COBWEB CORNERS: When the cog was built
By Mel McFarland
A while back I talked about the construction of the cog railway. I want to share more of that today. Con-struction really started from the top down. It is easier to move rocks that way! There were a thousand workers, living in camps all along the survey route. The camps were located at key points where the work was most difficult. We know where some were, because we can still see the remains, but others are a mystery.
The roughing out of the route took about a year, mainly happening in the summer's nicer weather. Once the road bed was ready, the track went in. This work started in Manitou, working its way up. The project also fired up the imagination of others. One enterprise sought to connect the railway with the Denver and Rio Grande railway's line in Manitou, using street cars. Initially the idea was turned down as too much interference with traffic on Ruxton Avenue. After that, another plan was to build a street car line that would run on an elevated line on top of Ruxton Creek, but that too was turned down. Later a street car line was built up Ruxton.
The Colorado Midland was built through the Iron Springs area in 1887, and had a big bridge over Ruxton. When the construction of the cog railway started, a short track was built from there to the cog's yards.
In the late part of 1889 tie cutters up near Florissant were busy cutting ties for the cog railway. They came down the Colorado Midland to Manitou and were delivered at the future site of the cog's Manitou depot. Rails came from near Chicago by railroad car also. It seems that the first of the special rails came from Switzerland, allowing track assembly to start.
There was excitement in Manitou about the track being built. Work started in April 1890. Sections of track were built in the Manitou yards and moved up the track to be put in place. Wagons hauled the track up the canyon. There are four bridges on the line, and the steel did not arrive until May.
Next was the stone wall along Ruxton, where the depot would be built. In May, the first steam locomotive arrived. Once the construction was finished and all the equipment was in place, the connecting track from the Midland was removed. We will learn more in a future column!