COBWEB CORNERS: The railroad’s marching band
By Mel McFarland |
I thought, after my last column, maybe you'd never heard of the Colorado Midland or its band. The Colorado Midland was started right here in Colorado City in 1886. It ran up Ute Pass, Eleven Mile Canyon, South Park, up the Arkansas River to Turquoise Lake, West through Hagerman Pass to the Frying Pan River, to Glenwood Springs and Aspen, and on to Grand Junction. It closed in 1918.
There was another railroad, the Midland Terminal, which was started by people from the Colorado Midland. It ran from Divide to Cripple Creek starting in 1894. It was a separate company, and when the Colorado Midland was scrapped, it bought the part of the line into Colorado Springs. It lasted until 1949. Its shops and yards were down where U.S. Highway 24 - actually named the Midland By Pass - runs past Ghost Town and Van Briggle (both of those are in former railroad buildings) all the way up to 31st street.
That is all really simplified. It took me two fairly large books to tell the full story! Now about the band, which was made up of men who worked at all kinds of jobs on the railroad.
Local marching bands were popular after the Civil War. There was even a Colorado City band, but it was really struggling. When the boys on the rallroad were invited they saved the day. Eventually it became the Colorado Midland band. At one time they even wore Indian-like buckskin uniforms. They marched in parades all over the country, even in Washington, D.C. In the summer evenings they played in various parks in Colorado City, Colorado Springs and Manitou. They became the best-known local band.
During their entire life, the members all worked in the shops here. At the time the Midland had 300 or more employees in its shops. The only member of the band who was not a railroader was the director. In the band's nearly 35 years, it had only three different directors.
When the Colorado Midland closed, the band tried to hang on, but many men left because of cutbacks in the shops. Eventually the members became the Colorado City band, but the popularity of this type of entertainment was also fading. They had music specially written for them, but virtually none of it has survived.
Editor's note: Possibly the area's most knowledgeable individual about the old Midland railroads, Mel McFarland wrote two books on the subject, titled “The Midland Route” (1980) and "The Cripple Creek Road" (1984). Both are out of print, but may be available in used bookstores.