COBWEB CORNERS: Following up on a ‘hobnail’ car
By Mel McFarland
This is a story about a local landmark that has been gone for some time. First I'll tell you some of the background. Late in 1908, business was so good on the railroads around Cripple Creek that the standard gauge lines suffered from car shortages. The narrow gauge put all available cars in service, including borrowed D&RG cars. Business was not as good for passenger service, and many cars sat unused. The Midland Terminal (MT) railroad had no passenger cars of its own and had used Colorado Midland (CM) equipment since its start in 1895. That was the source of friction between the companies after the MT and the Florence & Cripple Creek (F&CC) railroad came under the same owner. Excursion cars from the CM had been leased for improving suburban service, but the CM wanted them back. The Midland Terminal needed passenger cars to use in the Cripple Creek District.
Other Colorado railroads had modified narrow gauge cars to operate on standard gauge trucks, and the converted cars could be the MT's answer. There were F&CC railway coaches sitting out of service in Canon City. Several cars were brought to Colorado Springs. At the shops for the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railway (the "Short Line"), these cars had their underframes and steps modified and placed on standard gauge tracks. The cars were then moved up to the Cripple Creek District for Midland Terminal use. At first, two coaches were placed in service, then others saw conversion too. The cars became known as "Hobnail Specials" because of the common boots used by their miner passengers.
The cars were retired in 1920 after the Midland Terminal bought the Colorado Midland and took over its equipment. Some of the "hobnail" cars sat on the ground at Midland, Colo. (a town about halfway between Divide and Cripple Creek), until the MT closed in 1949. Then they were moved to Florissant.
Another passenger car had been stored behind the roundhouse in Old Colorado City, and after the MT closed it was purchased and moved to a hill up on 26th Street. It stayed there until the 1980s, when it was purchased and moved to Nebraska. The car has been totally restored and runs on a little narrow-gauge line. I have seen pictures of the work, and it is unbelievable! The owners (called "Nebraska Midland") also bought one of the cars from Florissant and are rebuilding it too.