COBWEB CORNERS: The Rio Grande’s line to Manitou

By Mel McFarland

       The Denver and Rio Grande built through Colorado City to Manitou in 1880. There is no mention of a Colorado City depot at first, but a year or so later we know that the Rio Grande was stopping somewhere near the present-day intersection of Cucharras and 25th streets.
       Colorado City did not really need much of a railroad station until the late 1880s. In 1886, the town was starting to change, thanks to the building of the Colorado Midland. This led to development of the area south of Colorado Avenue, as far south as a half mile!
       It also led to a problem. Midland railroad workers spent their money in the saloons on the south side of Colorado Avenue and along Cucharras. Passengers did not want to get off the Rio Grande trains at the Cucharras-and-25th stop! Colorado City asked for a depot farther east, at 22nd Street. The Rio Grande owners resisted because they didn't like moving away from the center of town, but eventually they located a fine new station there. Colorado City had several freight customers by then, and the passenger business was still good. A plaster mill, beer warehouse, and other freight customers would expand the railroad's business. At the Rio Grande's peak, it was running six passenger trains to Manitou and back during the day, mainly in the summer, most of them stopping in Colorado City on their way. A train of up to three cars was pulled by a locomotive known as "Uncle Sam." Occasionally it would carry a private car from back east, or even General Palmer's private car, "Nomad," to Manitou. At night the tracks served the freight train that sometimes went as far as Manitou.
       The D&RG station lasted until 1931, when it was lost in a fire. The last Rio Grande passenger train to Manitou was in 1930. Freight trains ran up into the 1970s. Cucharras was still a busy street, but only a few businesses needed freight deliveries. Clark's service station in the 2600 block of West Colorado was the last regular shipper, getting its gasoline in a tank car. Nowadays, the former D&RG roadbed from America the Beautiful Park to 21st Street is the Midland Trail.