COBWEB CORNERS: East to Manitou Junction
By Mel McFarland
There were a few farms and ranches east of Colorado Springs by the late 1870s. A new railroad, the Denver & New Orleans, was building south and looking for customers. Along the way, any ranches that supported the railroad could almost demand their own sidings, or at least have places named for them. There was even a siding near Falcon named to honor prominent scenery artist Albert Bierstadt. The view of Pike's Peak from the spot was typical of his work. Passenger service started from Denver when the railroad reached a station called Jimmy Camp, nine miles east of Colorado Springs. Curiously the spot where Jimmy Camp had been was actually closer to Bierstadt. Jimmy was reported to have run a trading post in the trees just over the hill from Bierstadt in the 1830s. The camp had been on the early trade routes long before the gold rush. Just who Jimmy was, along with tales of the camp, are legend in the region.
The D&NO owners approached Colorado Springs cautiously, afraid that Palmer and his D&RG would challenge their entrance to the city, but business was too attractive! Immediately after the D&NO received permission for a right of way from Colorado Springs City Council, it put in a crude track quickly, under dark of night. In October 1882, the line into Colorado Springs was finished. Jimmy Camp station was renamed Manitou Junction, which would naturally cause confusion about its location. It was near where US 24 and Colorado 94 meet.
Another branch line was built east across the valley from a point about half way between Manitou Junction and Fountain to the new Franceville coal mine. This mine and the new town of Franceville were developed by Matt France of Colorado City. There were several reasons for developing this field, well out of the view of the city. Coal had been found in the area early, but had not been seen as valuable until the approach of the railroad. France seized the opportunity to exploit the mine. The mines provided important business for the railroad, and customers in Colorado City. The railroad, mindful of the field's importance as railroad fuel, eventually bought out France.
The spot remained Manitou Junction, but in 1913 the railroad closed the line at Falcon. The mines continued, even though coal from north of Colorado Springs proved to be better. Someday I need to talk more about the colorful Matt France!