COBWEB CORNERS: Life after the railroad
By Mel McFarland
In the 1940s, life on the Midland was rough. Many of the men lost their jobs during World War Two when the mines in Cripple Creek were cut back. A few moved and went to work on other railroads. While it was just temporary, some never came back. Others found different work to keep things going.
After the war, a big strike at the railroad led some workers to retire, while others took new jobs. Many were too old and could not find work. Some had skills to find related jobs. Young men were hired to replace the strikers. In the end, once the strike was settled, those who could came back. But not long afterward the owners of the railroad decided to close it and build a new mill in the Cripple Creek District. Sure, we have been over this before, but what about some of the guys who were not quite ready to retire?
A number of businesses were started in 1948-9 by guys who had worked on the railroad. Right here I will put in Skip Sherbak, who worked on the railroad like his dad and his uncles did. He went into radio and television repair in the mid-1950s, at a time when there were few railroad jobs. We lost Skip this fall; there was a nice story about him on these pages.
Other railroad men had garages and gas stations all over the area. Some of the guys went to work with Colorado Springs, Holly Sugar and Colorado Interstate Gas.
I have mentioned the Sullivan brothers, Hoot and Jack. Jack went from being the engineer on the last train from Cripple Creek to working on the Pikes Peak highway, which almost killed him! Hoot, after being an engineer on the Midland, worked for Colorado Springs Utilities down at the Martin Drake power plant. Perhaps you had grandparents, aunts and uncles who either worked at the Golden Cycle Mill or at the Midland and had to scramble to find a way to support their families after those jobs were gone. My own father went from working at the mill to working at Camp Carson. I quite often drive up 19th Street and see the sign for the former O'Brien Printing. In 1949 Charlie O'Brien worked in the roundhouse at the Midland. He and his son took a hobby (printing) and made it their livelihood.