COBWEB CORNERS: The long and short of the Short Line
By Mel McFarland
I have been asked this one a couple of times. Was there a railroad here called the Short Line? Well, yes, two; and that does not tell the full answer. The question often comes from the game Mono-poly. The game has a Short Line railroad; is it the same? Well, no. So here is a short version of the story.
First, the game. That Short Line was a railroad to Atlantic City, New Jersey, from New York City. All of the names in the game center around Atlantic City, almost 125 years ago. As was the case here, the Atlantic City railroad's name was not really the Short Line, but that is what it was called by the users, because it was the shortest route from New York City.
Now, the first railroad to reach Cripple Creek was the Florence and Cripple Creek, built up Phantom Canyon. The second was the Midland Terminal, which built from Divide to Cripple Creek. It was called the Cripple Creek Short Line in early advertisements because it was a much shorter trip from Colorado Springs and Pueblo to the mining camp. A few called it the Short Line. Both were built in 1894.
Then there was the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railway. It opened in 1902, and followed what we know as the Gold Camp Road. The full name was a mouthful, so the Short Line became an easier name. It became more common after 1912 when it was taken over by the other Cripple Creek railroads, and the Short Line replaced the longer name. In 1920, the railroad closed and was put up for sale. An owner of the Midland Terminal wanted to buy it, but instead a coal dealer in Colorado Springs bought it at a higher price. He converted it to a road, named the Corley Mountain Highway, but most knew it then as the Short Line road. It saved almost 15 miles off the drive to Cripple Creek. After much negotiating, it was taken over by the U.S. Forest Service as part of Pike National Forest in the 1940s. That is when it became the Gold Camp Road. Fifteen years ago, a partial tunnel cave-in closed the lower portion of the road, forcing automobile traffic to go around to Old Stage Road en route to Cripple Creek. So it's not much of a "short line" now.