COBWEB CORNERS: An electric railway up Ruxton

By Mel McFarland

       In June 1893 the city of Manitou approved the construction of a new electric railway from downtown Manitou up Ruxton Avenue to the Iron Spring. Senator M.A. Leddy was granted the franchise. The plan included building a casino near the spring and improving the Ruxton path to a 40-foot-wide street, with fewer sharp turns and dips.
       In early March 1895, John C. Beye of Kenosha, Wisconsin, arrived to make a final survey of the proposed railway. The contract for construction was signed March 18, 1895. William Frizzell and 25 men were at work the next day. The ties and rails were arriving and the grade would be ready for them within a week. The standard gauge ties came from near Divide. Forty-pound steel was used. Three open cars had been ordered.
       A few days later a contract was signed for building the casino. The older Ruxton Hotel was sold to F.M. Cooper of Emporia, Kansas. Cooper had spent summers in Manitou since 1883. Improvements included a new kitchen. The photographers, J.G. Hiestand and R.D. Weir, purchased the lot for the new casino from the Iron Springs Company. It was right next to the route of the street railway. The two- to three-acre spot included access to Little Chief Spring.
       The building of the railway started a boom in land deals all along Ruxton. Hiestand already owned property in the area, and the construction of the casino and a pavilion at the spring was only the start.
       The streetcar line, called the Manitou Electric Railway and Casino Company, delivered its passengers at the cog station, right next to the train. A small pavilion was built over Ruxton Creek, and later the streetcar line moved across the creek and used the pavilion to provide a nice rest spot for its passengers. The streetcar company was eventually bought by the cog railway. The streetcar line closed in the 1930s, but its pavilion is now the office for the cog railway. A nice building, but few notice it is also a bridge!