COBWEB CORNERS: All he wanted was a train to Divide

By Mel McFarland

       This is an interesting tale from the Midland Terminal railroad yards of the 1930s or '40s. As a crew was busy putting together a train full of cars for Cripple Creek, they spotted an old man watching from the creek. It was nothing out of the ordinary. Old railroad men, some who had retired years before, would often stop by to say hello and maybe watch for awhile. A few even carried cameras to capture the scene. But this was different. The old guy walked up to the crew members once their work was done. He was broke, a down-and-outer, and had seen the rough times of the depression.
       The fellow asked if there was a chance he could get on the train and go as far as Divide to get a job on one of the farms up that way. One of the yardmen, a good-natured gent, explained that the train was not a passenger run, and did not carry passengers. He knew quite well that there were hobos who often caught rides on the trains, and he knew it was dangerous. As it happened, the evening train's conductor was walking through the yards on his way to check in for the night's run. The yardman asked the conductor if there was some way they could help this old man. After thinking on it a while, the conductor said it could be arranged. He instructed the old man to wait at a certain spot in the yards, and at a given moment he would wave for him to come onto the caboose.
       Several years later, as the train crew was boarding a train for the trip up to the Cripple Creek District, the afternoon train from Cripple Creek stopped near the office building. The train, actually a converted street car, carried the mail to and from Cripple Creek, as well as a few passengers. A nicely dressed old gent stepped off the train, and walked to the roundhouse. Asking for a certain conductor, he learned he was out on the caboose being readied to go to Cripple Creek. He walked the short distance, introducing himself, and thanking the conductor for his help from years before. He had found a good job near Divide, and had held down the job ever since. He was grateful for the help, and invited the crew members to dinner on one of their trips through Divide. I wonder if they ever did!