COBWEB CORNERS: A strange train wreck
By Mel McFarland
I have mentioned a few train wrecks in the area. A while back I talked about the Denver & Rio Grande lumber car that got loose in Mani-tou and derailed east of Eighth Street. Today there is no railroad track across Eighth Street. Some of you may remember when there was. I have a story about a strange wreck there in 1887.
The Colorado Midland was building west in 1887 and had to build a big bridge over both Fountain and Monument creeks, about where the Cimarron Street bridge is today. The Midland made a deal with the D&RG to use its tracks, just to the north, as far as modern-day Eighth Street. From there, the Midland installed its own track along the creek west to 21st Street, where its main yards were being built.
Running several times a day between Colorado Springs and Manitou, the Rio Grande passenger train gave even better service than the streetcars, which at this time were drawn by horses! It was usually a two-car train, unless it had some freight cars.
On this morning in April, the train had two cars. Coming from Manitou, there is a good downhill stretch from about 12th Street to 8th, and before 12th, 8th cannot be seen. The train chugged along at 30 miles an hour, but it picked up speed after 12th, running downhill. The engineer then noticed that a Midland train with loads of ties and rails heading for Colorado City was still on the D&RG tracks! It was supposed to be out of the way! But the heavy cars had caused the train to take more time.
Once he saw the problem, the engineer set his brakes, but the train from Manitou smashed into the Midland train. The little Manitou engine rolled onto its side, but the passenger cars stayed upright. Several cars of ties and rails were dumped onto the ground, as well as the brand new Midland locomotive. Fortunately, no one was even slightly injured. It took the rest of the day to clear up the mess and put the engines back on the track.
The little Manitou engine, which was only used for this train, was affectionately known as "Uncle Sam." I did a story on another Manitou locomotive years ago, which was not this one! It seems that even though various trains were used, everyone called the Manitou engine Uncle Sam!
The trains were back to normal the next day, and the two railroads tried harder to stay out of each other's way!