Crawford outlines family rail history in center talk
Three of the last four generations of the Westside's Crawford family have worked with steel wheels, and the most recent of them - Art Crawford - took an Old
Colorado City History Center audience through some of that history March 14.
The saga began with his great-grandfather, William Walker, who moved to this region in the 1880s after an 1879 visit (a pack trip to South Park), Crawford explained in a question-answer format with society member Tom Hendrix.
Living initially in Manitou Springs, Walker got a railroad job with the Denver & Rio Grande railroad, which at the time ran between Colorado Springs and Manitou. His daughter Daisy was born in 1886, and about a year later Walker “got in on the ground floor” with the newly formed Midland Railway, Crawford related.
From then until the Midland shut down after World War I (the Midland Terminal continued until 1949), Walker was the engineer on its passenger trains, which started from the Midland roundhouse (now Van Briggle Pottery at 21st and Highway 24) and carried people as far west as Leadville.
Along the way, Walker and his family lived in the first house built on Bott Avenue (2522). The address was 523 Main St. at that time, Crawford said.
His grandfather, James Crawford, worked as a motorman and in the car barn for the Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway, a city streetcar line which had been bought and upgraded in the late 19th century by mining magnate/philanthropist Winfield Stratton. James had a fairly short career - the years 1907-08. Later he became a house painter.
The year before James started his streetcar job, he married Daisy Walker. Art's father Hal was born to James and Daisy in 1910, and grew up in (Old) Colorado City. He and Art's mom Ruth (born in Longmont in 1915) got married in 1934. This was the family's non-railway generation, as Hal became an aircraft parts machinist - such a good one that the government kept him working at the factory in Colorado Springs throughout World War II, Art said.
One thing Art recalls about his early life was moving a lot. He was born in the family's then-house in the 1300 block of West Kiowa Street. Later, living in Monument, he attended his first three years of school there. After that the family returned to the Westside for a time, and Art finished elementary school at Buena Vista. The next move, to Roswell, put him at North Junior High (his dad, mom and sister had all gone to West). There was only one high school in the city back then (Colorado Springs High School), and Art graduated in 1957.
After that, “I kind of backed into the railroad business,” Art joked.
He served four years in the Navy, then worked in a piston factory in Pueblo until he'd had enough of assembly line work and answered a job to attend a railroad communications school. The school turned out to be an anachronism - teaching people how to use the telegraph system when “everything had gone to telephones by then” - but the end result was an operator job with the Union-Pacific railroad, he said. In 1967 Art moved up to dispatcher, working until about 1990 in Denver and later Cheyenne, Wyo.
Still interested in the trade even after retirement, Crawford worked as a conductor for the Cog railway in the early 1990s. He recalled one scary time when he was outside in a thunderstorm on the mountain and “lightning was chasing me back to the train.”
Westside Pioneer article