COBWEB CORNERS: The ‘other’ incline

By Mel McFarland

       Near the Mount Manitou Incline in 1910 a plan quite like it was presented. Two local entrepreneurs hoped to take advantage of the tourist interests in the two other railway attractions in west Manitou. One was a local curio shop owner, J.H. Griffith, and the other was a regular visitor, B.M. Starks, who was general manager of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. In 1911, an L&N survey crew arrived to locate the line. It would run south from Ruxton, over a tunnel on the Colorado Midland and to the top of Red Mountain.
       Several construction companies looked at the project and made bids for its work.
       When the cost was presented, Starks backed out. Additional local investors, many from Manitou, took up the slack. The plan saw some revisions, and permission was received to cross Midland property. The construction started in 1912. It included a spindly trestle over a dip in the hillside.
       Part of the construction required a small grave site be moved. Emma Crawford had lived in Manitou with a sister in the 1880s. She was said to have desired to marry Mr. Hildebrand, one of the construction engineers of the cog railway, but she died of tuberculosis at a young age. Having walked the mountains, Emma had requested to be laid to rest on top of Red Mountain, and this was done. But when her grave was relocated for the Red Mountain Incline, it was not secured well. Her coffin slipped down the mountain, and her bones were found by children playing on the slope. Manitou now has an annual event commemorating this outcome.
       The Red Mountain Incline had a rough few years of operation. Investors found the ride rough too! The line had an excellent view of Ute Pass, but it could not compete with the Mount Manitou Incline. Unable to keep paying passengers, it closed until 1919 when a new company took it over. It never attracted enough passengers, and the bridge became more precarious. It closed for good in 1925, and a scrapper even refused to bid on the skeleton. It was finally dismantled in 1927.
       Also removed in the 1920s was the Incline's station on Ruxton, although an advertisement painted on a rock survived for many years. Occasionally rusty metal pieces from the old structure find their way to the surface after a good rain. The summit's foundation still exists, and can found at the top of Manitou's Red Mountain Trail.
       Emma was finally given a better resting place. The remains of her bones were reburied in Manitou's Crystal Valley Cemetery in an unmarked grave. An official gravesite was granted to her in 2004.