Colorado Midland Railway - A Short History
Five miles east of the big foothills guarding Pikes Peak's 14,110 foot bastion lay the sprawling community of Colorado Springs. Though still not a large community in 1883, with only a few thousand residents, the "Springs" had as cosmopolitan a population as did many a larger eastern or midwestern city. This was due, in large measure, to the town's exceptionally healthful climate.
The people of Colorado Springs spent much of their time commuting between their own city and the spa of Manitou Springs, five miles to the west. Midway between the towns was a dilapidated settlement which, in a moment of optimism, had been christened Colorado City.
Ute Pass lay just west of Manitou, its lower end a narrow, forbidding canyon walled in by dark granite cliffs. Fountain Creek dashed over the boulders studding the bottom of the gorge. Above the canyon, Ute Pass leads into a narrow mountain valley. Formidable as the pass might seem it had served as a natural gateway between the western edge of the Great Plains and the high country of the west. Ute Pass represented the only natural break in the front range between Platte Canyon and the Arkansas Valley-Royal Gorge gateway.
In the 1860's, a wagon road of sorts was developed through the pass and over Hayden Divide. This road saw its most intensive use when Leadville developed after 1877. Traffic over this road all but died with the completion of the Denver South Park & Pacific to a point in South Park where it intersected the Weston Pass road in October 1879. The DSP&P continued building southwesterly through Trout Creek Pass towards a connection with D&RG near Buena Vista. On July 31, 1880, the Rio Grande's track from Buena Vista to Leadville was completed and the Ute Pass wagon road sank back to a placid existence, providing an outlet to market for several lumbering firms in the region.
One such enterprise was located in what was know as Manitou Park; it manager a Colorado Spring resident named Homer D. Fisher. A staunch believer in cutting production costs through technological improvements, he constructed what was probably the first logging railroad in Colorado to get the logs from the cutting site to the mill. Still, one unresolved factor remained, transporting the finished lumber to market. Since a railroad had solved one transportation problem, why not one from Colorado Springs to his mill. It was this idea that led Fisher to conceive of the yet unnamed Colorado Midland as a standard gauge railroad.
Well aware that no railroad could be built without money, Fisher began beating the bushes for moneyed backers. Fisher found Henry T. Rogers, a Denver attorney and Thomas Wigglesworth, the locating engineer of the D&RG. Wigglesworth was sufficiently inspired by Fisher's dream to make a preliminary survey through Ute Pass, and was satisfied in his own mind that a standard gauge railroad would be feasible.
This favorable engineering opinion was all that Fisher and his associates needed to convince them that the time had come to organize their company.
The Colorado Midland Railway had been born.