COBWEB CORNERS: The coming of the streetcar
By Mel McFarland
In the mid-1880s, Colorado Springs was anxious to include all of the latest developments in transportation. The Denver & Rio Grande had a regular train to Manitou, but there was no quick way to get downtown to ride it, other than omnibuses from the major hotels that traveled to and from the railroad stations. It was through William S. Jackson, J. J. Hagerman, Irving Howbert, J.E. McEntire A.D. Davis and L.P. Ehrich that a solution was reached. It was a most unique alliance. The Colorado Springs and Manitou Street Railway was incorporated in early 1887. The horse-powered line opened with a single track running north and south along Tejon Street on Nov. 2, 1887. The railroad had a few periods of expansion, but within a year it had reached the limits of horse propulsion.
A horse pulled a coach that held about ten people at a leisurely pace. The line to Colorado City was quite popular, but it took about an hour to get from downtown Colorado Springs to Colorado City. The trip took nearly an hour and a half on a rainy or snowy day!
The Colorado Springs Rapid Transit Company was organized to modernize the horse-car company in 1890. The company expanded routes and built new lines, including an extension of the Colorado City line to Manitou. New equipment was ordered and the older horse cars were either scrapped or updated so the system could run as electric streetcars. The company's next problem was insufficient power. On a lot near the D&RG's yards off south Sierra Madre, the company built its own electrical generation plant. Larger cars arrived to handle the increasing public demand.
The trip from Colorado Springs to Colorado City now took only half an hour and to Manitou, just under an hour. The weather was less of a problem, but rain and snow could cause difficulty. Poor track between Colorado City and Manitou often put the car off the tracks.
The streetcar system got better in 1902 when W. S. Stratton, of Cripple Creek gold-mining fame, bought the line and had it brought up to big-city standards. The lines operated until 1930, when competition from buses started to have an effect. In 1931 the last streetcar ran through Colorado City.