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COBWEB CORNERS: The 1910 fire that destroyed a Short Line bridge

By Mel McFarland

       Short Line railroad bridge 3-A, crossing the mouth of Bear Creek Canyon about four miles out of Colorado Springs, was completely destroyed by fire about 3 o'clock Saturday morning April 2, 1910. It cost the railroad company $7,000 and required detouring all its freight and passenger business to the Midland Terminal Railway.
       The bridge, 60 feet high and 340 feet in length, was believed to have taken fire from burning grass in the bottom of the canyon. The fire had been caused by one of the up-bound freight trains that left Colorado Springs around 9 p.m.
       The crew of an engine coming down from Cripple Creek discovered the fire as they rounded the curve just a few yards before the bridge. They barely had time to apply the brakes and stop the locomotive before it reached the gap caused by the fire.
       To warn the up-bound trains, the engineer blew his whistle long and hard. The sound was heard by a crew working at Colorado City Junction near the Standard Mill and they responded. Precautions were then taken to guard against any accident, including detouring Short Line traffic to the Midland.
       It is said it took from three weeks to a month to rebuild the structure. One special visiting tourist excursion, however, traveled from Colorado Springs to the site, walked to an awaiting train on the other side, then continued up to Cripple Creek and returned over the Midland.
       This bridge burned again in 1918, but was not repaired for a year, causing the closure of the railroad. It was eventually rebuilt, but in 1922 the line was sold to W.D. Corley, who converted the Short Line to a private toll road for cars. This included Bridge 3-A. But it was later dismantled, as were most of the other bridges along the way. New roads around them were cut, while other bridges were filled with rock from Cripple Creek. In the 1940s, the road became the Gold Camp Road, open to the public. Remains of some of the bridges can still be seen in places.

(Posted 1/22/14)

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