COBWEB CORNERS: The incline that never happened
By Mel McFarland
From Old Colorado City, we can see Cheyenne Mountain to the south. It has some interesting history, but this time I want to share something that did not happen.
Back in 1906, a railroad to the top of Cheyenne Mountain was proposed. At that time, most of the things we now associate with the mountain were not even the slightest dream. No NORAD, no zoo, no TV or radio towers, not even the Broadmoor, as we think of it now. It was just a rugged mountain.
The plan was for an incline railway to the top, starting near where the zoo is today. The railway would use cars similar to the "Angel's Flight" cars in San Francisco. Remember, at this time neither of the other two area inclines (on Red Mountain and on Mt. Manitou) were built yet.
The Cheyenne Mountain incline's promoters said electric motors would control the movement of two cars - one up, one down. They boasted that it would be the highlight of any tourist's visit to the region and would compete with the line down the side of the Royal Gorge for difficulty. Once the railroad was finished, a grand hotel and restaurant were planned for the summit, with a view as far as Kansas.
Only it never happened. Two years later, the railway up Mt. Manitou opened, followed by the other up Red Mountain, also in Manitou. But not Cheyenne Mountain.
In 1920, the idea resurfaced, this time as a road. Spencer Penrose, a mining millionaire who had vastly expanded the Broadmoor, said it would rival the road he had built up Pikes Peak.
It was a difficult path to carve out. Some called it the crookedest road in the West. A hotel was built on the summit, and eventually Penrose added the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Shrine of the Sun. During construction of the shrine, humorist Will Rodgers died in a plane crash in Alaska. Penrose decided to make it a shrine in Rodgers' memory.
The hotel on the summit held quite a view. In the days of Prohibition, it was said to host great parties. No one could sneak up and raid it. The hotel closed in the late 1950s. The spot was used for radio and TV towers until the higher spot was developed a couple of miles south in the 1970s. NORAD was tunneled into the mountain in the early 1960s.