Biggest Junction in United States, Published 6 April 1937We are coming into Grand Junction, Colorado. The weary, wearing bus trip over the desert in the rain, jostled and jolted by detour roller-boiler coaster roads, is drawing to a welcome close. The rain and snow and wind aren't going to matter much longer, for Grand Junction is just over the hill. What is this Grand Juncticn that our Old Teacher makes such a fuss about, I can hear you ask, and I am replying that I'll make as little fuss as possible, but the fact still remains that Grand Junction is the biggest junction in the whole United States. Almost inevitably, to suffix a place with the word "junction" is to suffocate it. The appendage Junction just as surely damns a town as a conviction for wife-beating ruins you socially. But Grand Junction has lived down the stigma of its monicker, and boasts, according to the A.A.A. map of Colorado, of 10,247 souls. Grand Junction even used to have street cars.
It is hard to understand how this place came to be so big, in a country where communities number their population in hundreds, and it is odd that we hear so much of Reno, for instance, which after all has only 8,000 more people than Grand Junction. But I'll lay odds of 100 to 1 that this is the first time you, gentle reader, ever heard of western Colorado's busy little city. I might have to pay off the odd person at that rate, but I'd collect thousands, if such wagers were collectable, on this basis.
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Grand Junction not only thrives because it is an important railway junction point and a large commercial center, but mainly from the fact that it is in some fine orchard country. Most of Utah and Colorado stay well above the 5,000-foot mark, but Grand Junction is in a hollow at 4.583 feet. Sheltered on all sides, and with plenty of irrigation water, cherries, peaches, apples and other fruit have always done well here, though I think some disease has ruined apple prospects for a while. Grand Junction's trouble has always been markets, for she is so far from any sizable place, and as far as fruit and vegetables are concerned, I have always felt the Grand Junction area is like the people who take in their own washing.
The city itself boasts of a ball park and a zoo, and two big cats of different species are the prize exhibit. Each walks up and down the cage it is in, perhaps 30 times to the minute, and each never lets its eyes leave the other animal. There they pace, hour after hour, day after day, and they rest only at night. They were not even sufficiently still to get a picture, and my camera is reasonably fast. I waited ten minutes, snapped something, and what I got turned out not to be worth printing. What makes these zoo felines watch each other? Is it thwarted passion, do they love or hate each other, is it instinct, or do they need exercise? I don't know, but the main impression I have of G.J. is those frustrated felines pacing ceaselessly.
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But I am getting away ahead of myself. I was met at the bus by Mr. Moriarity, the Rio Grande trainmaster, and H. L. Johnson, travelling passenger agent for the Rio Grande at Denver, who had travelled all night and waited half the day to meet me at Grand Junction. Mr. Shields' wires were still working. They took me to the hotel, the best in the town, and told me if I wanted anything to eat, to charge it up to the room. This was too good an offer to pass up, so I promptly ordered a milk shake and a sandwich. Later Mr. Johnson called for me and took me out for a tour of the Grand Junction country.
We travelled through orchards and vineyards for miles, and to see this level farm land, in a country where I had noted little else but mountains was interesting. The valley is surrounded by hills, but two of the most spectacular boundaries are the Book Cliffs and the Grand Mesa. The former is a formation which rises almost sheer off the level farming acres, and because of the creases in this series of palisades, what looks like a row of books has resulted, hence Book Cliffs. They continue for quite a few miles, and look rather depressing under sullen, leaden skies, soon to weep all over the valley. What did prove interesting was to see coal seams high up on the cliff side, the black of the coal and the smudgy stream it made down the side of the mountain contrasting with the grey all around. It was as if the coal had suddenly turned liquid and had begun to drip. In some places, the coal was gathered at the bottom and put to use, for a lot of it is high grade stuff.
Over to the east is Grand Mesa, a huge plateau or table land that must be about 50 miles across. It dominates the whole landscape from long before you get to Montrose till well past Grand Junction. Up there are many lakes, and those seeking an outlet from the hot, irrigated valley in summer have built summer cottages around the lakes up atop the coal mesa. Other people just content themselves with making week-end motor pilgrimages there.
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Mr. Moriarity got through being trainmaster for a little while, and came over to the hotel. After we had enjoyed a steak dinner, Mr. Johnson went down to the depot to see about my tickets, and then Mr. Molarity, who used to be a boomer (to non-railway people, I may say that a boomer was an expert railroader, who, almost invariably single, would roam from place to place, always certain to get a job because he was sure to be efficient; the boomer went out when the bus came in), as I said, ex-Boomer Moriarity told some great tales of the old days He was the first person I ever knew who could speak with authority on the famous Kansas City, Mexico, and Oriental. This railway was to go from Texas down through Mexico to the Pacific, and was to cut all the important lines in that area, thus offering fast transfer service. Then too, a Mexican port would give quick haul from that coast to the interior, instead of stuff being shipped around via Panama. Mr, Moriarity said that a train actually once got over into Mexico belonging to the K.C.M. & O. The bandits, or maybe it was the government in those days no one knew the difference seized the whole train, and not a single bit of it ever got back to the United States. They even knocked down the engine, and hauled it by burro over to Mexico City, there to re-assemble it. The rails also were taken hundreds and hundreds of miles this way on patient mokes to be re-laid near the Mexican capital. Mr. Moriarity could tell some funny tales of former times in Texas, and did, but I am going to leave Grand Junction, the place where they covered the abandoned street car tracks with grassy boulevards, and put you on the standard gauge Rio Grande's Scenic Limited. This is the train we left yesterday at Salida, now we're riding the same train, one day later.
See you among the Mormons.