COBWEB CORNERS: An unusual railroad pass
By Mel McFarland
A railroad pass was a business-sized card that allowed the holder to ride for free on a train. In most cases these were given to officials of friendly railroads, which allowed them to bring their family or even their own private railroad car. General Palmer each year received dozens of these cards. They were good for one trip or even for a year.
Many a crippled former employee, or retiree, was given a complimentary pass.
A 1907 Leadville newspaper tells about an unusual "lifetime" pass. It was issued by the Colorado Midland railway in 1907 to Mr. William Goat. The pass actually came in a little leather carrier, because Mr. Goat did not have any pockets. He lived in the mountains high above Leadville. His job in life was with a herd of sheep, but he seemed to occasionally desire the lights of the city. He sometimes slipped onto Midland trains as they were stopped on the mountain pass. Crew members, when they saw him, were more concerned for his safety than his fare. They told the tale often enough that the officials in Leadville approved the "pass," which was really more of an official recognition. He would travel to both Leadville and Basalt. Once in town, he headed for the railroad's dining house for a fine meal. This usually consisted of scraps from the crew in the kitchen!
You see, and I bet you are way ahead of me, Mr. Goat was just that, a goat! Somehow he had learned to jump onto trains. In addition to that he even learned they could take him home when he wanted to go. Nothing was said about his owner, who presumably knew of his travels. I can imagine the remarks from the train crews of this passenger who liked a bit of city life.
On the Pike's Peak train, I often noticed wasps who would fly onto the train, travel a mile or so, then get off. I wondered if they were taking advantage of our convenience, because they would regularly do it in the same area, same time of day, for weeks at a time!