COBWEB CORNERS: A tough storm for the Midland
By Mel McFarland
With our recent flurry of rain, I am reminded, it could have been snow! I especially remember 1957 and 1959, when massive amounts of snow fell here in September. Oh, and then there were the October storms, mainly at Halloween!
I ran onto this tale of several Colorado Midland engines arriving in Colorado City after a terrific battle with the snow in 1900. The line was open as far as Divide. Trains, however, were not running, because Ute Pass was choked with the beautiful, and the Midland's huge rotary was hard at work to clear the line where the tunnels are above Manitou.
The Midland Terminal had even been blocked south of Divide but an engine arrived in Colorado City after pushing the rotary in from Cripple Creek. The machine was damaged and worn by the conflict, but the line was opened. After repairs, the rotary went out the next day. A passenger who arrived on the belated train during the night said there was six feet of snow at Divide and a small train had to turn back after starting into the canyon toward Florissant with three engines. This, after two previous attempts had been made with two engines.
The Midland Terminal was having a bad time of it between Gillett and the tunnel. The Denver-bound train from Cripple Creek was plowing its way through the snow north of the town when the whistle of a train from Divide to Cripple Creek was heard. Both trains met, and for a while neither could go forward or backward. A few of the passengers attempted to walk to Gillett. The trains eventually sorted things out; both made it to Gillett. Some of the passengers attempted to hire horses to get to Cripple Creek, but none could be obtained. The train finally arrived in Cripple Creek. The Denver train was able to go on to Divide, finally. The company decided not to send out the later trains. Both the Midland Terminal and the F&CC railway had snowplows out bucking the drifts.
The passengers who arrived in Colorado City on the Midland at 3 a.m. had some odd experiences. Food was extremely scarce. On board the train there were a few cases of eggs and a barrel of dressed chickens and quail. The eggs and the chickens were cooked in the engine's fire box on a fire shovel. This all happened in the spring, not in late summer!