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Colorado Railroad Museum

A journey into the future that never was

Colorado Railroad Museum to have inaugural steampunk event


Gizmos and gadgets and steam-powered mega-machines.

The Colorado Railroad Museum is inviting people to take a voyage to the fantastical world of steampunk at its first Steampunk at the Station on June 18.

“It seemed like a natural fit,” said Carolyn Bartels, event manager of the railroad museum in Golden. “Nothing is more symbolic (of) this fantastic phenomenon than the roaring of our big, beautiful locomotives.”

Steampunk is the subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th century industrial steam-powered machinery, Bartels said. It is thought to honor Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American inventor who lived from 1856-1943.

Influences on steampunk include 19th century science-fiction authors such as Jules Verne’s “Around the World in Eighty Days” and “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” and H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine” and “War of the Worlds.”

“Imaginary airships, mad scientists, adventure and corsets — all compiled into one theme,” said Danielle Ghear, the railroad museum’s resident steampunk expert and steampunk event expediter. “What’s not to love?”

The concept took off in the 1960s and 1970s with the cyberpunk culture when technology was emerging, Bartels said, and was coined steampunk as a variant of cyberpunk in the 1980s. Then there’re a variety of categories — Western steampunk, dieselpunk, clockworkpunk and Victorian steampunk, to name a few.

“Because steampunk is a world-encompassing theme set in an alternate universe, the possibilities are endless,” Ghear said. “It allows creativity to thrive and whole story lines to emerge from one panoptic hinge — steam-powered.”

The idea for the Steampunk at the Station event came about in January. The museum intends to make it an annual event.

“Steampunk should bring out the fun and creative nature of this romantic and historic time period,” she said. “From palm-sized mechanical toys to steam-driven machines as large as automobiles, gadgets are one of the creative aspects of the fans of steampunk.”

People are encouraged to bring a gadget or wear steampunk attire to the event. In fact, that is one of the best aspects of steampunk, Ghear said.

“Whether your style is the explorer, the tinkerer or neo-Victorian aesthete, steampunk attire encompasses all ages, professions and cultures into an imaginary voyage into the future that never was,” Ghear said.

Steampunk fashion generally includes goggles, gears, elaborate hats and corsets, she added.

Music for steampunk is all over the map, Bartels said, but for the Steampunk at the Station concert, live music will be performed by Colorado Springs band Hydrogen Skyline.

The band’s roots are in steampunk, husband and wife musicians Norman and Asher Hittle said. But nowadays, they are more commonly known for indie-pop/progressive rock styles.

“We really love the steampunk communities and playing for them,” Asher Hittle said. The performance will be a “return to something we really love.”

Hydrogen Skyline’s concert will be a two-hour set of a variety of their music.They will perform all the songs on their album, “PHOTOVOLTAIC,” which will be released later this summer.

The musicians are excited to play Steampunk at the Station, especially because of the railyard location.

“It’s incredibly unique,” Norman Hittle said. “We don’t have the opportunity to play a place like that very often.”

And, of course, daytime admission includes a ride on the museum’s Locomotive No. 491 — the largest operating steam locomotive in the Western hemisphere — which will be 88 years old on June 15.

Steampunk at the Station will “play into the creative nature of people,” Bartels said. “Anything goes. It’s a chance to have fun.”


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