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History of Telluride

A Brief History of Telluride

Old Town

Used as a summer camp for centuries by Ute Indians and named by Spanish explorers in the 1700s, the San Juan Mountains lured fortune seekers to Colorado with visions of silver and gold. By the mid-1870s, the Sheridan Mine was the first in a string of local claims and a tent camp was established in the valley below. Originally called Columbia, the rowdy mining camp became a town in 1878, and changed its name to Telluride.

With the coming of the railroad in 1890, the remote boom-town flourished. A melting pot of immigrants seeking their fortunes turned Telluride into a thriving community of 5,000. Prosperity abounded and Telluride was full of thrilling possibilities. But when silver prices crashed in 1893, followed by the First World War, the mining boom collapsed. Miners moved on and the town’s population gradually dwindled from thousands to hundreds.

In the 1970’s, Telluride reinvented itself. Legendary powder - a different sort of gold - was being mined. When the Telluride Ski Resort opened in 1972, the character of the community changed, and the town spun back into high gear. Born of the same spirit as skiing, cultural events, festivals, music, and performing arts were founded, and flowed through the seasons. It was again a time of thrilling possibilities. Telluride now has a reputation for world-class skiing and a stunning ambiance.

Due to its significant role in the history of the American West, the core area of Telluride was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1961. This listing is the highest level of historic status available to sites designated by the United States Secretary of the Interior. Telluride is one of five Colorado communities with this honor. The sites are so special that, in theory, they are eligible for consideration as national parks.

Citizens are committed to preserving Telluride’s historically significant architecture, open space, and traditional design elements, and most of all, Telluride’s small town mountain lifestyle.

Galloping Goose History

In the booming era of the late 1800s, the Rio Grande Southern Railroad was built to service the remote mining communities high in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. One hundred sixty-two miles of narrow gauge track transported people and provisions through the harsh, beautiful, mountainous landscape to the bustling towns of Telluride, Durango, Ouray and points in between.

When the silver market crashed, the RGS was forced to scale down their operations to keep the railroad running, and the ingenious Galloping Goose, a gasoline-engine "railbus" was invented. The first Goose was fabricated from the body of a Buick in 1931. Compared to the steam locomotive, it was economical to operate and maintain. The fleet was ultimately expanded to seven, with each new Goose an improved-upon design. The Geese galloped through the San Juan's, carrying the U.S. Mail, passengers, and freight, until the 1950s.

Galloping Goose #4 

The name Galloping Goose is used with the kind permission of the Galloping Goose Historical Society of Dolores, Inc. Special Thanks: Town of Telluride

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