COBWEB CORNERS: The Golden Cycle fire
By Mel McFarland
There have been many memorable fires in this area. Several are significant to me. Some of these I have already mentioned here, such as the loss of both our railroad stations within a month. Some of you may be old enough to remember the fire that took the old Colorado Midland office building in the 1950s. The railroad tracks had been taken up from Colorado City to Cripple Creek, but there was still occasional activity around the big old building that sat north of the former Midland machine shop (now Ghost Town). It had been broken into several times, and on a cold January night, like the two depots, it went up in a spectacular fire.
The fire I want to talk about today was in the Golden Cycle Mill. The site had originally been built in 1904 as the Telluride Mill, which used a process that did not work on Cripple Creek ore. The mill soon closed, but not for long. The Golden Cycle was a mine in the Cripple Creek Mining District, near Goldfield, and it had a small mill where its ore was processed. The cyanide process was new, and worked well for processing Cripple Creek ore, but the company wanted a bigger mill. The empty Telluride Mill was bought in 1906 and renamed Golden Cycle.
Late in the summer of 1907, some workmen were repairing equipment in the mill. A fire started near the equipment that heated the ore. Soon the building was fiercely burning. A huge black cloud rose over the mill. The wind blew the cloud toward Colorado Springs. Fire companies from all around gathered at the mill, and they managed to save many of the buildings where the ore was unloaded and processed, but the roaster complex and the big tubs where the crushed ore would soak was destroyed. New buildings soon replaced the old buildings, and soon the mill was running again.
The Golden Cycle was the largest mill in the area, with slightly greater capacity than the other mills - the Portland, Standard and Colorado-Philadelphia - combined. Of these, only the Standard used the cyanide process. Once the Golden Cycle reopened, the other mills saw their processing decline. Only the Standard managed to compete, but did not have the capacity. After World War I, the other mills closed, and their waste was taken to the Golden Cycle to be processed again. Over the years, the Golden Cycle was constantly improved, but never had another big fire.