COBWEB CORNERS: Carlton outbids the junk dealers

By Mel McFarland

       The Colorado Midland managed to survive 30 years before the end almost arrived. Against a field of bidders whose only purpose was to dismantle it as junk, Albert E. Carlton purchased the railroad at a sale at the Colorado City depot on 25th Street. Dozens gathered, but only a few actually were there to bid.
       The sale of the Midland was done by Mr. Dayton, an auctioneer from Denver, who drove an automobile up to the eastern end of the old Colorado City depot and, after consulting his watch, rose to his feet and announced that the sale was about to begin. There were no chairs, so the men stood in their places and waited. Close about were the prospective bidders. Most of them were unknown to the crowd except one who stood alone, a figure familiar to nearly all. A.E. Carlton, the wizard of Cripple Creek, was to pit his millions against those of the bondholders and the junk magnates. The man who had bought the Cresson, bored the Roosevelt tunnel, reorganized the Golden Cycle mill and floated the Holly Sugar corporation was to become a railroad magnate.
       Carlton stood, hands in pockets, near the station corner, a cigar clamped in his teeth, and his eyes on the auctioneer. He spoke up promptly with a bid of $600,000 and the junk dealers began. One from Denver bid $750,000 and another put it up to $800,000. One from New York City bid $850,000 and another $900,000. For a few moments the bidding languished. There was a call or two from the auctioneer, and without shifting his cigar, Carlton offered a cool million. The figures created a stir in the crowd and warned the other bidders that the railroad would not be sold at any small price. The Denver pair went to a million and a quarter and another tendered $1,300,000. When the brisk interchanges died away, Carlton spoke: "A million, three hundred twenty five thousand." That silenced almost all the bidders. A bulky figure several yards away bid $25,000 higher and without hesitation, the local man raised it $25,000 more. Another made a last stand at $1,400,000. Again there was no wait. Carlton offered $1,425,000. That ended the bidding. With the usual formalities, the enterprise went to Carlton, whose associates included well-known area businessmen Spencer Penrose, Charles M. MacNeill and Eugene P. Shove.
       The Colorado Midland Railroad, which was tapping some of the greatest mining, agricultural and horticultural resources in the United States, had been sold under circumstances which would not have been out of place for a horse auction. The Midland only lasted a couple years when everything west of Divide was scrapped.