COBWEB CORNERS: That winding road above Manitou
By Mel McFarland
Up above Manitou is a winding road that attracts a few questions. It was initially planned as a railroad, the Pike's Peak Railway, but track was never even laid. It eventually became Crystal Park Road.
As proposed, the railway was to start near the D&RG's Manitou depot, then go up to Crystal Park, Sheep Mountain and Mount Baldy and on to the Pike's Peak's summit. Its main promoters were Colorado College Professor James H. Kerr, Irving Howbert, Thomas J. Fisher and Orlando Metcalf, who had supported area railroads previously. It was to be a standard gauge "adhesion" railroad for the purpose of transporting tourists to the top of the high peak.
The first problem was the surveys. Two were done, and both had defects. Grading for the line started in the summer of 1883, but stopped after three miles when winter set in. The project ended for good the following May, with the news that the New York bank where Professor Kerr had deposited the project money had closed its doors.
The unfinished project sat waiting for something to be done, and finally something did, but not until after the cog railway found another route to the summit a few years later.
A plan to develop Crystal Park started in about 1910. The idea was to turn it into a scenic road for tourists. A connection was built to Manitou Avenue. The very twisty uphill road was a test for early-day automobiles. Two very tight curves required small turntables to get tour cars around them.
As a tourist attraction, the road was only mildly popular. It eventually closed, but was later redeveloped. One of the first managers went on to be general manager at the cog railway. Today, Crystal Park Road is open to the public from Manitou Avenue as far as a security gate just past the Intemann Trailhead. Past the gate, where the road gets steeper, it is a private access to a residential community, but its location is quite visible from Colorado City!