.
“But it could’ve been a whole lot worse,” Jolene said. “It could’ve been real bad.”
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U.S. Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes recently paid a visit to Vernal, Utah, to talk — and listen — about the government’s decision to cancel 77 oil and gas leases in Utah.
Hayes’ visit attracted a standing-room-only crowd of nearly 800 people, many of them unhappy — and vocal — about the loss of energy-related jobs.
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An anonymous caller, who read about my thank-you note to Dale Hallebach being returned because of “insufficient address” — no post office box number — said if someone lives within a two-block radius of the post office, which Dale does, they don’t qualify for home mail delivery. And, unlike the past when post office workers could put the mail wherever it belonged, even if it was incorrectly addressed, they’re now prevented from doing so by postal regulations.
“They can’t act like a small town anymore,” the person said.
Next time, I think I’ll just walk to Dale’s house and hand deliver the card, which is what I ended up doing anyway.
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Meeker artist Pat Daggett recently gave me a couple of recipes, and I tried making one of the dishes last weekend. I don’t do much cooking, let alone follow a recipe. But, I have to admit, I didn’t do too badly.
Of course, it’s hard to go wrong when there are only two main ingredients — chicken and rice.

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at jeff@theheraldtimes.com.