McFarland talks about dining on the Midland
Local historian Mel McFarland provided glimpses at the Old Colorado City History Center Feb. 12 of what the eating experience was like on the Colorado Midland
trains of yesteryear.
His hour-long presentation, featuring old train photos projected on a large screen, attracted close to 100 listeners.
For the Midland's first 20 years (until 1907), trains made use of “eating houses” at spread-apart locations along the 22-hour route between Colorado City and Grand Junction. At that time, dining cars were introduced, which cut shortened the trip duration because the trains no longer had to stop for hungry riders.
McFarland displayed photos showing the dining car's narrow, cramped kitchen space, in which up to three cooks would work. Although he compared it to “cooking in a broom closet,” the cooks could prepare 24 meals in 15 minutes, McFarland said.
The dining-car era ended in 1918, when the Midland Terminal bought out the Colorado Midland. The MT route only went as far as Divide and Cripple Creek, and thus it did not need the service.
During its heyday, the Colorado Midland ran four trains a day - two from Colorado City and two from Grand Junction, he said.
During his talk, McFarland shared a favorite story of how he came into ownership of a logo-embossed tablecoth that had once been used in a Colorado Midland dining car. A friend who knew of his railroading interests called McFarland and told him he had put something on hold in an antique shop that the historian was “going to buy.” On hearing that it was an authentic Midland tablecloth, McFarland did indeed buy it. Later he met an older lady who as a girl had helped with the Midland's “wildflower excursion” rides. When she'd left the railroad, she was gifted with a dining-car tablecloth. She told McFarland that she wished she had met him sooner, but she had sold the item to an antique store. “And now I own it,” McFarland assured her.
COMING: McFarland and Art Crawford, two of the area's best-known authorities on Colorado City's Midland railroads, will be featured presenters at a six-hour “Midland Days” event at a ranch near Divide March 13.
RSVPs are necessary by March 1. The cost, including lunch, is $75. For more information, call 687-1516.
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