COBWEB CORNERS: A tough-luck bridge
By Mel McFarland
A hundred years ago, the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railway (the “Short Line”) wound from southern Colo-rado Springs, near the current Drake power plant, west to the gold camp. It went toward where Moreno Street leaves Eighth Street, then wound up near where the rodeo arena sits. The Portland mill processed gold there then. It followed what is now Moreno to Lower Gold Camp and Bear Creek Canyon. At the mouth of the canyon was a large wooden bridge.
Known as Bear Creek Bridge, this was a regular site of activity over the years. The Short Line only ran for about 20 years, but during that time this bridge was destroyed by fire three times and badly damaged a half dozen other times. The railroad used the spot in its advertising, as well as other bridges up the line. The road into Bear Creek Canyon passed under the bridge. The railroad's steam engines put on quite a show as they crossed over the road, climbing up the rails.
The railroad even had a special treat. It would take people up to Summit Station, proving a last look out over Colorado Springs. The railroad had little carts, which held about six people, and they would coast back down into Colorado Springs. Speeds generally ran about 30 miles an hour! The cart flew over ten bridges and as many tunnels. Bear Creek Bridge was not the biggest or tallest, but it was on a nice curve. The last two bridges were over Eighth Street, which was just a path then, and at Fountain Creek the carts rolled into the Rio Grande station and stopped, usually not needing the brake they did not have!
When the Short Line closed, it became the Corley Mountain Highway, a toll road. Within a few years the bridges were all taken out. Narrow roads replaced most of the bridges, but even today if you know where to look, you can see remains of some of the bridges. The Bear Creek Bridge has been gone nearly 75 years, but it too has a few reminders left behind.
The Gold Camp road almost saw service again some 20 years ago as a railroad, but none of the efforts had the resources to get it going. One of their big challenges was about what to do about the missing bridges. Using small, street car like vehicles was one of the suggestions, since they could follow the road used by automobiles. I think it is too bad the project never got off the ground. But then again, I just like riding trains through the mountains, away from roads.