COBWEB CORNERS: Teddy wanted to drive the train
By Mel McFarland
President Teddy Roosevelt had several visits to Colorado Springs, and had a close friend who lived here. On several of his visits, he even stayed over night in the friend's home on North Cascade Avenue. I doubt any modern President could do that, but there is more.
In 1905, Roosevelt made, I believe, his third visit to Colorado Springs and first as President. He was on a hunting trip, heading for western Colorado. Colorado City was eagerly awaiting his trip because he would ride the Colorado Midland all the way to New Castle (west of Glenwood Springs). He had been on the Midland before and had his famous trip over the Short Line to Cripple Creek. Several amazing things were planned for his trip. First, he would not only ride in the cab of a Midland engine up Ute Pass, but he would actually run the engine!
The President had asked to operate the locomotive on his trip west. He carried a membership in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, which authorized him to run an engine. I can not say if he had actually ever done it, but a Midland "pilot" would be along to give him advice as they passed along the tracks. A pilot was often used to help "foreign" engineers over the line. This was done if Short Line trains had to detour over the line to Cripple Creek, or similar situations.
The train consisted of a Colorado Midland locomotive, specially decorated for the occasion, a pair of Pennsylvania Railroad cars, Viceroy and Rocket, as well as the Colorado Midland's private car, Cascade. Rocket was used by the President and his staff. Viceroy was used by the traveling members of the press. A special train with only a caboose traveled a few minutes ahead of their train, assuring that the track was clear and safe.
It was announced that the Colorado Midland would be giving the engine to the President, once he arrived in New Castle. He would be able to use it for his needs, forever, but it did not happen. He returned it, with thanks, once he arrived at his destination. In addition, he never did operate the locomotive and I can find no information about if he even rode in the cab! I do have another story from the trip however. Tune in next week!