COBWEB CORNERS: Conductor Scrim and the Ruxton line
By Mel McFarland
I recently did a column about the streetcar line up Ruxton in Manitou. A friend of mine related a few tales of a man who worked on the line in the 1920s, known as Conductor Scrim. He was an older guy, who had retired from some other trade. One story described him as a sailor who had a hobby of carving and he sold scrimshaw in curio shops on Manitou Avenue. Another said he had worked in the East somewhere. But all agreed he liked working on the "Dinky."
His appearance would fit with being an old sailor, in particular the way he kept his brass uniform buttons polished. He wore a traditional conductor's cap. But here the stories differ again. One said his hat was on his head all the time. Another said he had a "wild" look to his hair, and that the "Dinky" seemed to be flying out of control going up or down Ruxton.
The car was called a dinky, because it was so much smaller than the cars that came over from Colorado Springs. He was often heard telling about the sights and scenes in the area as the car went up and down Ruxton.
Scrim kept the car clean. Children who got popcorn in the shops in Manitou were no joy to him, as the windows were often smeared with tiny hand prints. He disliked most of the famous springs because passengers who visited those on Ruxton often spilled water from bottles, getting on or off his car.
The motor man who drove the car had worked on the street railway in New Orleans. This was long before the movie "Streetcar Named Desire," but the two men made an interesting pair - one quiet and unassuming, the other bold and brash. The motor man did his best to concentrate on watching the street ahead, while the conductor collected tickets and entertained passengers and those on the street.
The railway had three cars, two were open cars and the other was enclosed. It provided shelter from the occasional rain. The cars ran from about eight in the morning until eight at night. On a busy day in the summer all three cars could usually be seen on the line. One would be going up Ruxton, one down, and one either at the cog depot or at the streetcar station at the loop. The area where the streetcar lines met was commonly referred to as the loop because the Colorado Springs car would actually make a loop to turn around for its return trip through Colorado City.
The streetcar on Ruxton only ran when the cog railroad was running, because it was owned by the cog after its early days when it was operated by the Colorado Springs line.
Scrim apparently liked the Colorado Springs and Interurban streetcar line. He'd reportedly worked there first. He could be found at their streetcar barn down on Tejon until their talkative shop foreman showed up. This would cause him to quietly slip out. The Ruxton line did not seem to have a car shop. Repairs to the cars were done by the CS&I or the Colorado Midland. The streetcar station at the cog depot is now the cog railway's main office. I would love to find more about the Ruxton streetcars, as well as the crews that ran them.