COBWEB CORNERS: Welsh influences on Palmer’s railroad

By Mel McFarland

       General Palmer's extensive studies of the Welsh equipment led him to make adaptations to American standards. The man who would become Colorado Springs' founder wanted his railroad to travel faster than the 14 mph Festiniog with higher freight and passenger loading. The three-foot gauge would enable them to meet his expectations.
       Palmer and Bell wanted the railroad to use British style stations, operations, and names patterned after the best of what they had observed. Palmer insisted upon American-style center aisle and end platforms in his passenger cars. He also speculated about building double decked cars with the lower area of passenger cars doubling as a freight or baggage area. Light 30-pound (to the yard) iron rail was ordered in England, to be shipped to the Denver & Rio Grande railroad at Denver. Due to the difference between British and American standards, over a year passed before Barron Steel rolled the first rails in early 1871. The initial order for locomotives was made with Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia. The little locomotives would each carry a name as well as a number in typical English tradition. It was not an idea unique to the D&RG, but the names chosen were.
       The passenger and freight cars showed the influence of Welsh and English standards, built on the four-wheeled platform. The first order of 100 cars with the four- wheel design was turned down by a prominent American car builder that preferred not to build four-wheeled freight cars. Eventually the freight cars were ordered from Billmeyer and Smith of York, Pennsylvania. Passenger cars, however, were ordered from the builder in four- and eight-wheeled patterns. As the years went on, most of the little cars proved unsuitable, mainly due to the heavy success of the railroad! All of the later cars and engines were much larger.
       Palmer had a list of names for towns that would be needed along the railroad, as there were very few existing towns along the way. Many were actually village names from England. We may be fortunate that most were never used, but it is clear that the reason this new town east of Colorado City would be called "Little London" was not just because it attracted a number of people from England.