Westside Pioneer Home Page

COBWEB CORNERS: The grander cars on the Midland Railway

By Mel McFarland

Sept. 11, 2018
       Large, stylish business cars for railroad officials were prevalent in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
       A few of those could be found at times on the Colorado Midland Railway, based in Colorado City. One of them, the Mountaineer, was an impressive piece of construction, elegantly painted in dark maroon, gold trimmed, and a walnut interior with separate rooms. It traveled all over the railroad, used by such officials as James J. Hagerman, the Midland's first president. A newspaper report from April 1888 describes a trip to Aspen, in which the car's passengers included top officials from the Midland as well as dignitaries from England and Scotland.
       When not in use, the Mountaineer rested in a building in the Colorado City yards, which were just south of the main tracks (modern-day Highway 24) and west of 21st Street.
       In 1890, Hagerman left the Midland to start a new railroad in the Pecos Valley of New Mexico, but he still had a nice home on North Cascade Avenue, which he visited quite regularly.
       At his new railroad, he had a new business car to travel in, named the Hesperia. The Colorado Midland had no space to house his car, so he offered to build one. It was a fine, big building, not far from the depot at the west end of the yards, with space for several cars to be be stored.
       By this time, the Midland's Mountaineer had been renamed Manitou, and it too found a home in the new structure.
       In 1905, another classy business car, the Cascade, was added, and the Manitou was used by lesser officials.
       In 1918 the Manitou was sold to a railroad in Arkansas. Another business car, owned by a Cripple Creek millionaire, took the Manitou's place in the Hagerman building.
       Lasting until 1948, the building stored most of the Midland Terminal's passenger cars in its later years. All the business cars were long gone by then.
       The Manitou car wound up at the North Arkansas Railway, where it was modernized, as as it was showing its age. When the railroad closed after World War II, the car was sold again, but this time as a residence! It was placed on a lot in Kennett, Arkansas, where it was only used in the winter by a railroad veteran who otherwise lived in Maine.
       In the 1980s he passed on, and the Manitou car was sold and moved to Springdale, Arkansas. The owner of the old Midland Depot in Manitou Springs had tried, without luck, to buy it.
       The car's new owner planned to restore it. But before work could progress very far, the Manitou was destroyed by fire. It happened on a very cold night, with the fire possibly started by some homeless party. But that night a bit of our history was lost, just past the car's 100th birthday.

(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.

       Would you like to respond to this column? The Westside Pioneer welcomes letters at editor@westsidepioneer.com. (Click here for letter-writing criteria.)