COBWEB CORNERS: Questions of ‘Mr. Conductor’
By Mel McFarland
In the old days a passenger train had several conductors, one of them just for the Pullman sleeping cars. The Colorado Midland would have one or two Pullman cars carrying maybe 20 passengers.
With passengers often easterners, taking their first trip into the West, the conductor served as an "answer man." The temperament of these men was of primary importance. They might field some pretty unusual questions; as a cog conductor myself, I know I do!
On a trip west from Colorado City, a conductor had a spot in a far corner of the car where he had just dozed off when a touch on his shoulder raised him. It was a very nervous lady. "Say, Mr. Conductor, my ticket says that I am to have 200 pounds of baggage and my trunk does not weigh more than 125. What am I to do about it?"
"Madam'" replied the accommodating conductor, "we will be arriving at Cascade in a few minutes and you can gather 75 pounds of stone to fill it up."
On another trip, a conductor had been continually answering questions as the train traversed the Continental Divide, the Frying Pan River and Aspen (which was just a mining town a hundred years ago). As the train approached the station for Glenwood Springs, a female passenger spotted a coaling facility just outside town. The area was quite smoky and there were many railroad cars in the area. "Mr. Conductor, what is that and what is all that coal for?"
"Madam, you are going to Glenwood for the hot waters, are you not?" He quickly shot back. "This is where they heat the water!"
A few days later, his boss heard from the manager of the pools at Glenwood that this passenger had shared the answer with him. Perhaps this conductor should rethink some of his answers!
On Pikes Peak I get odd questions, which make me have to think. A couple of recent "good" ones are: "Why are there no pine cones up here?" "Does the train stop at the toll gate?" And "Do the people who drive up the mountain come up to the same top?"