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MEEKER | Locally Rodger Polley is known for a variety of things. As owner of Rangely True Value, chairman of the Booster Club and a guy who is generally active in local affairs, Polley is easily considered a Rangely staple. In addition to being involved in community happenings Polley is also well steeped in local history and at this week’s Rangely Outdoor Museum Fireside Polley will talk about a subject he has spent decades researching and educating others about: the Uintah Railway.
This Friday at 6:30 p.m. those interested in local and railroad history are invited to grab a lawn chair and gather at the Rangely Outdoor Museum to participate in a fireside presentation hosted by Polley about the Uintah Railway, a railroad which ran from the town of Mack to the now abandoned town of Watson from 1904 to 1939. Polley says he will discuss the history of the railroad and ghost towns in the area, likely with some focus on the towns of Dragon, Watson and Rainbow. He expects the fireside to take a conversational tone, joking that he, “can talk for hours about history.”
Polley became interested in local history as a child when he and his Dad would visit the ghost towns left behind by the railroad. He began researching the railroad and abandoned towns for history class projects in high school and college. “It just snowballed from there,” he said. His research culminated with the creation of two books, the Uintah Railway Pictorials Volumes I and II, published in 1999 and 2000. The books provide a glimpse into the lives of those who worked in the mines and relied on the railroad in the early 1900s.
Polley said that having the opportunity to interview people who lived in the towns in the 1920s and ’30s was a real thrill. However, locating photos of the towns presented a challenge. “Most normal middle-class families didn’t have a camera then,” he said. “Some of the towns didn’t last very long so some pictures were rare.”
Copies of Volume I, which covers the railroad from Mack to Atchee (an abandoned town located in northern Garfield County) are still available for sale in Rangely True Value. Volume II, covering the railroad from Atchee to Watson, is tougher to find. Polley no longer has any copies but they do occasionally become available on eBay.
Polley’s family history in Rangely dates back to 1945 when his family ran the Exchange on Main Street (now Prater’s Plumbing). His uncle once owned the Anchor Club, a restaurant and bar in what is now El Agave.
For now, Polley doesn’t have any immediate plans to write another book, however he isn’t willing to write future books off completely saying that someday when he has more time he’d love to sink his teeth into another historical subject.