COBWEB CORNERS: The train to Cheyenne Mountain ZooBy Mel McFarland
Sitting at the streetcar museum just east of I-25 are the remains of a train that no one wants - the passenger cars used on the long-ago train to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
One of the engines has been restored at the entrance to the zoo, but the forlorn cars are still awaiting restoration.
Plans for the railway started in 1936. Three little engines were built at the cog railway in Manitou, as well as several coaches. The gas-driven engines looked like miniatures of those on the Manitou & Pikes Peak line. The engines pushed the coaches, like on Pikes Peak, also on a cog track. It was not really needed, but since both lines were owned by the hotel, why not!
The ride started behind the Broadmoor Hotel, ran along the golf course, then went through a tunnel under Marland Road to reach the zoo entrance. The current streets in that area hadn't been built yet.
Inside the zoo, the train ran to its top. The merry-go-round there was opened at the same time as the train. The train section in the zoo opened first, in 1937. If you have been to the zoo, which is built on the side of a mountain, you might understand walking down through it, rather than up.
In the 1950s a modernized zoo train was built. This is the one with the engine that's since been preserved in front of the zoo.
Around the same time, the original train's "steamers" were scrapped - except one, which was stored in a zoo building. When zoo officials tore down that building, they "found" the engine. It was sold to a man in Penrose. It sits today on a lawn, "pulling" a miniature train.
When Broadmoor West was built in the 1970s, the zoo railroad line closed. The train from the '50s-'70s era was sold and moved all over the state before it was found in Central City and brought back to the streetcar museum to be restored. The engine was finished about when the driving force behind the project died. The passenger cars have since gone "wanting." If you know someone who is into big projects, the streetcar museum (which is run by the Pikes Peak Historical Foundation) would like to visit with you.
(Posted 8/30/16; Opinion: Cobweb Corners)
Editor's note: Local historian Mel McFarland has been writing his Cobweb
Corners column in the Westside Pioneer since 2004. To see past columns,
go to the Pioneer's Archives. Either look for desired articles under the
Cobweb Corners category for any year, or search by keywords in the Find box.