COBWEB CORNERS: The Peak’s searchlight in 1913
By Mel McFarland
I have mentioned the searchlight that the cog railway put up on Pike's Peak in 1913. Part of the idea was to light neighborhoods in Colorado Springs from up there! Well that apparently did not work so well and was given up. The old Summit house sat south of the present summit house, near what is now the observation deck. This searchlight, with a lens about three feet across, was smaller than the old Surplus City light, but it shone during the evening.
In the summer of 1914, W.B. Attwell was the lights operator. Having gotten married in the spring, he did not have time to go on a honeymoon. So he treated his wife to a trip to the summit to see what his job was like! The Summit House was operated by a gentleman who lived in Manitou for the benefit of the cog railway. There were a number of conventions in Colorado Springs in the summer, and trips up the mountain were regularly scheduled for them. Attwell had to be sure the searchlight was in top working condition. The cog even brought customers up on afternoon trains to be right there to see the full effect of the light.
Attwell had one big problem: snow. Even in the summer, it regularly snows on the mountain when the city gets a good, heavy rain. Usually this happens late in the day, and occasionally the snow will still be there the next morning. It seems that in July 1914 Attwell had several of these afternoon storms to deal with.
The biggest headache was the lightning, which puts on its own show! I know that being up there in a lightning storm is serious business. The show is much more spectacular than any searchlight! Not only that, but on days in Attwell's time when the summit was clouded over, that searchlight was not going to do much good!
The passengers who went up on trains in good weather got really great shows. The railroad often added extra trains when it looked like it was going to be a cloudless night. It must have been an extra treat when there was snow on the ground from an afternoon storm. However, I cannot imagine using a trip up to see the light, as any part of a honeymoon!
I have seen at least four weddings at the summit this year!