Montrose museum adding exhibits
MONTROSE — In the 14 years since archaeologist Richard Fike founded the Museum of the Mountain West, it has grown beyond his dreams. Now the museum is continuing its growth with two new exhibits, including a railroad car used in one of the most iconic western movies of all time.
The boxcar that was used in the 1969 film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” was delivered to the museum Oct. 19. Now Fike and museum curator Bob DeQuinze are searching for the car’s “trucks,” or wheel assemblies, as part of its restoration.
The film was set in Wyoming in the 1890s and starred Paul Newman (Cassidy) and Robert Redford (Sundance Kid), leaders of the infamous “Hole in the Wall” gang.
Following a train robbery, a local sheriff and members of the Union Pacific railroad organize a posse to pursue Cassidy and Sundance. In the scene, gang members scramble to pick up money they had blasted from a rail car. Shortly after, another train pulls up, and posse members leap out on horses and give chase.
According to the documentary “The Making of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid,” movie producers made three boxcars for the movie. Two were made from balsa wood, so they could be blown up. The other was created 3 feet higher than a normal boxcar, so men could ride horses through it, or as Fike explained, “The car was 3 feet higher so the rider wouldn’t get decapitated when they jumped out.”
The rail car for the posse members rode out is now on display in Montrose.
Fike said the car was transported from the Ridgway Railroad Museum and donated by Alice Billings, who acquired it in 1974.
The real-life Cassidy, whose name was Robert LeRoy Parker, is believed to have died in 1908, having moved to Telluride in 1884 and returning in 1887 to race horses and do ranch work.
On June 24, 1889, Cassidy and accomplice Matthew Warner robbed the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride and stole approximately $21,000.
Details of Cassidy’s death remain debated to this day. One story, made popular by the movie, suggests he was killed in a shootout with soldiers in Bolivia. Others believe he returned to the United States and died sometime in the 1930s or 1940s.
A saddle and chaps used by Cassidy are on display at the museum, along with a biography, written by Cassidy’s sister.
The museum also is working to finish an 1880s-era hotel, which will be the 20th structure completed on the property.
The museum’s most identifiable structure is the 1895 Carriage Works building, where legendary boxer and Colorado native Jack Dempsey trained in an upstairs loft.
The Museum of the Mountain West recently was recognized by True West magazine for being one of the best western museums in the United States. The museum’s main building contains nearly 500,000 artifacts, some dating back to the 1400s.
“The museum has been a vision of mine all my life. It has expanded beyond my greatest dreams,” Fike said.
In 2003, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
The museum is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The facility is at 68169 Miami Road in Montrose. For information, call 970-240-3400 or visit http://www.mountainwestmuseum.com.