COBWEB CORNERS: An accident on the Midland
By Mel McFarland
The Midland railroad had many accidents, even right here in Colorado City. This one happened near Leadville.
The engine of a Colorado Midland passenger train turned over on its side and four of the five cars in the train left the rails when the train, which was already seven hours behind schedule, struck a broken rail at 6:30 in the morning of April 30, 1917. It had just passed Arkansas Junction, a station where Leadville passengers met the train. Today, that is near the fish hatchery and the LeÓdville golf club.
Engineer Frank Smith and Fireman Fred Bruckman were unable to jump from the cab as the rail broke. The big steamer turned over, and the two were actually thrown out onto the ground. The cab landed a few inches above them, but neither man was seriously injured. The first four cars of the train left the rails, but remained standing almost upright.
The train had left Leadville going west the previous day, but was held up that night by a heavy rock slide on the track west of Glenwood Springs. When it was derailed, it was on its return trip east from Grand Junction. The crew, based in Colorado City, had joined the train at Arkansas Junction and was heading home!
An engine with two coaches was sent down from Leadville to take passengers from the wrecked train on east. This special passenger train came to Colorado City. The passengers were then taken on to their intended points. The right of way was cleared later in the morning, but the engine could not be righted and rerailed until later. Wrecking crews from Leadville and as far off as Colorado City handled the work. Smith and Bruckman stayed at the wreck and came down with their damaged locomotive several days later.
The engine had to be brought here to be repaired. Scores of Leadville residents motored out to the wreck scene and marveled at the miraculous escape of the engineer and fireman. Where the derailment occurred, the country is flat, running through the wide valley of the Upper Arkansas river. The train at the time was not running at a high speed.
I had seen pictures of this wreck, but not until I found just the right newspaper did I know the story. The cars included one of the railroad's dining cars and a fine Pullman sleeping car!