When word reached the Western Slope in the spring of 1908 that the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad’s Potato Train would be visiting, people were enthusiastic.
“Let every farmer up and down the Uncompahgre Valley turn out to this meeting,” the Montrose Daily Press wrote on March 20, 1908. “It is the opening of a new era in the history of potato cultivation and should be taken advantage of.”
The Potato Train, also called the Potato Special, Potato Institute, Spud Train and the Spud Special, was a joint production of the D&RG and Colorado Agricultural College, which later became Colorado State University. It provided education on wheels, offering free classes on potato growing to anyone who wanted to attend.
At most of the stops, two passenger cars served as classrooms, in which six instructors from the Ag College gave potato lectures to those who attended.
A baggage car carried equipment farmers needed to obtain the best harvest: “Sorters, seed cutters, planters, special cultivators, ridging and ditching machines and diggers” were on display, wrote the Fort Collins Courier the week the train was scheduled to embark for the Western Slope and San Luis Valley.
As the Fort Collins paper noted, The Western Slope “marketed in 1907 less than 2,000 cars of potatoes. Potato experts believe that when its advantages for potato growing are thoroughly appreciated and the best methods used, that 35,000 cars of choice potatoes should be marketed from this section annually.”