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COBWEB CORNERS: A Midland excursion train to Leadville in 1889

By Mel McFarland

       Every now and then I like to step back in time and talk about a train ride. Today let's go back to 1889 and ride the Colorado Midland railroad's special excursion train to Leadville.
       The train has a baggage car and three coaches. The train, comfortably filled, steams out from the Midland depot in Colorado Springs at a few minutes past 8 o'clock in the morning. At the Colorado City and Manitou stations, a number of excursionists join the party on board, and then the iron horse with its excited passengers begins climbing through the famous Ute Pass.
       It passes through dark tunnels, along deep and craggy precipices, in and out of glens and canyons with words of awe. There's a halt at Cascade, where a few more passengers get on. Another run through a lovely and fertile valley and along a sparkling mountain stream brings the train to the attractive mountain resort, Green Mountain Falls. From that point the train speeds on, making stops only when absolutely necessary.
       After chugging through Woodland Park and then Divide, the train's next stop is Florissant, a thriving city in the region of the widely known petrified wood. A petrified stump is on the platform, being readily picked apart by visitors and passengers.
       The section along the South Platte River through scenic Eleven Mile Canyon illustrates the varied work of nature.
       Leaving this grandeur, the excursionists find their train speeding on a straight track for many miles across the broad pastures of South Park. Near the south end of the park are the Hartsel hot springs.
       After some winding through trees, the train reaches Hill Top, the summit of Trout Creek Pass, providing a magnificent view of the Arkansas valley for 25 miles.
       The train hastens on toward Leadville, finally dropping down beside the Arkansas River. Some very fine scenery is viewed along the route.
       Arriving at Leadville about 2 p.m., the passengers relish a bountiful dinner in the station's dining room.
       Leadville is appropriately captioned "The City Among the Clouds," its altitude being 10,000 feet, just a short distance below timberline. The activity of a characteristic mining camp is discerned on all sides. If this was a winter day, or even March, the snow might be several feet higher than the train!
       I could continue this trip. Today. however we will stop in Leadville, as did many tourists in those days. I hope you enjoyed the ride.

(Posted 6/27/17; Opinion: Cobweb Corners)

       Editor's note: Local historian Mel McFarland has been writing his Cobweb Corners column in the Westside Pioneer since 2004. To see past columns, go to the Pioneer's Archives. Either look for desired articles under the Cobweb Corners category for any year, or search by keywords in the Find box.

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