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While most people probably think of a “ghost town” as something from the 1800s or early 1900s, really it’s any town that has been wholesale abandoned by living people so that essentially only ghosts remain. Or zombies, or whatever. When we first visited Gilman, Colorado, close to fifteen years ago, the place felt like the residents had left only a week before. In fact, they had been evicted about fifteen years earlier, in 1984, when the EPA mandated the evacuation due to toxic pollutants as a result of the mining operations. Something like 8 million tons of mining waste was bestowed Superfund designation. So this year marks 30 years since Gilman was abandoned.

Graffiti of giraffe on the side of an abandoned building in Gilman, Colorado.Abandoned houses in Gilman, Colorado.Sign for the Eagle Mine when it was in operation. Gilman, Colorado.

It would have been a beautiful town to live in … surrounded by and embedded in swaths of golden aspen, perched on a shelf on the side of Battle Mountain smack dab in the middle of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. There were still daisies in bloom, even among patches of snow recently fallen; I imagine in spring there are lovely fields of mountain flowers. The first photo below is taken from the train station in the valley, looking up ... you can just make out some of the town buildings at the top.

Buildings of the ghost town of Gilman, Colorado, perched at the edge of a cliff over the train station in the valley.
Shaft house for the Eagle Mine in Gilman, Colorado.A tree-lined street in the abandoned town of Gilman, Colorado.Aspen-lined road through the ghost town of Gilman, Colorado.Looking out the front door and windows of an abandoned house in Gilman, Colorado.Fire hose hut on the hillside in the abandoned town of Gilman, Colorado.
I’m not sure exactly what year Gilman was incorporated as a town, but that area was first developed in the 1880s, and was mined pretty much perpetually since then until 1984. Minerals to come from that ground included gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc. Parts of the town seemed not too much changed since our last visit, notably the mine shaft building in the middle of town, maybe because parts of it are too creepy for vandals to hang out in for very long! Especially the dim locker room in the shaft house with the baskets and hooks hanging from the ceiling. This shot managed to let a lot of light in, but really it's quite dark and spooky. Something about the pink room (inside a house) gave me the creeps, too, even though I thought it kind of picturesque.
Locker room in the abandoned shaft house of the Eagle Mine, Gilman, Colorado.Mining carts inside the shaft house for the Eagle Mine, abandoned in Gilman, Colorado.Pink painted room inside an abandoned house in Gilman, Colorado.
Some of the most interesting "artifacts" are various newspapers and newspaper clippings I found lying around the floors. I also got a real kick out of finding this old washing machine, below ... I have fond childhood memories of helping my grandma do laundry with one of these machines. She always scolded me so severely to keep my distance so as not to get my hand stuck in between the rollers. Probably my form of "helping" was more truthfully just watching and making grandma nervous. I have no idea what an addressograph is! Send me a message (blue contact button above) if you do!
Old washing machine with wringing rollers, abandoned in Gilman, Colorado.Addressograph in an abandoned office building in Gilman, Colorado.Old newspaper with front page headline "This is the Army" on the floor in abandoned building in Gilman, Colorado.Old newspaper article about Mohammad Ali lying on the floor of an abandoned building in Gilman, Colorado.Newspaper clipping with an ad for 79-cent bag of peanut butter kisses, lying among industrial bolts in abandoned building, Gilman, Colorado.

Lots of other cryptic office equipment takes up floor space in the abandoned buildings and curiosity space in my head. Also file cabinets by the dozens and log books, bins of machinery parts, etc. -- in short, tons of random stuff from domestic items to office items to industrial items. Some more shots below of some of the buildings and areas in town. The little wooden structure seen out the window is a fire hydrant/hose house. Lots of these dot the grounds of the town. Sometimes the copious graffiti seemed to ruin a shot, but then you realize it just adds to the bizarre-ness of this modern ghost town.
Looking out the window of an abandoned house in Gilman, Colorado. Rows of garages for mining equipment in the abandoned mining town of Gilman, Colorado.Abandoned house with a white picket fence. Gilman, Colorado.

Looking down the formidable cliff from the town, you can see a collapsed stairway leading down to the railroad tracks in the valley and just make out a train station building. Our gratitude goes out to the anonymous photographer we crossed paths with in the locker room who told us we could walk to the train station along the tracks from the highway a couple miles away, and that the buildings were in much better shape than those in the town. Fortunately we chose a new day for this adventure because it took much more time than we imagined. It was about a two-mile walk down the abandoned tracks. There's something peculiarly fun about walking on railroad tracks. We started at this intersection of the tracks with two modern-day bridges (two different highways). At one point we even got to walk through a tunnel ... woo-hoo! 

Abandoned railroad tracks and two modern highway bridges (upper one is Hwy 24) near Redcliff, Colorado.Abandoned railroad tracks leading to Gilman, Colorado.Abandoned railroad tracks leading to Gilman, Colorado.Tunnel along one of the abandoned rail lines leading to Gilman, Colorado.

Along the way, there were numerous ruins of old mining contraptions and buildings, of an era that pre-dates most of the buildings perched on top at the townsite or at the train station. Can you pick out the tiny old wooden building along the mountainside? :)

Old wooden mining building on a cliffside, Gilman, Colorado.Old mining equipment along abandoned railroad tracks leading to Gilman, Colorado.Old mining equipment along abandoned railroad tracks leading to Gilman, Colorado.Old mining equipment along abandoned railroad tracks leading to Gilman, Colorado.Old mining equipment along abandoned railroad tracks leading to Gilman, Colorado.Ruins of wooden buildings used in mining along the abandoned railroad tracks leading to Gilman, Colorado.

We had expected a somewhat humble station, but to our delight, we found a whole little complex of buildings comprising a rather massive processing and loading operation at the train station. This is the kind of situation that is candy to me and Erik. We spent a couple of hours exploring. Most of the time we were split up, doing our own thing, rendezvousing now and then to ensure we had each seen what the other had, or to point out some good find. It's fun to explore together, but it's also kind of magical to explore by yourself, to take in each new unexpected room filled with unexpected and largely mysterious things into your own private bubble of curiosity. The abandoned train station, more than any other ghost town or ancient ruin I've been to, was an adventure in surprise. Not knowing anything about mining and railway operations, I had zero idea what I might find in the next building or room I walked into. And often after I walked into it, I still had zero idea what I was actually looking at. So ... it's like a mystery wrapped in a mystery. haha. But I'm OK being stumped.
Abandoned train station in the valley below Gilman, Colorado.Abandoned train station in the valley below Gilman, Colorado.Abandoned train station in the valley below Gilman, Colorado.Abandoned train station in the valley below Gilman, Colorado.Abandoned train station in the valley below Gilman, Colorado.
Abandoned train station in the valley below Gilman, Colorado.

In addition to simply loading mined materials onto train cars, there were processing facilities with huge rotating drums, a maze of rooms and floors with scads of heavy duty equipment and an ungodly number of pipes and electrical wires, fuse boxes and gauges. This is when we understood the real depth of the operations here. You know how different places evoke different senses as the primary one … even though this was a “ghost town,” completely silent save for the racket made by me and Erik ourselves climbing around, what I associate most with it is noise. The noise when everything was simultaneously operational must have been stupendous. Oftentimes I stood and tried to imagine how it must have sounded ... all the massive machinery, the pipes and gears and tracks and pumps, and a train whistle to boot.
Inside the pump house at the abandoned train station at Gilman, Colorado.Machinery at the abandoned train station at Gilman, Colorado.Machinery at the abandoned train station at Gilman, Colorado.Machinery at the abandoned train station at Gilman, Colorado.Machinery at the abandoned train station at Gilman, Colorado.

There are several entrances to the mine itself … I’ve breached the entrance of many mines, both abandoned and used, as well as caves, so I'm familiar with their typical temperature, but somehow the air coming from the Eagle Mine seemed freakishly cold. I presume it’s from all the zombie breath that accumulates in there … that’s clearly where they sleep during the day. There are gates in front the mine shafts to keep people from walking in, but you can poke your head over them. Here's a pic of me crossing this half-pipe just as I dropped my water bottle which rolled all the way to the bottom where Erik had to retrieve it (and then snapped my pic). To my enduring surprise, considering my knack for getting in unusual accidents, I did not follow the path of my water bottle.
Shara on the hillside of the train station at Gilman, Colorado.

If you decide to explore Gilman yourself, it's very important to wear sturdy footwear with thick soles. The ground is carpeted with broken glass, rusty nails, and all sorts of pointy things. Some of the floors are rotting through or rusting through, so step cautiously. A flashlight can be handy. The townsite is accessed from Highway 24, the train station from the road to Redcliff. And if you see any ghosts or zombies, just play it cool ... I bet they're friendly sorts of chaps. :)
In the valley below Gilman, just outside Minturn, Colorado.In the valley below Gilman, just outside Minturn, Colorado.

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