Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mystery Track

Back when I was working a contract with United Airlines, I would spend a fair amount of time working out of their offices in the Denver International Airport or DIA.  I would take the back roads to get to and from work as it allowed for relaxed motorcycle riding and avoided the frenzied cagers on E-470 and Peña Boulevard which are the high speed slabs to get to the airport.

Near the junction of Monaghan Rd and East 26th Avenue, I'd spotted what looked like a narrow track, surrounded by an old fence, as I rode to and from work.  I'd stopped and ventured a bit nearer when I had time but ground conditions were not conducive to exploration.

Today, I was riding about on Natasha, my '96 Ural Sidecar Rig and decided to get in a bit closer to see if I could see a sign or something which explained the purpose of this track:


From Google maps, satellite view

As you look at the satellite picture above, I approached from the west or left side of the photo and turned south on that dirt trail that runs along the fenceline that encloses the track complex.  It's a very narrow track, I don't think its more than say six feet wide, so I doubt it was a go-kart racing track.    There is a small raised platform made of concrete near the entrance but that was it in terms of other structures.  Weird huh?

That's the only gate I found, it was open but the "no trespassing" signs stopped me as usual

Here's a view of the top NW corner of the "track"

I left the area and headed west towards Denver, making my way to Smith Road which once bisected most of Denver I think before they built Stapleton Airport.  Then aircraft runways resulted in Smith Road being split.  I wanted to see what was at the end of Smith Road since I'd also worked near its end at UAL's training center near Quebec Street and MLK Boulevard.

Turns out, the eastern portion of Smith Road ends at a Sandy Creek Regional Greenway trailhead parking lot.  I  took this picture of Natasha at the trailhead parking area and made my way back towards home for lunch.


All the main and side roads I rode on this morning were clear and dry.  Temperatures had started at just below freezing at the start of my riding and had soared to the low 40s by the time I got home.  Nice day for riding.

27 comments:

Gary France said...

I hope you get to find out what the track is for, because you have us wondering now.....

bobskoot said...

Charlie6:

I thought I'd be smart and do a google and guess what ?

. . . it leads back to this post as the number one search item.

it's a mystery

bob
bobskoot: wet coast scootin

PS; my first guess would be RC racing. Our son used to have a few Remote Controlled cars and we often went to places that had set up tracks similar to this one in dirt fields

cpa3485 said...

Horses?

Chris Luhman said...

Private dirt track?

Charlie6 said...

Gary, thanks for the visit

Bobskoot, RC car racing....hmmm, maybe but sections of the track would not be visible to the controllers at the small elevated concrete platform I think.

Cpa3486, the track is about 6ft wide only, no room really, and it's paved.

Chris, nah, it's paved and too narrow.

keep them guesses coming....

motoroz said...

With the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs could it have anything to do with that?

Charlie6 said...

Motoroz, don't think so...it's way away from the springs....out on some farmer's field.

Richard Machida said...

Looks just about right for Ural racing....

Charlie6 said...

Richard

putting Ural and Racing in the same sentence....funny guy.

Chris Luhman said...

I'd race you in my Ural :)

Charlie6 said...

Chris....track would be too narrow, whomever gets the jump ahead first should win....unless you go off track into the weeds! : )

Too bad you're all the way in MN, you could join us on the Elephant Ride this coming Sunday.

Chris Luhman said...

The elephant ride looks like sooo much fun. I'd want knobbies for it though. On sunday I will be watching a three hour endurance ice race. it won't be as much fun as getting stuck in the snow with a bunch of ADV guys tho.

The track would be perfect for mini bike racing...

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

The track in your story is an "Amish Penance Ring." Scarlet women, the type who would lace the buttermilk with a hit of strong spirits and then take off their bonnets with reckless abandon, would be required to pull a buggy around the track, about 50 times.

Enterprizing Amish men would often sell rides in the buggy to tourists, who thought the cash was going to buy a proper horse.

I have found tracks like these in and around the Catskills (NY) and in horse country around here — except they are never paved and are used to train trotters. They are wider than six feet too.

However, there are several live steam model railroad clubs in Colorado, and the dimensions of that track are about equal to one of their layouts. The six-foot width of the track would accommodate two track widths. The tighter circle within the oval would accommodate a slighter smaller scale models.

It would be he layout for a guy who had everyrthing.

I'm glad you had a great ride in early spring-like temperatures today.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

irondad said...

We do some training on go-kart tracks. It's surprising how narrow these really are. Normally, though, a go-kart track would have a more complex layout.

I think it's for riding lawnmower racing!

Charlie6 said...

Mr Riepe, an Amish penance ring, where do you come up with this stuff!? I've seen the track when not covered with snow, no railroad tracks of any size.

Irondad, I've never tried a go-kart, but do recall they have walls made of tires or hay bales. Track still seems to narrow for that.

thanks for the guesses, guys!

Charlie6 said...

Well, I asked the Arapahoe County Deputy Sheriff who UDF'ed me on the way to the Ghost Airfield as someone suggested.

Turns out, it's a speed track for motorcycles! Or was, he believes it inactive now. Apparently, one of his fellow deputies took his motorcycle out on it and was radar'ed at 166mph! That's nuts given the small size of that track but I've no reason to doubt the deputy.

So, mystery solved.

Chris Luhman said...

I was right! It was a race track :)

Phil said...

Wondering around as well, I found this track & web search lead me here. Not sure what it is but I have some info, hope it helps someone.
In the middle of the track, there is a channel a couple of inches deep and about a foot wide, with short bolts every couple of feet. From what remains it looks like it was lined with 2x2's. There are also slots running perpendicular to the channel, every couple of feet, on both sides. I can see wear marks from wheels on both sides about the width of a car. I also see some pretty heavy gauge wires laying around and a lot of conduit, which leads me to believe this was a trolly ride or something.
When I first looked at it I thought the slots were to bolt rails on to, but the wheel marks have me stumped.
There is no way a motorcycle could use this track, let alone get up to 166 mph.

Craig said...

SO someone who works at the airport drives by this formation frequently. It got someone asking if anyone knew what it was? Of course your blog is the authority so everyone is directed to your site.

I did a little research and started thinking about the Secret Airbase located to the north of the formation (Denver International Airport). We thought it could have been some sort of test track for the "People Mover" at the Secret Airbase before it was built or during the development.

While looking into that, I discovered that the Otis Elevator Company - Transportation Technology Division was testing winterization of "People Movers" in 1978-79. In fact, Popular Mechanics March 1978 issue on Page 18, has a small picture of the vehicle and the track.

I also found out the P.E. who built it and think I may call him. William D. Ashton, P.E.

We like to call it Area 51 B now though...

Charlie6 said...

Area 51b it is!

Thanks for all the info and research....it makes sense what you found.

Charlie6 said...

here's a link to the picture from the referenced March 1978 Popular Mechanics issue, pg 18: LINK

If the link above doesn't work, just google "popular mechanics" "people mover".

Thanks again to Craig for the info.

Wacky said...

The mystery of this old track had been bugging me for a long time until this blog finally cleared it up. Thanks!! It looks like Craig is correct, that the track was for testing the Otis People Movers back in the late 1970s. I am an airline pilot who regularly flies over the track on final approach into Denver International Airport. The other day I rode my motorcycle out there to see it up close. The gate was open and I walked around. I would never have figured it out without this blog, since up close it doesn't really look like a race track for autos, motorcycles or RC cars. Again, thanks.

M. Fortas said...

Thanks for clearing it up as well...for a few years I have been trying to figure out what it was as well. It has the bolts and the remnenants of large conduit and some sort of a test house foundation...in my imagination I thought it might have had something to do with the old Lowery AFB and several 60's vintage missile silos that lay just a few miles from here. Anyway, thanks again for clearing it up and now I can move on to solve other mysteries.

Mike

Anonymous said...

There looks to be another test track on Gun Club Rd south of 26th. Not sure wich one the popular mechanics artical is depicting.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for answering that mystery. I drive past it daily but have never stopped. This the only thing I can find on it. When describing it to people I say it looks like a giant slot car track. In a way it is I suppose

Anonymous said...

As far as the one south of 26th by gun club only thing I see is the old race track off Piccadilly. I grew up calling it the haunted race track. If you go.Piccadilly south of 26th it dead ends by old entrance to it and there is a memorial there for at least one possibly more people killed there. It's been a few years but we used to take our cars around it at night it was white knuckle avoiding the trees growing everywhere and the south straight away used to continue straight east and double as a drag strip but they put mounds of dirt across it every so far rendering it useless

Charlie6 said...

It's always good to get an answer that makes sense.