D&SNGRR to Unveil Fascinating New Museum Exhibit, "The Landing of the Mary Jane" on January 16
By: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Allen C. Harper, co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of the D&SNGRR, and Rod Turner (age 87), owner of the Mary Jane and fourth-generation Durango native, will jointly introduce the new display on January 16 during a private reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by family members, journalists, elected officials, Durango business owners, marketing partners, and civic and community leaders. The museum exhibit will be available for public viewing on Thursday, Jan. 17; admission to the D&SNGRR museum is always free.
Purchased in 1939 by John W. and Richard W. Turner, the Mary Jane is a Century Boat Company (Century) Sea Maid 54 runabout constructed of Philippine mahogany, and outfitted with a four-cylinder, 75-horsepower Gray Phantom engine that pushes its top speed to 33 miles per hour. Fabricated in 1939 at Century's world headquarters in Manistee, Michigan, the 17-foot, two-inch vessel made its way to Durango via the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW; now the D&SNGRR)
"With each passing year, the D&SNGRR Museum continues to curate informative new exhibits which document the rich railroading, business, and cultural histories of the Four Corners region," said Harper. "The new 'Landing of the Mary Jane' display represents another marvelous addition to the museum's impressive collection of historical artifacts, and one which serves as a testament to the Turner family's six generations of meaningful contributions to the growth and development of Durango from a small mining town into one of America's most delightful tourist destinations."
"I've known the train and the Mary Jane my entire life," said Rod Turner. "The first time my dad started the boat, it was in gear, and we ran right into the dam. I was only eight years old."
"There's no better long-term home for our beloved Mary Jane than here at the D&SNGRR Museum," added Rod's son, Jack Turner. "Harper and his team have done an excellent job of preserving a diverse range of historic vehicles and artifacts that literally helped build Durango into the community it is today. Our wish is that museum visitors will derive as much enjoyment from the Mary Jane as it has given our family and friends for 80 years."
About the Turner Family
The Turners are a six-generation pioneer family which has played an instrumental role in the growth and development of Durango and the surrounding area over the past 160 years.
Family patriarch John Charles Turner (J.C.) first set foot in the Animas Valley in 1861 as a member of the famed Baker exploration party searching for gold and other minerals. Over the next several years, J.C. served as a Union soldier, and was a Colfax County sheriff who battled notorious outlaws such as William H. Bonney, better known known as Billy the Kid.
He returned to the area in 1876, and settled on a 160-acre ranch on the east side of the valley. He and his wife, Emma, raised eight children, and established the Turner name as one of Durango's oldest.
In subsequent years, several of J.C.'s descendants were involved in many significant developments in the Four Corners region. J.C.'s son, John W. Turner, was a well-known land speculator and gambler part of the ownership group which set up Durango's first radio station, KIUP-AM, in 1936.
One generation later, and following his father's placement of a chair lift on Chipmunk Hill, Nick Turner (Rod's brother) helped arrange financing that enabled the founding of Purgatory Ski Resort. The ski trail, "The Bank," is named in his honor. In the 1960s, Nick joined forces with other local business leaders to preserve the tracks to Silverton when the D&RGW considered abandoning the line. The resulting Durango-Silverton Corp. was a precursor to the D&SNGRR.
Keith R. Pillow