Stephanie and Ken Olsen bought a railroad for $10 and can't wait for the first passengers to arrive on Memorial Day.
For $10, Burlington Northern deeded the couple two GP9 diesel engines, five cabooses, eight flatcars, four boxcars, a hopper and 13 miles of track. The salvage value is in excess of $460,000."We caught Burlington Northern just at the right moment," Stephanie Olsen said. "The mine closed. There was no freight being hauled. And, the railroad wanted to get rid of their old equipment without all the hassle of trying to salvage it."
The Olsens named their railroad the Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad Co., and have renovated the cars to haul tourists up above the timberline - along the 13-mile spur line from Leadville to Climax.
Stephanie Olsen is an attorney and diesel mechanic by profession. Ken Olsen is a certified public accountant with backhoe skills.
"That's what qualifies us to run a railroad," Stephanie Olsen said Thursday before the inaugural run for town dignitaries and the press. "In this economy, wearing a lot of hats is known as `how to be a survivor in Leadville, Colo."'
While the purchase may have been for peanuts, renovation has been more expensive.
Stephanie Olsen said she and her husband acquired small business loans for the approximately $250,000 it will cost to renovate all the train cars and the more than $40,000 to renovate the depot.
In addition, operating costs will run about $150,000 a season.
So far, they've converted three of the flatcars into observation cars and are working to convert one boxcar into a concession car.
Also, the couple got the city to sell them the old railroad station, built in 1884 and last used in 1936, for the same price the city paid for it in 1981 - $18,000.
As part of the deal with the city, the couple used local labor and local materials to do the work, a minor godsend to this depressed area where Climax, a molybdenum mine, closed in 1986, putting about 3,000 employees out of work.